Summary of Basic Income

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Philosophy professor Philippe Van Parijs, one of Europe’s most prominent advocates for a “basic income” model, explains that the concept is a surprisingly “simple” yet “powerful” social benefit that political communities can finance with a sensible taxation system. He lays out his case in a clearly-written, scholarly annotated paper, which getAbstract recommends to policy makers and political activists willing to entertain an unconventional yet surprisingly straightforward approach to social justice. 

In this summary, you will learn

  • What “basic income” is,
  • Why the concept of “unconditionality” must be at the center of every basic income scheme and
  • Why basic income will benefit the poor.

About the Author

Philippe Van Parijs is the Hoover Chair of Economic and Social Ethics at the Université catholique de Louvain.



The 200-year-old idea of providing all citizens with a “basic income” has been gaining public attention and political support. Basic income is a modest, monthly cash payment the government hands out to every member of a political community irrespective of his or her age, income, wealth, employment status and living arrangement. Two “unconditionalities” are particularly important to understanding the relevance of basic income: the absence of a means test and the lack of a work requirement.

When people can count on a basic income regardless of their relative income, poor people have an incentive to ...

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