Basic Income And Social Democracy

Published on Social Europe, by Philippe van Parijs, April 11, 2016.

… The idea of an unconditional basic income is in fashion. From Finland to Switzerland, from San Francisco to Seoul, people talk about it as they have never done. Twice before, basic income was the object of a real public debate, albeit briefly and limited to one country at a time. In both episodes, the centre left played a central role … //

… Common Misunderstandings: … //
… End Of The Welfare State? … //

… The Third Model:

As regards social protection, this requires making room for a third model fundamentally different both from the old social assistance model — public charity — and from the social insurance model — worker solidarity — with which social democracy has been closely associated and which it feels duty-bound to defend. In order to be able to address today’s challenges, the left will need to move from “labourism” to “socialism”, as it were, by getting rid of an illusion which has been at the core of much left-wing thinking ever since Marx’s theory of exploitation. It needs to recognize fully that the bulk of our real incomes is not the fruit of the efforts of today’s workers (let alone of the abstinence of today’s capitalists), but a gift from nature increasingly combined with capital accumulation, technological innovation and institutional improvements inherited from the past. In a “labourist” perspective, those morally entitled to this gift — whether directly in the form of wages or indirectly in the form of social benefits to which they are entitled through their work — are the present generation of workers, in proportion to the market value of their skills, the length of their working time and their bargaining power. In a truly “socialist” perspective, those entitled to this gift are all members of society equally, male and female, irrespective of the extent of their participation in well-protected full-time employment, and in paid work generally.

This more egalitarian, more emancipatory, less male-biased perspective entails a strong presumption in favour of an unconditional basic income. It is not something the left should be dreading. It is something it should enthusiastically embrace. Is there any indication that it will? Here is one. Andy Stern was until recently the president of Service Employees International Union, with close to two million members one of the largest labour unions in the United States. The title of his new book speaks for itself: Raising the Floor: How a Universal Basic Income Can Renew Our Economy and Rebuild the American Dream (New York: Public Affairs, forthcoming June 2016).

(full text).


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