In a new book-length interview, Pope Francis has called for a Universal Basic Income and urged a focus “beyond shareholder value” in the post-COVID economy.
– “Recognising the value to society of the work of nonearners is a vital part of our rethinking” in post-pandemic world
The pontiff repeated his frequent calls for a more economically and environmentally just post-coronavirus world in the new volume Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future, co-authored with his English-language biographer Austen Ivereigh and out December 1.
“Recognising the value to society of the work of nonearners is a vital part of our rethinking in the post-COVID world. That’s why I believe it is time to explore concepts like the Universal Basic Income”, the Pope writes in the new book.
Diving into more detail as to what he means by a Universal Basic Income, Francis explains that “I believe it is time to explore concepts like the Universal Basic Income… also known as ‘the negative income tax’: an unconditional flat payment to all citizens, which could be dispersed through the tax system”.
The pontiff sets out a number of advantages he sees in such a payment, including removing the “stigma of welfarism”, valorising the work of unpaid caregivers, providing stimulus to perform community service, returning dignity to workers in the informal economy and allowing people to refuse work that impinges on their labour rights.
Let Us Dream appears to be the first time the Pope has explicitly backed a Universal Basic Income.
– “Do we look after people or sacrifice them for the sake of the stock market?”
Elsewhere in the 150-page Let Us Dream – which Ivereigh described as the Pope’s glance “at all that was happening in the world with the eyes of the Good Shepherd” as the book was being prepared over the 2020 Northern Hemisphere summer – Francis criticised governments that chose to put their economies over their peoples during the height of the pandemic.
“What matters more: to take care of people or keep the financial system going? Do we look after people, or sacrifice them for the sake of the stock market? Do we put the machinery of wealth on hold, knowing people will suffer, yet that way we save lives?”, the Pope asks rhetorically.
Summarising his vision for the post-COVID economy, Francis repeats his call for the ‘three Ls’ – land, lodging and labour for all – and insists: “We need to set goals for our business sector that – without denying its importance – look beyond shareholder value to other kinds of values that save us all: community, nature and meaningful work”.
– Condemnation of “horrendous” police killing of Black man George Floyd
Apart from on the economy, Let Us Dream contains a multitude of other thoughts of the pontiff’s on a number of ecclesial issues, from the place of women in the Church (“to say they aren’t truly leaders because they aren’t priests is clericalist and disrespectful”) to his decision not to authorise married male priests at the October 2019 Amazon Synod (“it was as if nobody was interested in the region’s ecological, cultural, social, and pastoral dramas; the synod had ‘failed’ because it didn’t authorise the ordination of the viri probati“).
Francis also takes up a number of social issues in the new book, from “the horrendous police killing of George Floyd” to the thousands of other crises unfolding in the world today that are “just as dire” as COVID-19, including the “pandemics of hunger and violence and climate change”.
On a personal note, the Pope also shares that he has experienced three “COVID moments” in his lifetime: a lung infection that almost killed him at the age of 21, a lonely “displacement” to Germany in 1986 for studies and his “exile” to Córdoba, in Argentina, in the early 1990s.
“I know from experience the feeling of those who are sick with coronavirus, struggling to breathe as they are attached to a ventilator”, Francis admits with regard to that first near-death experience.