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Basic Income, Self-Respect and Reciprocity

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Why should I let the toad work

Squat on my life?

Can’t I use my wit as a pitchfork

And drive the brute off?

Six days of the week it soils

With its sickening poison —

Just for paying a few bills!

That's out of proportion.

From Philip Larkin, ‘Toads’. ABSTRACT

This paper mounts a Rawlsian argument for unconditional basic income on the grounds that it maximins the distribution of income and wealth understood as a social basis of self-respect. The most important objection to this argument available to Rawlsians is that basic income violates the demands of reciprocity, where reciprocity in any scheme of distribution is a requirement of justice. The second half of the paper addresses this objection. It is argued there that even if the objection can be made successfully by Rawlsians (and this is not clear), it is not sufficient to divest them of a commitment to basic income, given some practical considerations about the implementation of alternatives to basic income.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1468-5930.00243

Affiliations: University of York, Heslington, York UK

Publication date: October 1, 2003

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