Entrepreneurship, knowledge and employment

Was Basic Income Invented in Belgium in 1848? Exploring the Origins and Continuing Relevance of a Simple Idea

Erreygers Guido, University of Antwerp

Basic income proposals have a long and interesting history. Two of the earliest, and nearly forgotten, proposals were formulated in Brussels in 1848. One was short, anonymous and written in Dutch; the other long, authored and written in French. As far as we can tell, the two proposals are unrelated: they originated in different circles. In this paper I explore the roots of each proposal, and try to explain why Brussels proved to be a fertile ground for basic income ideas in 1848. In addition, I show that there are striking similarities between these old proposals and the present-day debate on basic income. The similarities refer both to the diagnosis of the problems to be addressed and to the difficulties which have been thought to beset the proposals.


Keywords: Basic income; Belgium

Paper file