Philosophy and Social Criticism 42 (9):920-936 (2016)

Leticia Morales
Austral University of Chile
A basic income is typically defined as an individual’s entitlement to receive a regular payment as a right, independent of other sources of income, employment or willingness to work, or living situation. In this article, we examine what it means for the state to institute a right to basic income. The normative literature on basic income has developed numerous arguments in support of basic income as an inextricable component of a just social order, but there exists little analysis about basic income within a jurisprudential or philosophical rights perspective. In our view, strong reasons of either a principled or a pragmatic nature in support of instituting a basic income scheme nevertheless often fall short of ascribing to basic income a distinctive Hohfeldian rights status. This article aims to partially redress this gap by examining two sets of questions. First, what are the implications – ethical and practical – of adopting basic income as a legal right as opposed to a mere policy? Second, we also enquire whether there should be such a right: what, if anything, is the ethical foundation that warrants granting basic income a distinctive legal rights status? This article suggests that any such foundation must be grounded in comparative evaluation and discusses several comparative strategies available to basic income advocates. The aim of this article is not to offer a definite argument in favor of a legal right to basic income, but to chart several lines of argument that a rights perspective might add to the contemporary discussion.
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DOI 10.1177/0191453715625439
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