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Unconditional income and republican freedom

Stuart White on "social democracy plus".

I blogged a couple of weeks ago about the first part of Edward Lewis's interview with the political theorist Stuart White over at the New Left Project. Lewis has now posted the second instalment of the conversation. The first part dealt with the question what it is political philosophers and theorists do exactly. White suggested their stock-in-trade was the examination of the concepts that play a central role in political debate and deliberation - equality, liberty, justice and so on. The second part of the interview deals with a specific proposal put forward by civic or democratic republican thinkers like White: the idea of a basic unconditional income. White defends the notion in terms of the republican idea of freedom as "non-domination" (a conception that derives from the work of the political philosopher Philip Pettit):

If you want something that's going to empower people in the labour market so that they can escape potentially dominating employers, or escape family relationships in which they're potentially dominated, then an unconditional basic income looks like a very good idea. . . . [B]y strengthening the position of the disadvantaged in the labour market it thereby precludes relationships of domination between employers and workers. Consider situations where an employer can say to a worker "Do what I or say or else", where the "or else" is you'll get the sack and then you'll be starving on the street. With an unconditional basic income, employers can't make those kind of threats, because if a worker loses the job then there's still an income independent of the sale of labour power that he or she can fall back on. Even a relatively small basic income, if it's saved and managed well, can give a worker a lot more independence in the labour market.

Read the whole thing here.