Universal basic income (UBI) has become the rallying cry for a growing international movement seeking redistribution and equality through direct cash payments by governments to all its citizens. Advocates have promoted UBI on multiple grounds: efficiency, equality, as an alternative to traditional anti-poverty aid programs in very poor countries, or even as the foundation for small “c” communist societies. Numerous small-scale experiments of cash transfers have been conducted across the globe purporting to test UBI’s plausibility. In this essay, I explore the multiple agendas of UBI, and consider whether recent scholarship suggests that it might provide a superior path to achieving the historical goals of the political left than that of social democracy and contemporary welfare states. I also raise questions about the political foundations of a movement seeking to end mandatory work, while noting the future possibility of massive job losses that might alter the social, economic, and political possibilities for UBI.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science