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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. 


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 ...

About the Author

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

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