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Reciprocity and the Guaranteed Income


  • Karl Widerquist


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 "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.

Suggested Citation

  • Karl Widerquist, 1998. "Reciprocity and the Guaranteed Income," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_245, Levy Economics Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:lev:wrkpap:wp_245

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Marlene Kim & Thanos Mergoupis, 1995. "The Working Poor and Welfare Recipiency," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_151, Levy Economics Institute.
    2. Marlene Kim, 1997. "The Working Poor: Lousy Jobs or Lazy Workers?," Macroeconomics 9712002, EconWPA.
    3. repec:mes:jeciss:v:31:y:1997:i:3:p:707-728 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Karl Widerquist & Michael A. Lewis, 1997. "An Efficiency Argument for the Guaranteed Income," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_212, Levy Economics Institute.
    5. Marlene Kim, 1997. "The Working Poor: Lousy Jobs or Lazy Workers?," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_194, Levy Economics Institute.
    6. 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.
    7. 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, June.
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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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