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Alstott, Anne. Good for Women
2001, In Phillipe Van Parijs, Joel Rogers, & Joshua Cohen (eds.), What's Wrong With a Free Lunch? Beacon Press, Boston.
Added by: Deryn Mair Thomas

A Universal Basic Income (UBI) has much to offer, particularly to women. A UBI could help fill the gaps in U.S. social programs that leave women economically vulnerable. And the tax increase needed to fund the program poses no serious threat to the economy. The libertarian right will surely howl that “high taxes” dramatically reduce work and savings. But economic research challenges that prediction. Raising the right taxes, to fund the right programs, can render freedom and equality compatible with economic growth. Refreshingly, Van Parijs argues the case for the UBI in terms of freedom – a value too seldom invoked in American social welfare policy. For similar reasons, Bruce Ackerman and I have proposed stakeholding – a one-time, unconditional grant to young citizens. Although stakeholding and the UBI differ in important ways, I want to focus on their shared strengths: both proposals could enhance women’s freedom and economic security by breaking the link between social welfare benefits and paid work.

Comment: This text discusses contemporary literature on basic income and argues that UBI and related policies increase economic security and freedom for women. In doing so, it merges contemporary feminist thought with the debates on universal basic income and similar schemes, like participatory income, guaranteed income, stakeholder grants, etc. It discuses the particular economic risks faced by women, as distinct from men, and argues that a basic income mitigates these risks by giving women the agency to decide how they use state-sponsored assistance. The article is also very brief, as it was originally part of a series in the Boston Review, then published as an edited compilation, aimed at stimulating public non-academic engagement in the topic. As such, it might be useful if explored in tandem with some of the other arguments from the series (see Van Parijs, What's Wrong With a Free Lunch?), or as an introductory text to stimulate discussion in a reading group or fundamental-level undergraduate course. Due to its interdisciplinary approach, it would be appropriate for a variety of contexts exploring many contemporary philosophical topic areas in political and social philosophy, including feminist thought, economics, ethics and politics.

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