Unconditional Autonomy Allowance

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= "The UAA privileges drawings rights on natural resources rather than monetary transfers". (a non-monetary variant of the Basic Income proposal


Momentum Institute:

"The UAA is composed of two parts: drawing rights and access rights.

Drawing rights entail everything allowing us to lead a frugal and dignified life (lodging, food, clothing, energies, water and transports). Access rights entail public services (education, health, culture, information). These rights are not fixed and they will have to be adapted to society’s needs progressively. Local currencies, together with other transition tools, are directly associated with the UAA, which is just a tool to facilitate the emergence of new production methods and new ways of living, really.

The UAA is necessarily coupled with other measures designed to enhance autonomy and democratisation. Social dynamics will inevitably influence the definition of the UAA." (http://www.projet-decroissance.net/?p=1640)


Momentum Institute:

Right to housing and access to property

On the issue of housing and property, the UAA revolves around two main pillars: a decent lodging for all, access to land or a building for the pursuit of meaningful social or environmental activities. For example, each person could enjoy a fixed quota of square meters free of charge and pay extra meters at market price. A building for an activity or a piece of land would have to be made available for people who request it –for example by the local communities. Collective residential and ecological buildings (eco-village, green neighbourhood, housing co-ops, etc.) would have to be the norm for all new construction, to enrich peoples’ lifestyles through the practice of solidarity on an everyday basis.

In towns, the UAA will be structured around citizens’ initiatives such as community gardens and food belts. In the country a reappropriation of land will be essential to break away from the productivist agriculture and to revitalise rural zones around social diversity and conviviality. Usage right will have to prevail over ownership right in order to put an end to misuse and land speculation.

Right to decent food

Productivist and industrial agriculture is totally dependent on oil and favours mechanisms that maintain hunger in the world, impoverish the soil, expropriate local populations and produces low-quality and sometimes dangerous food. Freeing food production from its dependency on oil will have to be a priority.

For example, the UAA could partly be paid by local communities in local currency to favour local food systems. It will have to rely on Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), permaculture and the examples of transition towns to ensure that everyone gets a minimum amount of healthy food (sufficient amount decided upon through citizens forums), but also to reappropriate food production, independently from the international corporations. The UAA would have to be linked with an access to agricultural lands, the way it is exploited, but also to the Western food imaginary that will need to be decolonised.

Drawing rights on natural and energy resources

The UAA comprises drawing right on basic natural resources; such as water, gas and electricity, free of charge for an appropriate use and the taxing of misuse. At the beginning of every month, the meters for these three resources could be credited with an amount deemed sufficient and decided democratically and at the local level. Beyond this amount, the price will have to rise substantially and prohibitively. Sobriety, efficiency and renewable energies will have to be at the heart of the energy infrastructure remodelling[6]. We will have to set up democratic tools to reach decisions on what we want and can produce, taking into account the common good and the limits.

Mobility rights

The automobile society has failed to provide a viable and sustainable transport system. To go beyond it, we must privilege direct trade and relocalise our lives. Travels will be slower, shorter and less polluting. Free local public transports must be offered and be coupled with a basic kilometers quota beyond which the user will have to pay for his/her transport costs.

It is also possible to provide soft transports such as bicycles and to encourage a collective approach to their maintenance and recycling. By limiting the free journeys to home-to-work or home-to-activity, the UAA will facilitate the re-localisation of activity. These measures must also be accompanied by a new development plan so that the proposed relocalisation is accessible to all. Transports deemed useless (transport of goods, short plane travels, etc.) will be heavily taxed or banned altogether. The rail network must be re-designed and slowed down and we will have to re-learn to travel rather than only moving around.

Access to health

Free health services are an essential right for individuals and it will be imperative to remodel the medical sphere. The patient will have to pay for every abuse. Research and manufacture of drugs should be put under state control, made public even, to break away from the medical industry paradigm, which is generating profits and subjected to the financial market fluctuations. Since food is the best medicine, a special effort targeting the regulation of the food industry is necessary to make our food safer together with a ban on industrial pollution etc. The emphasis would have to be on hygiene and to open the doors to “traditional” medicine thus allowing us to decolonise our technological Western medical imaginary.

Access to education

Education should lead to self-empowerment and emancipation, not to moulding people into efficient workers-consumers. Education must become independent and completely free and be available throughout life on an ongoing basis and in different forms." (http://www.projet-decroissance.net/?p=1640)


Momentum Institute:

"Two books recently published by Utopia Editions in France, treat of two tools of degrowth: the UAA and BI. The proponents of the UAA (Vincent Liegey, Stéphane Madelaine, Christophe Ondet, and Anne-Isabelle Veillot), try to nurture new imaginaries and new societal horizons. The UAA’s ambition is simple: to guarantee a decent living for all: that entails to guarantee the right to housing, natural and energy resources usage rights, access to health, transports, education etc. The UAA stands for free access to certain goods and services that belong to and are managed by the communities inclusive of the right we share in determining their usage. The UAA ensures a small but sufficient share of collective resources.

The UAA would be attributed equally to each individual from birth to death, to guarantee a decent lifestyle disconnected from holding a job. It would be nominal, inalienable and cumulative with other incomes and it will embody every individual’s contribution to society through all their activities, namely non-commercial ones.

