The Basic Income European Network (B.I.E.N.) defines a basic income (hereafter abbreviated as BI) as an income unconditionally granted to all on an individual basis, without means test or work requirement. In its pure form, a BI is equivalent to a negative income tax (see chapter 4). The main difference, apart from that Europeans are more inclined to discuss BI and Americans negative income tax, is that the former is paid ex ante, whereas the latter is paid ex post. In this book I want to put forward some arguments why the proposal of a BI (or negative income tax) is worth taking seriously as an alternative to the present, conditional, schemes of social security in force in all modern capitalist welfare states. The main claim is that the more serious the problem of (longlasting and large scale) involuntary unemployment, the more attractive and relevant the idea of BI. If the economy would ever be in a state of (near) full-employment, the main arguments given in this book in favour of an unconditional and substantial BI would not pertain. If the labour market would always clear (no involuntary unemployment) and everyone would have equal earning capacities, then everyone has the same access to jobs and the same opportunity to convert leisure time into money income by means of paid work. Consequently, the case for a BI would be weak, if not absent. Now suppose talent-based earning capacities are unequal, but keeping the assumption of full employment.
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- 1.Even in the situation of full employment, a BI might still be justified. Van Parijs (1995, chapter 4) argues for a BI financed by taxation of unequal wealth and job rents. Vandenbroucke (2001), using a framework in which the labour market invariably clears, shows that a BI can be defended if the government upholds a conception of the good life in which non-paid work and leisure is valued highly relative to paid work.Google Scholar
- 2.Although there are numerous public employment programmes and uncoordinated constituency-based training programmes in most European countries, they are predominantly temporary expedients and targeted to the far end of the labour queue. In other words, they fall short of a permanent and comprehensive workfare scheme.Google Scholar
- 3.Solow (1998, 40–41) notes that the replacement of the welfare by workfare requires ‘purposeful creation of jobs, in numbers, places, and forms that are suitable for the people who will fill them, and that can provide the sort of experience that may eventually have cash value in the open labor market. Any scheme that will do the trick will be costly, in budgetary dollars and in the need to invent and to staff institutions of a kind for which we have little experience or even intuition. The task is even harder than it sounds, because it involves swimming against the current. There has been in recent years a huge shift in demand away from unskilled labor. The source appears to have been mostly technological but the source is less important than the fact, and the fact suggests that the labor market will not naturally welcome an influx of unskilled workers.’Google Scholar
- 4.Weir et al. (1988, 438–9) point out there is an inherent conflict in the workfare strategy: ‘... greatly increased monitoring capacity would still be required to oversee substantial new expenditures and enforce the (frequently unpleasant) work requirements. Increasing the authority of the government to regulate the conduct of citizens inevitably means building up the size and power of the state. That conservative supporters of workfare whose main concern is to deter participants would willingly go all the way with such a massive state builup is doubtful; that they could do so without inspiring political backlashes is even more dubious.’Google Scholar
- 5.See e.g. de Beer (1987), Van Parijs (1991; 1995), Van der Veen (1991), Purdy (1990), Nooteboom (1993), Fitzpatrick (1999) and Van der Veen and Groot (2000).Google Scholar
- 6.For instance, Van Parijs (1995, 64ff.) uses the term Painean justice. Roebroek and Hogenboom (1990) see the BI scheme as belonging to a new ‘social-ecological paradigm’ of social security and Goodin (2001) uses the term `the post-productive welfare state’.Google Scholar