Online Conference March 3-4: Freedom, Justice and Esteem: Perspectives from an Unconditional Basic Income

Online Conference March 3-4: Freedom, Justice and Esteem: Perspectives from an Unconditional Basic Income

Unconditional basic income continues to be a subject of lively debate – both in academia and in the public and political spheres. From a philosophical and social science perspective, the questions it raises are: Would such an income increase our individual freedom? What impact would it have on fundamental forms of social esteem? And could it be consistent with notions of justice based on reciprocity? These systematic questions will be discussed at the conference, taking into account relevant historical and theoretical developments.

Conference website:

Conference Languages: English and German

Venue: The conference will be held online. Links will be sent after registration.

Registration: Participation in the conference is free. Please register by March 2, 2022 at


March 3, 2022 (all times are CET – UTC+1)

11–11.30 Hans-Christoph Schmidt am Busch, Gottfried Schweiger: Welcome

11.30 –12.40 Matilde Cazzola (Frankfurt am Main): Beyond Poverty and the Coercion of Work: Thomas Spence and the Redistribution of Quarterly Dividends

2–3.10 Silke Bothfeld (Bremen): Eignet sich ein bedingungsloses Grundeinkommen für die nachhaltige Förderung individueller Autonomie? Ein Kommentar aus der Perspektive der Sozialpolitikforschung

3.30–4.40 Jürgen Schupp (Berlin): Das 2021 gestartete Pilotprojekt Grundeinkommen in Deutschland: Zum Stellenwert sozialwissenschaftlicher Feldexperimente

5–6 Philippe Van Parijs (Louvain): Prospects and Challenges for an Unconditional Basic Income: A Conversation with Philippe Van Parijs

March 4, 2022

9.30–10.40 Malcom Torry (London): Basic Income: A Brief History of the Idea

10.50–12 Peter Sloman (Cambridge): Redistribution or Revolution? Basic Income and Radical Politics in Britain, c. 1918-1950

1–2.10 Olavi Kangas (Turku): Possibilities to Plan and Implement Large Scale Social Experiments – Some Lessons from the Finnish Basic Income Experiment

2.10–3 Hans-Christoph Schmidt am Busch, Gottfried Schweiger: Final Discussion and Farewell

What kind of Citizen’s Dividend from Goa mining would promote intergenerational justice?

What kind of Citizen’s Dividend from Goa mining would promote intergenerational justice?

Goa Foundation and the Goenchi Mati Movement advocate for a fair mining and intergenerational equity model defining it as commons, which you can read in this article and the other resources. They develop a vision of maintaining the wealth coming from selling inherited minerals to serve the broader community and not just the privileged few. One of their proposals is citizens’ dividend, which, they argue, will “create a strong bond between the citizen and their commons“. According to the calculation mentioned by the Research Director of Goa Foundation, Rahul Basu, every citizen in Goa would receive a commons dividend of thousand rupees a month if the fund were managed according to their proposals. I outline how this proposal may be enhanced by deepening the commons as a philosophy and governance model, which is already incorporated in their blueprint. Instead of focusing on just giving cash transfers, I would ask how the money can create sustainability. This is a big issue in the context of environmental disruption by short-term thinking. Wealth distribution can liberate from the incentives that poverty produces. You have the chance of posing and giving space to these important questions.

The answer may need a long time and a lot of expertise but the results may be not only aligned with but strengthen the basic tenets of intergenerational justice. This reflection is relevant to the broader debate on a UBI, citizen’s dividend, and accountability.

I develop in my writing a broader vision of UBI going beyond just cash transfers. I believe that the reform needs complementing measures to be added to create a real alternative to the current system. As part of this vision, I want to inspire creating organizational structures that will enable people to access high-quality basic services and be an alternative to the monopoly of the current market system which has many disruptive externalities. You can see examples of such an organization of work in my articles.

I propose to focus on building sustainability to maintain the health of the community and yield long term advantages for future generations.

