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Jurgen De Wispelaere and Lindsay Stirton, “When Basic Income Meets Professor Pangloss”

Jurgen De Wispelaere (Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Tampere) and Lindsay Stirton (Professor of Public Law at the University of Sussex) have coauthored a new article in which they argue that basic income advocates must not ignore questions about how the policy is to be administered (“When Basic Income Meets Professor Pangloss: Ignoring Public Administration and Its Perils”).

De Wispelaere and Stirton consider several reasons for which basic income supporters believe that issues of administration are immaterial, such as the assumption that technology will render administration unproblematic and the comparative claim that administering a basic income could not be more difficult than administering conditional benefits. The authors find such justifications insufficient, maintaining that the challenges of administering a basic income are non-trivial, and that their resolution can impact the political feasibility and even ethicality of a basic income proposal.

The article has been published in the British political journal The Political Quarterly.


Jurgen De Wispelaere and Lindsay Stirton, “When Basic Income Meets Professor Pangloss: Ignoring Public Administration and Its Perils,” The Political Quarterly, December 14, 2016.


Basic income advocates propose a model that they believe will dramatically improve on current welfare programmes by alleviating poverty, reducing involuntary unemployment and social exclusion, redistributing care work, achieving a better work–life balance, and so on. Whether these expected social effects materialise in practice critically depends on how the model is implemented, but on this topic the basic income debate remains largely silent. Few advocates explicitly consider questions of implementation, and those that do are typically dismissive of the administrative challenges of implementing a basic income and critical (even overtly hostile) towards bureaucracy. In this contribution we briefly examine (and rebut) several reasons that have led basic income advocates to ignore administration. The main peril of such neglect, we argue, is that it misleads basic income advocates into a form of Panglossian optimism that risks causing basic income advocacy to become self-defeating.

Post reviewed by Danny Pearlberg

Photo: Scene from theatrical production of Candide (Pangloss on viewer’s left), CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 shakespearetheatreco.

Kate McFarland

About Kate McFarland

Kate McFarland has written 505 articles.

Former lead writer and editor of Basic Income News.

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One comment

  • Marielle Jansen

    There may be just a few people who occupy their mind with this problem, but a good plan does not necessarily imply that this has to be solved by bureaucrats or that a plan should emerge out of ‘crowd-thinking’.. There are people working on this and a few good minds will suffice. The administrative solution is on its way!

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