The UAA is the synthesis of different measures put forward by the proponents of Degrowth who have already put some in practice: the concept of free reasonable use and incremental charges for misuse, alternative local fluid currencies, maximum income threshold, total ban on advertising, critique of programmed obsolescence and unconditional basic income." (http://www.projet-decroissance.net/?p=1640)

Critiques and limits of this scheme

Momentum Institute:

Objections on the feasibility and realism of the UAA abound. In fact, according to the thermo-industrial capitalist society’s criteria, the UAA is an aberration since it pushes for a reduction of working hours and therefore of production and consumption: hello competitiveness! The main objection revolves around the so-called desertion form the job market that would leave the country with less wealth to share, even if people live frugally and democratically.

But this fear is unfounded. On one hand numerous studies have shown that with a guaranteed income, most individuals stay employed[7]. Furthermore, despite the harshness of the job market and the increased suffering at work, volunteering is quite important in France[8]. In addition the number of unemployed is constantly increasing and the productivist system has a rather substantial direct and indirect cost: unemployment cost, cost related to work-related diseases, the cost of industrial pollution etc. A decrease in the number of workers is not necessarily a factor of impoverishment. And, a greater desertion from the job market would only prove we need to overhaul an imposed lifestyle rather than a chosen one. Finally a substantial decrease of production and consumption is essential for the planet and for human beings. Thus, it sounds logical to encourage a reduction in working hours for the production of goods, but it will not necessarily lead to a decrease in activity.

The UAA is a complex toolbox with an impressive ambition to transform. Unlike the unconditional basic income, which is easier to implement, it requires a profound social transformation. There lies its merit and its difficulty. This refusal to be just an adjustment for an unequal society and the constant questioning of our social values (work, productivity, growth etc.) make the UAA a tool to transform the imaginary but its operational mechanisms are difficult to unravel. The modalities of its instauration are still in suspension. Will the implementation happen at the State or regional level? The proponents of the UAA do not pass judgment and they rely on a plethora of practical experiments undertaken by local communities before the State, drawn by the success of these alternatives, decides to extend it to the national level. The “snow-bowling effect” blurs the manner in which it could be implemented at the national level in France. As its stands now, the UAA constitutes a synthesis of varied degrowth proposals and it is designed to be a reflexive tool for the decolonisation of our imaginaries. But it could be even more if the thinkers of the UAA worked to give detailed operational mechanisms so that it could become a credible political platform.

The Unconditional Autonomy Allowance which, according to Michel Lepesant’s formula, would become “ sovereign usage rights on common goods” and would contribute to the advent of a voluntary, equitable and socially sustainable economic degrowth. The basic income is another tool that could produce the same result." (http://www.projet-decroissance.net/?p=1640)

Comparison with the Basic Income

"The design and implementation of the Unconditional Autonomy Allowance (a detailed estimate of all individuals’ economic needs and a list of goods and services to be made available free of charge, etc.) would be more complex than an basic income where each person manages his/her own needs according to the importance they place on them within the allocated sum. Moreover, the lack of obligation, at the heart of the UAA, is itself conditioned: its entitlements and its implementation are arrived at collectively. The UAA is thus conditioned by deliberations. Only the fact that the UAA is allocated to all from birth to death is unconditional. Limits to the sphere of gratuitousness would have to be established since the UAA requires the knowledge and the control of the social circumstances of individuals to know the exact composition of each family. The proponents of the unconditional basic income denounce this as an intrusion into one’s private life: a dimension the unconditional basic income does away with.

The UAA stands out from the unconditional basic income through its intent to get out of the dominant paradigm of the productivist economy altogether. It is not limited, unlike the unconditional basic income, to being a tool to address inequalities, but its ambition is to contribute to “Buen Vivir” by targeting the heart of social relations and our relation to the planet. Finally, the critique of money at the origin of the UAA calls for political measures that reach far beyond the scope of the unconditional basic income but we would be wrong to consider these two tools as alternatives. They are complementary. The unconditional basic income is a practical tool with an emphasis on unconditionality. The UAA is a complex, transformative tool with an emphasis on gratuitousness. Thus a scenario of degrowth by choice combines the unconditional basic income and the UAA[10]. According to this script, local communities could implement an unconditional basic income, paid in local “fluid” currency, non-cumulative thus preventing all speculation. If this money were to be not only “fluid” but “framed” also; that is being usable in designated shops only or used to pay for some predetermined goods and services, the use of the unconditional basic income could be totally monitored. Communities would progressively opt for an evolution of the income by incrementally integrating drawing and access rights. The initial amount in Euros would shrink but new rights would compensate for it. From that point onwards, the UAA would impose itself. This scenario promotes a soft transition towards a new social and economic model represented by the UAA with an unconditional basic income as its starting point."

More Information

  • Liegey, V., Madelaine.S. , Ondet C., Veillot, I., (2013), Un Projet de Décroissance, Manifeste pour une Dotation, Editions Utopia. Inconditonnelled’Autonomie (DIA) [A Degrowth Project: Manifesto for an Unconditional Autonomy Allowance].