A universal basic income (UBI) is a modest amount of money paid unconditionally to individuals on a regular basis (Standing). Most advocates of UBI aim at introducing it at a national level, as a monthly income to all legal (fiscal) residents and paid out in cash (denominated in national currency). Usually, a UBI is suggested to be financed by some form of taxation. As Van Parijs & Vanderborght explain, a national UBI may lead to justice among thieves (achieving more equality within a wealthy nation while there’s staggering inequality globally). They therefore argue for a global UBI, as do WBI or GBI.
Encointer aims at providing a global UBI in terms of units of cryptocurrency created on a regular basis and distributed to individuals (almost) unconditionally. Let’s examine the characteristics of such an encointer-UBI:
Encointer is paid out to every human being able and willing to attend encointer meetus every 41 days and in posession of a smartphone. This unfortunately excludes persons with certain disabilities as well as those without a smartphone. Also, the need to travel to meetups comes at varying cost, depending on local population densities – a disadvantage to people living in remote areas. While this is not exactly unconditional, we think it is less exclusive on a global scale than introducing national UBI schemes in few wealthy nations. Moreover, encointer might promote the concept of UBI and pave the way for institutionalized national or global UBI.
Nothing in the definition of UBI defines a specific amount. However, it is often understood to be sufficient to cover basic needs and therefore provide economic security to its beneficiaries. In order to do so, it should also be stable. Encointer is a new cryptocurrency with algorithmically defined monetary supply. Only the (global) market can define its purchasing power.
global vs local currency
Cryptocurrencies based on public unpermissioned blockchains are global by nature. Encointer is such a cryptocurrency – with the important added feature of allowing local currencies to be issued, as will be discussed below. Encointer is paid out in equal nominal amounts to every individual. Technically, there is no decentralized way of doing otherwise as the P2P network has no awareness of national borders or the cost of living. As a means for UBI this is a mixed blessing. If UBI is expected to be suffient to cover basic needs there is no way to achieve this goal with a global currency. Purchasing power of one unit of global currency would vary hugely among different regions. The upside being that the UBI’s purchasing power is in that case expected to be higher in weaker economies, therefore reducing global inequality.
Because Encointer issuance involves meetups with known geolocation, it is technically feasible to issue local currencies which are algorithmically bound to high-interaction communities (though ignorant of national borders). This would allow the UBI to be denominated in a currency which is meant to be used within local ecosystems yet freely tradable globally.
The purchasing power of a unit of local encointer currency is market-based. It isn’t backed by gold or trust in some nations central bank. It’s value is determined by its usefulness as a store of value, medium of transfer or unit of account. Depending on national circumstances, the usefulness of encointer can vary. Where large parts of the populations are unbanked, encointer could complement national currency because it is accessible to everyone and more convenient to use and store than cash.
Another angle from which to define value could be international development aid. Encointer would allow to distribute aid to individuals living in a specified area directly by buying their local currency. It would even be possible to buy such local currency at fixed rates, thereby ensuring a stable value of that local currency. Administrative cost and misappropriation of development aid could be reduced significantly.
Encointer delivers an income in a fixed nominal amount of digital currency, paid (or issued) in regular intervals (for every ceremony meetup attended, happening in fixed intervals of 41 days) to all participating individuals. This income is obligation free and is given to the rich and the poor alike.
This income is paid for by issuing money and therefore by nominal inflation of encointer currency. No taxation is involved but one should be aware that nominal inflation is an indirect form of capital taxation on holders of encointer currency. As the absolute nominal inflation rate depends on the number of ceremony meetup participants, its relative nominal inflation decreases over time for a stable amount of participants. Such a design may have a high real inflation in the short term (higher than economic growth) and a low inflation longterm (below economic growth- leading to deflationary real value). It is technically feasible to apply a governance scheme to adjust nominal inflation in order to reach stable value of currency, but it will be challenging to find decentalized consensus among different stakeholders on what such inflation rate should be.