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Reciprocity and the Guaranteed Income


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  • Karl Widerquist

    (The Jerome Levy Economics Institute)


This paper argues that a guaranteed income is not only consistent with the principle of reciprocity but is required for reciprocity. This conclusion follows from a three-part argument. First, if a guaranteed income is in place, all individuals have the same opportunity to live without working. Therefore, those who choose not to work do not take advantage of a privilege that is unavailable to everyone else. Second, in the absence of an unconditional income, society is, in effect, applying the principle, "(S)he who does not work, will not eat." If the application of this principle is to be consistent with reciprocity, it must be applied to everyone. Most modern industrial societies exempt many citizens from that choice. For example, the owners of external assets do not face the work-or-starve choice and do take advantage of a privilege that is not available to others. An unconditional guaranteed income is one way to eliminate that violation of reciprocity. Third, this paper addresses the criticism that the guaranteed income exploits middle-class workers by demonstrating that a basic income will have a positive effect on wages, which will at least partially counteract the effect of the taxes needed to pay for it.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by EconWPA in its series Macroeconomics with number 9808009.

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Length: 25 pages
Date of creation: 18 Aug 1998
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpma:9808009

Note: Type of Document - Acrobat PDF; prepared on IBM PC; to print on PostScript; pages: 25; figures: included
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  1. Jason L. Saving, 1997. ""Tough Love": implications for redistributive policy," Economic and Financial Policy Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, issue Q III, pages 25-29.
  2. Marlene Kim, 1997. "The Working Poor: Lousy Jobs or Lazy Workers?," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_194, Levy Economics Institute.
  3. Karl Widerquist & Michael A. Lewis, 1998. "An Efficiency Argument for the Guaranteed Income," Macroeconomics 9802005, EconWPA.
  4. Marlene Kim & Thanos Mergoupis, 1998. "The Working Poor and Welfare Recipiency," Macroeconomics 9810006, EconWPA.
  5. Marlene Kim, 1997. "The Working Poor: Lousy Jobs or Lazy Workers?," Macroeconomics 9712002, EconWPA.
  6. Stuart White, 1997. "Liberal Equality, Exploitation, and the Case for an Unconditional Basic Income," Political Studies, Political Studies Association, vol. 45(2), pages 312-326, 06.
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Cited by:
  1. Pavlina R. Tcherneva, 2012. "What Do Poor Women Want? Public Employment or Cash Transfers? Lessons from Argentina," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_705, Levy Economics Institute.


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