Agriculture and correcting market food supply

It is difficult to free farmers from the vicious cycle of the past mistakes and the short-term planning that living in poverty imposes. Therefore, the best way to use resources is through giving subsidies and knowledge transfer to enable advanced low-tech agricultural methods such as permaculture, wild agriculture, or agro-forestry. The abundance in the food supply, which such a change of direction promises, can benefit various forms of organizing food distribution. This can have both forms of targeting farmers in particular as their practices pollute the environment around them as well as the broader community to enable the poor to produce their food in community gardens. One can think of a hybrid solution such as the one described in the case of a small farmer who invites consumers to participate in food production. Such methods require a long-term commitment and the resources to invest in developing soil but with time they will produce abundance that can be redistributed among citizens. It will also contribute to sustaining the natural resources in the region. With this kind of approach, you not only redistribute wealth (nutritional wealth) but multiply it.

The influences that have destroyed agriculture all over the world are taking a toll on India. A recent initiative by the government wants to foster organic agriculture but the project resembles the commercial, export-oriented type of intervention, which may not benefit the poor directly. How can you protect the soil from land grabbing and the interests of monopolies like fertilizer producers and other branches of the agricultural industry? The answer needs to mobilize various actors, also consumers.

While in India, I talked to a 19-year old woman who studies sociology and has all this critical thinking and discourse pouring out of her. At the same time, she eats at McDonald’s and thinks it is cool. Industrially processed food is particularly dangerous for India due to ineffective recycling and waste management. Cash transfers may add freedom but the one promised by the interests of the multinational companies at the cost of sustainable health and agriculture. 

Collective rather than individual approach

While I understand the argument against taxing citizens by transferring real income from the Permanent Fund to the government instead of giving individual dividends, this type of redistribution may also be as short-sighted as the extractive industry is. We can imagine a different approach, which is neither former nor the latter option but something in between. Definitely, the government has shown limits in governing resources, which calls for other than tax solutions. By building up robust structures and practices that will sustain collaboration capacities of the population, you are enabling the population to multiply rather than only consume resources. And this is something that benefits the entire population so the dividend has a universal effect in the long run.

Nowadays, there are many instances of technologies that create abundance, for example, solar energy; think of community solar stove in neighborhoods. Think of all sorts of circular economies that could change the mindset about how resources are used and produced. There is this magic thing about nature that once you work with (and not against) nature, including human nature, you can create abundance.

Instead of atomizing the resources, I propose to give them at collective disposal so that people can make collective investments to share resources: building collective kitchens, gardens, and other commons. Giving money into collective hands as opposed to just individual transfers, which you don’t know how people will end up spending and whether their spending will actually be good for the community and for their health, will produce cumulative results.

The problem with cash transfers is that if you just give money but there is no consciousness, no awareness of how to spend money in a sustainable way then the money will be just spent on things that actually contribute to the damage of the region and the future generations. Cash transfers are intermediated by mentality and culture. Therefore, it is important to build this intermediating fabric in the community. For example, how could you enable creating public spaces where self-organization happens, where connection happens, where people are brought back to responsible and sustainable consumption?

Culture and community

Another building block of creating sustainability is preserving culture and community. It is important to ask what organizations, what projects, what knowledge could preserve the indigenous and original Indian culture to protect it from erosion? The dying out of traditional cultures will lead to spreading addiction and other social dysfunctions. The question is how to prevent Western style of capitalism and cultural and relational poverty from imbuing your region. Investing in protecting the community is a form of creating a commons, which foster public health outside of the pharmacological approach and dependency on extractive industries.

If we look at the intergenerational equity in structural and cultural context, giving out cash transfers appears as delivering the region to the tyranny of near-sighted vision and forgoing a deep social change. Cash may enable and encourage consumption that fits well into the interests of hegemonic actors and ideologies. Before enabling consumption, we need to transform the underpinning culture and underpinning patterns which brought obesity and other health problems in the West.

