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Matthew Dimick, “Better Than Basic Income? Liberty, Equality, and the Regulation of Working Time”

Matthew Dimick, Associate Professor of Law at University at Buffalo, has written a new article for the Indiana Law Review in which he compares the promises of basic income to those of working-time regulation, presenting a case to prefer the latter.

According to Dimick, the potential benefits of working-time regulation outweigh those of basic income, in large part because they would be shared more equitably throughout the population. For example, on Dimick’s assessment, a basic income would not allow the majority of people to increase their leisure time (a benefit he sees as largely confined those who “earn subsistence-level incomes or lower” and thus “would have either the option not to work or the bargaining power to secure a more favorable work-leisure trade-off with employers”); working-time regulation, in contrast, would increase leisure time for middle- and even upper-class workers as well. Additionally, Dimick argues that working-time regulation could allow not only leisure but also jobs to be more widely available and equitably distributed — whereas a basic income would deepen the divide between the working and non-working populations.

And working-time regulation might have other positive effects. For instance, due to the across-the-board increase in leisure time, Dimick contends that the policy would likely result in decreased consumption, while a basic income might spur additional consumption — leading to a preference for the former from an ecological viewpoint.

Further, because working-time regulation is a less radical departure from current policies — and, in particular, does not aim to sever benefits from work — it is much better positioned to gain popular and political support.

Dimick notes that basic income might do more than working-time regulation alone to “transform the workplace” (e.g. by giving more bargaining power to employees themselves) but that, with respect to this goal, working-time regulation should be conceived as part of a larger set of legislative reforms.

Matthew Dimick’s current areas of research include labor and employment law, tax and welfare policies, and income inequality. He holds a PhD in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he studied organized labor under Erik Olin Wright and Ivan Ermakoff, and a JD from Cornell Law School.


Matthew Dimick, 2017, “Better Than Basic Income? Liberty, Equality, and the Regulation of Working Time,” Indiana Law Review.

Post reviewed by Genevieve Shanahan

Photo CC BY-ND 2.0 Laurence Edmondson

About Kate McFarland

Kate McFarland has written 512 articles.

Former lead writer and editor of Basic Income News.

The views expressed in this Op-Ed piece are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the view of Basic Income News or BIEN. BIEN and Basic Income News do not endorse any particular policy, but Basic Income News welcomes discussion from all points of view in its Op-Ed section.


  • Pierre Madden

    Sure, let’s provide more leisure to the middle class by forcing them to work less. Why should the poor jobless folks have all the fun? Providing these people with economic security though a Basic Income, as a human right, would be so unfair to the middle class who lack the leisure that comes with living in poverty.
    People who live in decrepit housing, can’t properly feed themselves or their children and can’t find even menial work, just don’t appreciate their luck. They are ungrateful for this benefit which accrues to them without merit. How can they ask for decent food and lodging when they already have precious unlimited leisure? They don’t acknowledge the sacrifices that the middle and upper classes must make in forgoing leisure, voluntarily.
    In balance, the decision is easy to make: more leisure for the well-off, on the one hand, or economic security for the poor, on the other.

  • Peter

    More bureaucracy and more meddling with Dimmick’s proposal. We need less regulation that works for all instead of more regulation for the few who still have jobs.
    These counter arguments have the ability to do more harm in derailing the basic income movement than doing nothing at first place.

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