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What is UBI?

To understand what Circles is, we must begin by asking: What is Universal Basic Income (UBI)?

According to the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN), basic income is a periodic money payment unconditionally delivered to all on an individual basis, without means-test or work requirement. UBI has thus 5 characteristics:

  1. Periodic—It is paid at regular intervals (for example every month), not as a one-off grant.
  2. Cash payment—It is paid in an appropriate medium of exchange, allowing those who receive it to decide what they spend it on. It is not, therefore, paid either in kind (such as food or services) or in vouchers dedicated to a specific use.
  3. Individual—It is paid on an individual basis—and not, for instance, to households.
  4. Universal—It is paid to all, without means test.
  5. Unconditional—It is paid without a requirement to work or to demonstrate willingness-to-work. (reference

While the definition does talk about UBI being a “cash payment” given in an “adequate means of exchange”, it does not tell us anything about where this money will come from, the institutions that will bring it into being or the nature of this money more generally. In this handbook, we focus on a grassroots democratic view of money: you can think of Circles as a people powered money.