Rahul Basu’s comment

We wholeheartedly agree that fostering communities is necessary. Our structure has been designed to deal with the serious issues that arise from the misgovernance of mineral extraction. One aspect particularly important for India is the large number of power hierarchies – class, caste & gender being just a few – and which permeate even traditionally self-governing villages. This enables politicians to develop winning coalitions using a divide and conquer strategy. The Citizen’s Dividend is essential to connect people to their mineral inheritance and the equality of the dividend prevents the division of the people.

While it is desirable that this income be pooled in ways that foster communities, we believe that this should be left open to the recipients of the dividend. Indeed, in the SEWA pilot of UBI in India, one group pooled their dividends and jointly took up fish cultivation. If on the other hand, this money is mandated for community creation through the legally recognized legal structures like villages / cities, we will neither have a community nor will we have resolved the misgovernance of the mineral inheritance.


You can find Katarzyna’s soon to be released book: “Imagine a Sane Society 

Further publications on UBI by Katarzyna Gajewska:

1. interviewed by Tyler Prochazka (January 2016): Beyond temptation: Scholar discusses addiction and basic income – an interview:

2. (September 2015): UBI and alcoholism (or other substance addictions): exploring the argument against UBI:

3. (9 June 2017): UBI needs peers (part three): Reconquering work – inspiration from People’s Potato. URL: .

4. (10 April 2017): UBI needs peers (PT 2): Re-imagine work organization, basicincome.org

5. (11 February 2017) UBI needs peers to control services of general interest (part one),

6. (30 June 2014): There is such a thing as a free lunch: Montreal Students Commoning and Peering food services. P2P Foundation Blog,

7. (16 May 2014) : UBI and Housing Problem, Basic Income UK,

French Movement for a Basic Income: Basic income – the emergency for more social justice

French Movement for a Basic Income: Basic income – the emergency for more social justice

In the current context of a global pandemic, the universal basic income (UBI) policy has been gaining ground all over the world. Given this sudden raise of awareness about UBI, it was important for the French Movement for a Basic Income (MFRB), as well as 40 other French civil society organizations and public figures, to highlight the importance of having a real democratic debate around its implementation.

These UBI advocates support the idea of basic income, but not at all costs. Basic income finds itself at the crossroad of two very different paths: it can either be included in a series of measures aiming at promoting a social and environmental transition, or it can be a plaster to the current neoliberal system. In the French context, where the social protection system has been strong for the past decades, but which has also been attacked in recent years, the risks of having UBI used politically to weaken established social rights are also important.

That is why the implementation of a real protective basic income must not only be about the economy, but be an outgrowth of a real democratic debate. That to make sure it will help reduce inequalities, reinforce labor rights and help create social protection systems. And to improve working conditions of the “essential jobs” that are currently underpaid and at the frontline of the sanitary crisis. It shall also be used to question the relevancy of “bullshit jobs”.

The strength of UBI has always relied on its capacity to promote debates on an extremely wide range of topics. Today, more than ever, it is crucial to debate collectively about the society we want in the aftermath of this crisis.


The original article [in French]:

Colective at MFRB, “Revenu de base: l’urgence d’une société plus solidaire [Basic Income: the urgence of a more supportive society]”, Politis, April 2nd 2020

Can basic income ensure distributive justice in India?

Can basic income ensure distributive justice in India?

Universal Basic Income (UBI) is once again in the news as a promising program in the upcoming general election in India after finding its place in India’s 2016-17 economic survey. Proponents say UBI is economically prudent and could make a significant dent on poverty in the country. UBI bypasses India’s weak system of existing welfare schemes which are riddled with misallocation, leakages, and exclusion of the poor. It also makes sense from the perspective of an individual, who is assumed to be economically rational and thus can spend in accordance to his priorities and choices.

Having said there is insufficient empirical evidence to demonstrate how UBI could accomplish social justice and poverty reduction, especially in a country like India which is still held down by a regressive social structure in the form of a caste system. The caste system leads to a lack of mobility, producing a semi-feudal system of land ownership. Land is held by a small fraction of the population with the rest being landless or having little property, especially in rural areas. The fact that most of the poor are also concentrated in India’s rural areas makes the case that UBI could be successful at alleviating poverty.

