French Presidential Candidate Backs Basic Income

“Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come” ― Victor Hugo

The Presidential candidate for France’s ruling Socialist Party is a strong backer of basic income.

Benoit Hamon won a surprise landslide victory in the Socialist Party’s primary election on January 29, The Christian Science Monitor reported. Hamon received an impressive 59% of the vote easily besting the front runner Manuel Valls; a former prime minister who is widely seen as the successor to President Francois Hollande.

“Universal basic income is a tool to liberate work, allowing people to actually choose their work and not suffer from it” Hamon said.

Unconditional Basic Income Proposed in France

Hamon’s platform calls for an unconditional basic of income of up to €750 ($807.34) a month, Basic Income Earth reported. There would be no means testing which would be a radical break from France’s current system.

Another innovation would be automatic payment of benefits, nobody would have to apply. Everybody would receive the benefits, which would eliminate paperwork and probably jobs for bureaucrats.

The system would start with a basic income for everybody between 18 and 25 in 2018 and eventually be extended to all citizens. Hamon has proposed some interesting means of funding his system including a tax on robots.

Interestingly enough Valls had also offered a basic income of €800 ($861.16) for France’s poor. Yet he was easily defeated by the more radical Hamon. Hamon has also proposed the most radical unconditional basic income scheme I’ve seen yet and he has widespread support.

France’s Basic Income Champion

“According to all serious studies, there are hundreds of thousands of unskilled or low-skilled jobs that are beginning to be destroyed in Western economies,” Hamon told La Monde. “We must manage this transition and make the most of this amazing opportunity that the digital revolution offers us to work less and live better.”

Hamon’s victory shows that there is widespread support for basic income in France and dissatisfaction with the status quo. Like Americans the French are willing to vote for radical disruptive candidates such as Hamon and reject politics as usual. Another attribute that the French share with Americans is that they are fed up with a dysfunctional economy.

Another reason why the Socialists may have accepted Hamon is to win. Like the Republicans in the United States they see a radical outsider with disruptive notions as the best way to overcome record low poll ratings for Hollande. Hollande’s approval ratings were so low that he decided not to run.

Hamon will face an uphill battle and probably stiff opposition from bureaucrats and union leaders. Those groups will ultimately turn against basic income because it threatens their jobs.

Basic Income Approaching Mainstream

Hamon’s upset victory shows that basic income might be approaching the critical mass necessary for mainstream acceptance. This makes Hamon, the highest profile Western leader since U.S. President Richard M. Nixon to endorse basic income.

It might not help him reach the presidency though. Polls show Hamon running fourth in the race with radical nationalist Marine Le Pen as the front runner. Still given Donald Trump’s electoral surprise in the U.S. it is possible that Homan might pull off an upset victory.

One factor in Hamon’s favor is the growing tendency of citizens to tell pollsters one thing and behave differently at the polls. This helped Trump and it might favor a far more radical agenda in France. Particularly if young people attracted by Hamon’s basic income vote their wallets.

Another development in Hamon’s favor might be fears of radical nationalism; driven by Donald Trump’s antics in the United States, which might harm Le Pen. Patriotic French might turn on Le Pen out of fear of being seen as pro American.

The French Presidential election is scheduled for Sunday April 23. We all need to watch it carefully because it might be the start of the basic income revolution. It will also show us if basic income is an idea whose time has really come.