Below I have reblogged a most superlatively excellent post about the welfare/economic policy concept of ‘Unconditional Basic Income’ (UBI) (popularised in Anglophone philosophy by the non-Anglophone-sounding Philip Van Parijs), click through to the site to view properly.
What philosophical justification could be given for UBI? My argument is as follows:
(0. All human beings are equal.)
1. All of the wealth that human beings have is ultimately dependent the environment and its flourishing.
2. All human beings have an equal right to the fruits of the environment.
3. Therefore, all human beings have a right to an equal share of the sum of the wealth in society, to the extent that is derived from the fruits of the environment.
This shows that human beings have a right to receive wealth from society without having worked for it in paid employment to at least the amount of the equal share of ‘the environment’s wealth’. Receiving benefits like UBI really isn’t getting something for nothing. People on benefits are still living their lives, they are still citizens contributing to our society, they are still human beings contributing to our civilization.
Just this evening I discussed with a friend whether universal benefits (such as UBI) were preferable to means tested ones because the bureaucratic processes of the latter lead to claimants being disrespected with stigma and suspicion. I believed that the positives of means testing outweigh the negatives of the disrespect, since claimants are going to have to deal with that from other sources anyway, and they should just learn to put up with it as one of the less serious disadvantages of being poor. This position, however, is dependent upon there being a welfare state similar to the one we have now, whereas my top preference is for a radically different establishment in which we have UBI instead.
I hadn’t make the link that the author of this Simulacrum article I’m re-blogging below does, that UBI solves the respect dilemma by apparently making means testing redundant. Heading in the same direction as my post on Working Less, he says: “If we stop stigmatizing the non-employed, we can stop pushing people into jobs that offer little collective benefit.”
The digitization of our economy will bring with it a new generation of radical economic ideologies, of which Bitcoin is arguably the first. For those with assets, technological savvy, and a sense of adventure, the state is the enemy and a cryptographic currency is the solution. But for those more focused on the decline of the middle classes, the collapse of the entry-level jobs market, and the rise of free culture, the state is an ally, and the solution might look something like an unconditional basic income. Before I explain why this concept is going to be creeping into the political debate across the developed world, let me spell out how a system like this would look:
Every single adult member receives a weekly payment from the state, which is enough to live comfortably on. The only condition is citizenship and/or residency.
You get the basic income whether or not…
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