Exploring Degrowth: The content of the Unconditional Autonomy Allowance

In Vincent Liegey and Anitra Nelson, Exploring Degrowth, A Critical Guide (Pluto Press, September 2020).

Appendix 2: The content of the unconditional autonomy allowance

This is an adapted and updated translation from Vincent Liegey et al., Un Projet de Décroissance, Utopia, 2013, see: www.projet-decroissance.net

The unconditional autonomy allowance is for everyone, from birth to death, enough for a decent and frugal way of life. At the same time the unconditional autonomy allowance is a transition tool towards sustainable and desirable models of societies based on degrowth principles. One of the main challenges is repoliticisation – implementing democratic debates on defining basic needs and how to self-organise locally to satisfy them in sustainable and fair ways.





Right to housing and access to real estate

Residential accommodation


A compact and specific maximum allowed space per capita: X m²

Progressive re-appropriation of access to real estate via requisition laws and participatory deliberation to define local use rights and conditions of use

Energy transition though improvements to insulation; flexibility, multi-functionality and sharing of spaces

Challenge prevailing property rights and rehabilitate use rights

Space for social activities

Economic and environmental transition via open relocalisation of production, exchange and other activities

Land surface for agricultural and other productive activities

Agricultural transition to local food provisioning and self-governing territorial autonomy

Rights to basic needs: examples


Local participatory deliberation over what is ‘enough’, based on local estimates, plus deciding what and how to produce and share it

Local currency, local exchange systems (time-bank, reciprocity economies)

Temporary use of euro or national currency prior to implementing alternative economic systems

Based on direct trade, relocalised and seasonal, less meat-based, organic and sustainable food production

Production via agroforestry and agroecology principles

Basic tools such as bikes, furniture, clothes, toys and so on

Implementation of open-source, low-tech, hand/home-made, sharing, recycling and makers’ workshops

Includes all kinds of furniture, clothes, bikes, cargo bikes and trailers, machines, utensils, and so on

Free access to limited quantities of basic goods


Depending on local circumstances, enough for a ‘meaningful’ use

Decided by local community

Per capita –

X litres or kWh monthly maximum free allocation

Easily implemented via meters

Democratic and local re-appropriation of water and energy management

Phase out pricing and phase in free access for ‘good-usage’, and charge for overuse and/or misuse

Energy transition based on sobriety, effectiveness, and renewable energy (in particular solar thermal) as local, low-tech, and handcrafted as possible toward territorial energy sovereignty

Energy sources

(e.g. fuel, petrol, gas, wood)

Mobility rights

Local and short-distance transport

X km per capita allowance

Might be phased in gradually depending on transport type

Free local public transport, e.g. limited number of km by train per capita

Rethink urbanisation and dependency on transport as relocalisation of activities is implemented

Develop active/soft transport systems (bikes, walk)

Right to free public transport gradually reduces following relocalisation to avoid meaningless daily transport

Long-distance transport

X km, per capita allowance (conditional)

X km per capita package (options)

Following open relocalisation, access to long-distance travel, dialogue, cooperation and solidarity all remain open and negotiable

Preference for travel by train, bike and sailing boats and visit of long duration

Rights to public services


Free access conditional on revising the content and form of public services

(as in column to right)

Preventative approach to medicine through eating and living healthily

As a cultural evolution and transformation, a progressive implementation of the unconditional autonomy allowance is necessary, whereby the political imaginary is decolonised

The transition raises continual questions, discussion and debate around the meaning of our life and lifestyles – What do we need to produce? How will these goods and services be produced? In what ways will they be used? How will the hard tasks be shared?


Deschool society (Illich)

Skill citizens for autonomous society


Arts play a central role in shaping new political imaginary

Information Communication

Open right to access all kinds of information

Other services of care and so on

Care of all people’s various needs, e.g. for children, people with disabilities and the elderly, funerals, etc.

Maximum acceptable income as an example of implementing associated measures

Maximum acceptable income

A multiple (say quadruple) of the minimum income

Taxes on all income over and above the guaranteed minimum income

Taxes democratically decided

Associated with radical reform of banking and financial systems: reassessment of public debts with moratorium on debts deemed illegal, unfair or unethical; democratic and transparent governance of central banks and money creation, and other financial and banking systems; implement alternative local/complementary non-speculative currencies linked to transition projects

Strict regulation of fiscal evasion, tax havens, and sectors such as military industrial complex, advertising and marketing, mega-infrastructure projects. No planned obsolescence

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