This book, it must be said up front, it not an easy read. Messrs. Van Parijs and Vanderborght are ethicists, and their closely argued text has all the liveliness of a philosophical treatise. But Basic Income provides a rigorous analysis of the many arguments for and against a universal basic income, offering a road map for future researchers who wish to examine policy alternatives ... Messrs. Van Parijs and Vanderborght make a strong case that any basic income should be universal, because grants aimed at the poor or the jobless 'have an intrinsic tendency to turn their beneficiaries into a class of permanent welfare claimants' ... the authors’ call 'to restructure radically the way in which economic security is pursued in our societies and in our world' is encountering growing sympathy from people with widely disparate political orientations but a shared concern about how technology might fundamentally change the nature of work.
In considered, often enlightening, prose, they delve into John Rawls, Ronald Dworkin and Amartya Sen. They look at a number of alternative schemes; they discuss various objections to guaranteed income programmes, including those over cost, free riding, and the possibility of diminished incentives ... a conclusion that the current bleak situation is more structural than cyclical, and a conviction that radical new ideas are required to break out of the straitjacket in which much of the western world finds itself.
Although their goal is utopian, Van Parijs and Vanderborght aim to infuse it with economic and political realism. They are strongest when framing the guaranteed income as an economic dividend to which all citizens are entitled ... Giving some a fairer share, of course, means taking a share away from others, and these Belgian academics certainly don’t shy away from the redistributionist nature of their project ... Although not a technical book, Basic Income is more academic than most readers would prefer. Americans will not fail to notice the authors’ abiding enmity for 'the dictatorship of market' or the European left-wing filter through which they view political reality. The more philosophical sections are given to hair-splitting, while those on financing beg for more specifics. What Van Parijs and Vanderborght bring to this topic is a deep understanding, an enduring passion and a disarming optimism.