What should be the priority amidst competing claims on the ‘gift’ constituted by past technological, economic and social progress. What is needed to best boost the social dimension of the EU?
A new book co-authored by BIEN co-founder Philippe Van Parijs and Yannick Vanderborght: Basic Income: A Radical Proposal for a Free Society and a Sane Economy, published in March 2017 by Harvard University Press makes the case for Basic Income as the appropriate response.
Under the title Basic income in the European Union: a conundrum rather than a solution, Frank Vandenbroucke (University of Amsterdam) has published a critical assessment of the proposals (see article here). He claims that more arguments are needed as to why basic income should be the priority amidst competing claims on the ‘gift’ constituted by past technological, economic and social progress. In his opinion, adequate minimum income protection, unemployment benefits, wage subsidies and access to quality services are more appropriate responses and would better serve the purpose of boosting the social dimension of the European Union.
In the book, Van Parijs and Vanderborght present a history of basic income as well as a philosophical and practical defence. In the first chapter, they elaborate upon the concept of a basic income (“a regular income paid in cash to every individual member of a society, irrespective of income from other sources and with no strings attached”), explaining the significance of each of the key characteristics: it is paid in cash (rather than in kind), paid to individuals (rather than to households), universal, and obligation-free. In the second chapter they proceed to contrast basic income with alternative (but often closely related) proposals — such as the negative income tax (which is sometimes conflated with basic income), basic endowment, Earned Income Tax Credit, job guarantee, and working-time reduction. In the following chapters, Van Parijs and Vanderborght turn to the history of the idea of basic income, from Thomas More to Bismarck’s social insurance and to contemporary welfare states. The authors describe the varied strands of support for minimum income proposals in the United States and overview the emergence of the European movement in the 1970s and 1980s, including the founding of BIEN. After this history, the authors devote a series of chapters to analysing and rebutting arguments against basic income — the ethically based “free riding objection” to the lack of a work requirement, the practical concern that a basic income could not be sustainably funded, and the worry that basic income is not politically feasible. Finally, they devote a chapter to the impact of globalization on the implementation of a basic income.
Frank Vandenbroucke (University of Amsterdam) in his critical assessment of the proposals claims that national basic income seems incompatible with a consistent and legitimate logic of free movement and non-discrimination. He agrees that the EU’s principal justice-related problem is that European integration has diminished core capabilities of national welfare states, such as national redistribution and national stabilization, without adequately ensuring their functioning at a higher level. But he finds that the remedies to that problem are essentially different from a pan-European basic income, since universal basic income doesn’t have the same effect as automatic stabilizer than social security benefits. Finally, he argues that more arguments are needed why basic income should be the priority amidst competing claims on the ‘gift’ constituted by past technological, economic and social progress. In fact, the need to add a social dimension to the European project militates against rather than in favour of basic income, be it national or pan-European. In his opinion, adequate minimum income protection, unemployment benefits, wage subsidies and access to quality services would better serve the purpose of boosting the social dimension of the European Union.
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