Moreover, the proposition that UBI will reduce poverty assumes that the market works competitively and allocates resources efficiently. However, markets do fail in providing an efficient and just outcome in the presence of informational asymmetry, externalities, and monopolies. This is especially true in the case of India where the market is disproportionately in the hands of a few big players who can influence it to their advantage. For instance, giving out cash as opposed to goods and services in kind may not help in remote places if the corresponding supply of essential goods are not there (this role is otherwise performed by the public distribution system in India which may be dismantled to make fiscal space for UBI). A monopoly supplier may hike the prices to neutralise the extra income. To the extent the purchasing power of cash transfers in the form of UBI is curtailed by market fluctuations, the efficacy of basic income to alleviate poverty could be limited.

UBI even in the presence of efficient market can capture only poverty in terms of economic deprivation, whereas factors such as poor health, lack of education, discrimination and lack of entitlements cannot be addressed by the market but are crucial from the perspective of eradicating poverty.

John Rawls in his seminal work propounding the concept of distributive justice is guided by the ‘difference principle,’ which stresses that goods and services should be arranged in a manner that serves to benefit the least advantaged and foster growth towards equality of opportunity.  To the extent that everyone will receive the same amount of cash transfer irrespective of his or her requirement, the UBI fails to ensure distributional justice, in accordance with the ‘difference principle’. In this case, justice would require maximizing assistance to those who need it most, which at present our welfare schemes (despite its weaknesses) strives to achieve. UBI at best can only work in conjunction with the existing policies. In order to fully eradicate poverty, the welfare state should work towards increasing its capacity to deliver and regulate rather than leaving it to the market.


Rishi Kant

Currently pursuing Master’s in public administration (MPA), LKY school, National University of Singapore. Graduated in Economics from Delhi University and Post Graduated in Economics from Jawaharlal Nehru University. 5year experience of teaching in various colleges of Delhi University and working with the government of India under various capacities. He has worked as a researcher in the field of Labour economics and evaluated major labour market policies in India such as the Mahatma Gandhi National Employment Program. He has also part of capacity development programs organised by IMF in the areas of Macro-Economics, Fiscal and monetary policies, and Financial Programming and policies.



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Justice as the Pursuit of Accord: Toward a non-utopian theory of justice

I have just posted a new academic article on my “selected works” cite. It’s called, “Justice as the Pursuit of Accord: Toward a non-utopian theory of justice.”  Here’s a brief summary:

The hardest thing for any society to do is to avoid oppressing its least advantaged people. This article argues that well-meaning theories of justice contribute to this problem by employing utopian assumptions that imagine solving unsolvable problems. They eliminate the disadvantages they know and understand, but their overconfidence leads to errors that systematically disadvantage the least powerful people in political, social, and economic terms.

This article previews a theory of justice, I call “justice as the pursuit of accord” (JPA), which by attempting to eliminate these unrealistic assumptions, creates a fundamentally different framework than most prevailing political theories of justice. In this sense, JPA attempts to be an “agathatopian” theory with far more tentative assumptions about what is achievable. The essay introduces JPA as I have outlined it in past works, contrasts it with prevailing theories, and previews JPA property theory as I will outline it in much greater detail in the forthcoming book, Justice as the Pursuit of Accord.

The main difference between JPA and more conventional social contract theories is that JPA assumes the impossibly of a contract that all rational, reasonable people will have reason to accept. Social agreements are inherently insider-outsider agreements. Under those circumstances, the article argues, a just society has a responsibility that is unrecognized by either social contract or rights-based theories of justice: to minimize negative impact of social arrangements on dissenters (the outsiders the insider-outsider agreement). Among other things, JPA provides three arguments for basic income: to protect everyone’s status as a free person, to compensate people for unequal duties imposed on them by a property rights system, and to help minimize the negative impact of all social arrangements on dissenters.

The article is online at:

Karl Widerquist, “Justice as the Pursuit of Accord: Toward a non-utopian theory of justice,” Unpublished Manuscript available at SelectedWorks. Fall 2017.