How one premier’s idea to fight poverty fell on deaf ears

In the same year that France was immersed in the deadly battle for the liberation of the country from Nazi occupation, Dublin was seeing major debates about the migration crisis. Reflecting the political climate, a proposal to deal with the threat — and with questions of how much money to spend — ran into difficulties.

Vincent de Rivaz, who had served in three senior finance positions in France and eventually became finance minister of Ireland, was leading the charge against the proposal. His view was that using the money for a basic income would be better spent on projects like education. As de Rivaz told me: “Our minds should be directed to something that improves the lot of the community, that brings us closer to a better society. . . . The people in Dublin argued that too much money was going on benefits.”

There are plenty of people who disagree with De Rivaz today, in part because his points of view have the currency of economic theory. Indeed, the debate is likely to increase throughout the developed world as we await the outcome of the United Kingdom’s referendum on the country’s membership in the European Union.

Leave a Comment