Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare Symposium on the Basic Income Guarantee
The quarterly Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare (based at Western Michigan University) published a symposium on the basic income guarantee (BIG) in its September 2016 issue.
The symposium includes five articles on the topic, plus an introduction written by two members of BIEN: Richard K. Caputo (Wurzweiler School of Social Work at Yeshiva University) and Michael Lewis (School of Social Work at Hunter College, CUNY). The first three articles present arguments for the adoption of a BIG in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, respectively. The fourth argues that a BIG is more politically feasible in the United States than alternative approaches to economic security, such as a Swedish-type welfare state. The fifth proposes a feminist argument for a BIG, although cautioning that more empirical work is needed.
Titles and abstracts, with brief descriptions of the authors, are given below. Links to manuscripts are provided where available.
Jennifer Mays and Greg Marston – “Reimagining Equity and Egalitarianism: The Basic Income Debate in Australia”
“Reimagining equity and egalitarianism calls for rethinking traditional welfare responses to poverty and economic security in Australia. Similar to other advanced Western democracies, Australia has pursued policies underpinned by neoliberal economics in an effort to curtail perceived excesses in public expenditure over the past three decades. In response to these policy settings, commentators and policy activists have increased their attention to the potential of a universal and unconditional basic income scheme to address economic insecurity. This paper positions basic income within the context of Australia’s welfare state arrangements and explores the potential of the scheme to respond to economic insecurity, particularly precarious employment and poverty traps created by a highly targeted social security system.”
May is a Course Coordinator in the School of Public Health and Social Work at the Queensland University of Technology, and Marston is Head of School at the School of Social Science at the University of Queensland.
Mays and Marston are both active members of Basic Income Guarantee Australia (BIGA), BIEN’s Australian affiliate, and were co-editors (with John Tomlinson) of Basic Income in Australia and New Zealand: Perspectives from the Neo-Liberal Frontier (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016).
James P. Mulvale and Sid Frankel – “Next Steps on the Road to Basic Income in Canada”
“Canada has had recurring debates about guaranteed or basic income over several decades. This article outlines reasons for implementing basic income in the Canadian context–reducing poverty and inequality, addressing precarious employment, and building an ecologically sustainable economy. Recently there has been a strong renewal of interest in basic income in Canada. Expressions of interest have come from the Liberal federal government elected in 2015, from provincial governments, from political parties not in power, and from municipal governments. Support for basic income also is found in a growing range of prominent individuals and organizations. While basic income advocates are encouraged by recent developments, several large and complex questions remain on how this approach can be implemented in Canada. These questions encompass the specifics of design, delivery, funding, and political support. How can basic income build on existing income security programs and leave Canadians better off in the end? How can we ensure that basic income is not used as an excuse to cut vital services such health care, social housing, early childhood care and development, and social services for those with disabilities and other challenges? How can basic income be set in place in Canada,given its complicated federal-provincial nexus of responsibility for, delivery of, and funding for social programs? The article concludes with principles that might help guide the implementation of authentically universal, adequate, and feasible basic income architecture in Canada.”
Mulvale is Dean and Frankel an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Social Work at the University of Manitoba — the site of the 2016 North American Basic Income Guarantee (NABIG) Congress, which they helped to organize.
Keith Rankin – “Prospects for a Universal Basic Income in New Zealand”
“New Zealand is a small liberal capitalist country with a history of egalitarian values and political reform–including the early introduction of universal welfare benefits–and with an uncomplicated relatively flat income tax structure. As such, it has sometimes been seen as a “social laboratory,” a theme of writing about New Zealand and of New Zealand social historians. It therefore has all of the elements in place that could make New Zealand a candidate to become a world leader in integrating income tax and social welfare regimes into a form of universal basic income. Nevertheless, through a combination of intellectual inertia, media cynicism, and the requisite elements not all coming together at the same time, the outlook for an open and healthy discussion around public property rights and unconditional benefits remains constrained. Despite this unpromising intellectual environment, New Zealand may yet stumble upon such reform as a political compromise, as it might have done in 1988.”
Rankin is a Lecturer of Business Practice at the Unitec Institute of Technology in Auckland, New Zealand.
Almaz Zelleke – “Lessons from Sweden: Solidarity, the Welfare State, and Basic Income”
“Progressive critics of a universal basic income argue that most nations face a budgetary choice between a full basic income and investment in public goods, including universal health care, free and well-funded education, and universal pensions, and have prioritized a robust welfare state, or the “Swedish Model,” over basic income. But examination of Swedish economic policy reveals that the welfare state is only one of the ingredients of the Swedish Model, and that another is an interventionist labor market policy unlikely to be expandable to larger states without Sweden’s cultural and demographic characteristics. Indeed, evidence suggests that Sweden’s own recent diversification–not only of race and ethnicity but of occupational strata–will make the Swedish Model less stable in its own home. What lessons can be applied to the case for a basic income in the U.S. and other large and diverse nations or regions?”
Zelleke is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science at New York University’s campus in Shanghai. She has written multiple journal articles and book chapters on basic income, and has been an active member of BIEN.
Sara Cantillon and Caitlin McLean – “Basic Income Guarantee: The Gender Impact within Households”
“The potential of a Basic Income Guarantee (BIG) to contribute to gender equality is a contested issue amongst feminist scholars. This article focuses on the nature of BIG as an individually-based payment to explore its potential for reducing gender equality, specifically intra-household inequalities in material or financial welfare; economic autonomy; psychological well-being; and time allocation, especially leisure time and time spent in household and care work. We employ a gender analysis of existing BIG pilots/schemes as well as close substitutes (e.g., universal child benefits) to assess some of the key claims about the effects of a basic income (BI) on gendered inequality. We also present findings from empirical work on intra-household allocation and decision-making which underscore the role of independent income. The article finds some support for BIG as a feminist proposal with respect to mitigating intra-household inequality, but concludes that further empirical research is needed to argue persuasively for BIG as an instrument for furthering gender equality.”
Cantillon is Professor of Gender and Economics at Glasgow Caledonian University. McLean is a lead researcher at the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at the University of California at Berkeley.
Reviewed by Genevieve Shanahan
Cover photo by Christopher Andrews, CC BY-NC 2.0