Universal Basic Income


by Karl Widerquist

An accessible introduction to the simple (yet radical) premise that a small cash income, sufficient for basic needs, ought to be provided regularly and unconditionally to every citizen.

The growing movement for universal basic income (UBI) has been gaining attention from politics and the media with the audacious idea of a regular, unconditional cash grant for everyone as a right of citizenship. This volume in the Essential Knowledge series presents the first short, solid UBI introduction that is neither academic nor polemic. It takes a position in favor of UBI, but its primary goal remains the provision of essential knowledge by answering the fundamental questions about it: What is UBI? How does it work? What are the arguments for and against it? What is the evidence?

Karl Widerquist discusses how UBI functions, showing how it differs from other redistributional approaches. He summarizes the common arguments for and against UBI and presents the reasons for believing it is a tremendously important reform. The book briefly discusses the likely cost of UBI; options for paying for it; the existing evidence on the probable effects of UBI; and the history of UBI from its inception more than two hundred years ago through the two waves of support it received in the twentieth century to the third and largest wave of support it is experiencing now. Now more than ever, conditions in much of the world are ripe for such enthusiasm to keep growing, and there are good reasons to believe that this current wave of support will eventually lead to the adoption of UBI in several countries around the world—making this volume an especially timely and necessary read.

Series Overview: The MIT Press Essential Knowledge series offers accessible, concise, beautifully produced books on topics of current interest. Written by leading thinkers, the books in this series deliver expert overviews of subjects that range from the cultural and the historical to the scientific and the technical. In today’s era of instant information gratification, we have ready access to opinions, rationalizations, and superficial descriptions. Much harder to come by is the foundational knowledge that informs a principled understanding of the world. Essential Knowledge books fill that need. Synthesizing specialized subject matter for nonspecialists and engaging critical topics through fundamentals, each of these compact volumes offers readers a point of access to complex ideas.

Paperback | 272 pages | The MIT Press | 2024

Karl Widerquist, a Professor of Philosophy at Georgetown University-Qatar, specializes in distributive justice: the ethics of who has what. He holds a doctorate in normative political theory from Oxford University) and one in economics from the City University of New York 1996. He writes on philosophy, politics, economics, anthropology, and the philosophy of social science. He has published dozens of scholarly articles and eleven books including “Universal Basic Income,” “the Problem of Property,” “the Prehistory of Private Property,” “Prehistoric Myths in Modern Political Philosophy,” and “Independence, Propertylessness, and Basic Income.” He was a founding editor of the journal “Basic Income Studies,” co-founder of the U.S. Basic Income Guarantee Network, and co-chair of the Basic Income Earth Network. “The Atlantic Monthly” called him “a leader of the worldwide Basic Income movement.”

In stock (can be backordered)

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