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Basic Income: A Radical Proposal for a Free Society and a Sane Economy
     

Basic Income: A Radical Proposal for a Free Society and a Sane Economy

by Philippe Van Parijs, Yannick Vanderborght
 

It may sound crazy to pay people an income whether or not they are working or looking for work. But the idea of providing an unconditional basic income to every individual, rich or poor, active or inactive, has been advocated by such major thinkers as Thomas Paine, John Stuart Mill, and John Kenneth Galbraith. For a long time, it was hardly noticed and never taken

Overview

It may sound crazy to pay people an income whether or not they are working or looking for work. But the idea of providing an unconditional basic income to every individual, rich or poor, active or inactive, has been advocated by such major thinkers as Thomas Paine, John Stuart Mill, and John Kenneth Galbraith. For a long time, it was hardly noticed and never taken seriously. Today, with the traditional welfare state creaking under pressure, it has become one of the most widely debated social policy proposals in the world. Philippe Van Parijs and Yannick Vanderborght present the most comprehensive defense of this radical idea so far, advocating it as our most realistic hope for addressing economic insecurity and social exclusion in the twenty-first century.

The authors seamlessly combine philosophy, politics, and economics as they compare the idea of a basic income with rival ideas past and present for guarding against poverty and unemployment. They trace its history, tackle the economic and ethical objections against an unconditional income—including its alleged tendency to sap incentives and foster free riding—and lay out how such an apparently implausible idea might be viable financially and achievable politically. Finally, they consider the relevance of the proposal in an increasingly globalized economy.

In an age of growing inequality and divided politics, when old answers to enduring social problems no longer inspire confidence, Basic Income presents fresh reasons to hope that we might yet achieve a free society and a sane economy.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
01/30/2017
Van Parijs and Vanderborght, respectively professors of economic and political science, make a sturdy ethical and philosophical argument for the provision of universal basic income (UBI), “a regular income paid in cash to every individual member of a society, irrespective of income from other sources and with no strings attached.” Such income, they assert, can deliver on the democratic ideal and help secure basic economic security for all. Their argument rests on several current workforce trends: accelerating automation, slower and narrower economic growth, and decreasing ecological resources. It also rests, later, on a critique of the ultimate effectiveness of welfare programs. The book’s first half examines UBI’s history in Western thought; the second moves to imagining its practical applications. With diligent care and occasional graphs, the authors examine moral and economic objections to UBI and difficulties of implementing it. They show that discussion of and support for UBI is growing (the Swiss have come the closest in recent years with a 2016 national referendum) but also acknowledge that rightward political shifts in the U.S. and Europe make it far less likely that UBI will take root there. Pitched more toward academics than lay readers, this thorough, thoughtful study will undoubtedly become a much-cited landmark work on its subject. (Mar.)
Financial Times - Akash Kapur
Van Parijs and Vanderborght go deep, focusing exclusively on a universal guaranteed income and examining a range of philosophical, practical and political arguments for and against it. In considered, often enlightening, prose, they delve into John Rawls, Ronald Dworkin and Amartya Sen. They look at a number of alternative schemes; they discuss various objections to guaranteed income programs, including those over cost, free riding, and the possibility of diminished incentives.
Amartya Sen
In this important introduction to the ‘basic income’ initiative—an economic proposal that may radically transform the nature of the modern economy and society—two leading social scientists examine the ethics and economics of the proposed move. This is essential reading for anyone interested in the problems of deprivation and unfreedom that survive even in the richest countries in the world. The remedial reasoning presented by Van Parijs and Vanderborght is powerful as well as highly engaging—a brilliant book.
Dani Rodrik
The idea of a universal basic income has been around for quite a while, but has the time for it finally arrived? This superb, closely argued book makes the case for the affirmative answer. While the authors do not hide their sympathies, they approach their subject with a philosopher’s care for ethical justification, a historian’s focus on the antecedents, an economist’s concern for incentives, an empiricist’s respect for evidence, and a practitioner’s attention to feasibility.
Bruce Ackerman
This is a major contribution to the effort to design a realistic program for achieving social justice in the twenty-first century.
Anne Alstott
The West is awash these days in populist movements that cloak repressive and inegalitarian agendas. In these troubled times, an unconditional basic income is a beacon: a workable proposal that furthers freedom and equality for all. In this book, two modern pioneers of the UBI make the moral and practical case for endowing everyone with the resources to shape a life of their own choosing.
Library Journal
03/01/2017
Van Parijs (economics & social ethics, Univ. catholique de Louvain, Belgium) and Vanderborght (political science, Univ. Saint-Louis, Brussels) argue for providing everyone a basic income. By basic income, they mean a regular, obligation-free payment of tax-free cash to every person without eligibility requirements. For example, every adult might receive $1,000 per month. The authors cite as benefits poverty reduction, freedom to choose work, a reduction of unemployment and underemployment, and greater economic equity. They review the historical origins of the idea, objections, alternative methods, funding, economic effects, the political climate, and threats from globalization. They conclude that implementing a basic income policy will come in steps probably through backdoor avenues. The concrete proposal for reducing economic inequality makes it a good complement to Thomas Piketty's best-selling Capital in the Twenty-First Century. VERDICT This work, while certainly controversial to some readers, is a sober and well-argued study of the basic income concept. Though the authors' use of jargon is kept to a minimum, the depth of their arguments makes this volume best suited to readers with either an academic background or a strong interest in the topic.--Lawrence Maxted, Gannon Univ. Lib., Erie, PA

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780674052284
Publisher:
Harvard
Publication date:
03/20/2017
Pages:
400
Sales rank:
79,295
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.50(d)

Meet the Author

Philippe Van Parijs is Professor of Economic and Social Ethics, University of Louvain.

Yannick Vanderborght is Professor of Political Science, Université Saint-Louis, Brussels.

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