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Basic Income: Privilege or Right?

Updated: Mar 15

Some argue that basic income, or a minimum degree of money needed to live according to some socioeconomic standard, should not be a privilege; instead, it should be a human right. Under such a system, there would be two basic types of payments offered to the public, which are universal basic vouchers and universal basic services. Universal basic vouchers are payments that can be exchanged for specific goods and services. On the other hand, universal basic services provide free access to services and resources such as healthcare, education and public transportation.

Universal basic income (UBI) is often supported and limited by five sustainability principles. The security difference principle aims to provide equal financial security to fulfill the basic needs of all citizens. The paternalism test principle, which tries to prevent universal income from trampling individual freedom, grants people the freedom to spend money as they see fit. The rights-not-charity principle emphasizes providing goods, services and financial support based on citizenship and human rights, instead of altruistic charity. The ecological constraint principle highlights the positive impact of UBI on the human ecosystem, addressing environmental challenges and the interconnections between social and ecological systems.

Finally, the dignified work principle suggests that meaningful work can attract more workers to the workforce and reduce dependency on UBI, preventing universal income from inflaming welfare dependence. It prioritizes income security and meaningful job opportunities that contribute positively to society, fulfilling the desire for work that is valued and respected for its societal benefits.

These principles collectively serve to evaluate and promote the effectiveness of UBI policies, ensuring economic security, individual autonomy, social equality, environmental benefits and dignified employment opportunities. Together, these principles provide a framework for evaluating the effectiveness of UBI policies and their potential impact on various aspects of society.

It's often argued that UBI policies inevitably create welfare dependency, stoke laziness and fail basic, economic pragmatism. Welfare systems can be manipulated and can often fail to address underlying issues that perpetuate poverty. I have personally seen people misuse welfare subsidies for prolonged periods of time, turning a safety net into a crutch. 

Perhaps a middle ground is possible. Perhaps UBI policies can be crafted in an economically feasible way. Perhaps income can be recognized as a human right while self-sufficiency and responsible resource use are promoted. 


Sophia Seung-Yoon Lee, & Lee, J. (2020). Evaluating basic income, basic service, and basic voucher for social and ecological sustainability. Sustainability, 12(20), 8348. doi:

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