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Empirical Research on an Unconditional Basic Income in Europe

Lei Delsen (Editor)

Empirical Research on an Unconditional Basic Income in Europe

In this volume, 15 authors set out detailed research into UBI in Europe. In his introduction, Lei Delsen defines UBI to be funded by progressive taxation and wealth taxes (p1, p15). Extensive opinion research indicates that 75% of respondents favour UBI (p29), but this only with the proviso that ‘no explicit reference is made to how to finance eg taxes, UBI’ (p31). A suspicion of work disincentive was cited as the main objection to UBI, and income security as its main advantage (p57).

Other articles consider political feasibility, discuss support in Scotland, shifting social inclusion philosophy in Holland, the avoidance of selection bias in research experiments, the role of experimental economics, and game theoretic analysis. Very extensive academic reading lists are provided throughout.

The treatment of UBI is thus extremely deep, but lacks breadth. By omitting the question of funding, and by not setting the UBI proposal against other solutions such as targeted benefits, the research has limited significance, and low potential political impact. The 75% approval rate may well have reduced substantially if the proposal required huge tax increases. Other studies find that UBI is of less interest for example in Nordic states with generous welfare provision, and more in eastern European states with minimal welfare, but this may indicate a vote for welfare of any kind, rather than a preference for UBI over targeted benefits.

But more fundamentally, the authors do not include consideration of the technology-driven need for UBI as a structural component of aggregate consumer income. Neither do they consider the possibility of funding by debt-free sovereign money which derives from the same argument. The authors could not have foreseen the current coronavirus pandemic, but this has revealed the need for UBI, and the need to fund it and other massive government expenditure from sovereign money, rather than from debt-bearing government bonds. This reframes the argument for UBI and boosts its political feasibility.

The book is available here and here.

Geoff Crocker
Editor ‘The Case for Universal Basic Income’

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