Simon Griffee

Salary Rights

14 April 2014 · 3 minute read

So long as you have a frontier, whether national, economic, religious or social, it is an obvious fact that there cannot be peace.”

Jiddu Krishnamurti, The First and Last Freedom, Relationship and Isolation, pp. 105–106

Would, say, 100 Euros per month for every person on the planet, regardless of whether they work or not, not help the world become a better place?

This question came to mind when I watched the images of destroyed Indonesian rainforest in Years of Living Dangerously.

Satellite image from NASA showing smoke from forest fires in Indonesia.

Smoke billowing from illegal wildfires on the Indonesian island of Sumatra in June 2013. Courtesy of NASA’s Earth Observatory.

Why do people cut the trees? Because they get paid to do it.1 What if each and every human, everywhere in the world, was paid a salary which allowed them to choose not to do a job they did not like? Would the trees continue to be cut and burned? Would climate change, a problem that affects all of us, be a problem still?

The idea is not new, but perhaps it needs a better name. How about Salary Rights?2

Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 3:

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

And Article 4:

No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

Does war not often happen because of hunger? Will people not do most anything to avoid hunger? Would a right to a salary help?

Whatever answers we humans give to these questions will affect us all.

Forest fire photograph.

A woman walks through haze as a forest fire burns bushes in Siak Regency, Riau Province, Indonesia. Photograph by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty.


  1. I searched for ‘Indonesian farmer salary’ and the first result is Derry Wijaya’s A Farmer’s Hope PDF, which notes an Indonesian farmer’s average monthly income is around 135,000 Indonesian Rupiahs (IDR), which currently equals 8.50 Euros. It is unclear whether this figure is from 2003 or more recent but the point is that it is much less than 100 Euros.
  2. Another suggestion is Basic Income — the 15th International Congress of the Basic Income Earth Network is happening Friday June 27th to Sunday June 29th 2014 in the McGill Faculty of Law in Montreal, Quebec. See also: Why We Demand an Unconditional Basic Income: the ECSO Freedom Case and Switzerland’s Proposal to Pay People for Being Alive.

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