Two basic income books reviewed

Foreign Affairs Magazine

Is the world—or at least some countriesready for a basic income? These two books argue strongly in the affirmative. Such a policy involves the government providing cash grants to every member of society at a level that could sustain life: an amount equal to one-quarter of GDP per capita would suffice, suggest Van Parijs and Vanderborght.

The size of the grants could be affected by various factors, such as the recipient’s age and level of need, and could be conditioned on grantees meeting certain behavioral requirements, such as preventing truancy in their school-age children.

Van Parijs and Vanderborght, however, prefer a universal, unconditional cash grant—as does Standing. Van Parijs and Vanderborght’s book is more scholarly than Standing’s and explores the history of basic-income schemes going all the way back to sixteenth-century Antwerp. Standing, for his part, usefully examines present-day pilot projects in Finland, the Netherlands, and the Canadian province of Ontario.

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