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Basic Income and the Problem of Cumulative Misfortune


  • Wigley Simon

    (Bilkent University)


This paper defends a regularly paid basic income as being better equipped to tackle unfair inequalities of outcome. It is argued that the timing of "option-luck" failures in particular, whether they occur early in a lifetime of calculated gambles, and whether they are clustered together may lead to a form of "brute bad luck," referred to as "cumulative misfortune." A basic income that is paid on a regular basis provides a way to prevent the emergence of cumulative misfortune, because the basic income at least partially replenishes the individual's ability to take the next calculated gamble. The upshot of this is a nonpaternalistic justification for an unconditional basic income that is paid regularly and is nonmortgageable. This has an important bearing on the debate between those who advocate a one-off endowment at the start of adult life and those who advocate a basic income paid regularly throughout one's life. The paper contends that a regular basic income represents a superior social policy because it prevents the emergence of cumulative misfortune, rather than belatedly attempting to compensate for its effects during our senior years.

Suggested Citation

  • Wigley Simon, 2006. "Basic Income and the Problem of Cumulative Misfortune," Basic Income Studies, De Gruyter, vol. 1(2), pages 1-14, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:bpj:bistud:v:1:y:2006:i:2:n:5

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