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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Dimick: Better Than Basic Income? Liberty, Equality, And The Regulation Of Working Time

Matthew Dimick (SUNY-Buffalo), Better than Basic Income? Liberty, Equality, and the Regulation of Working Time, 50 Ind. L. Rev. 473 (2017):

Basic income has attracted the attention of academics, policy makers, and politicians around the globe. Basic income — a no-strings-attached cash transfer made to all citizens of a country, rich or poor — has been lauded as a plan to eliminate poverty, reduce income inequality, redress imbalances in the labor market, remedy the impending problem of mass technology-induced unemployment — the “robot apocalypse” — and make possible meaningful lives for those otherwise dependent on menial work in the labor market. It has also been proposed as an efficient, nonpaternalistic, and stigma-free alternative to existing welfare state policies. This Article compares basic income to an alternative policy proposal: the regulation of maximum working hours in the labor market.

This Article contends that on nearly all of these virtues, working-time regulation does better than, or at least as well as, basic income. In particular, working-time regulation makes “free time” available to a broader array of individuals, also addresses technological unemployment, and is much more conducive to pro-environmental policies. Most importantly, it is more deeply egalitarian than basic income, not only addressing income inequality but social inequality, as well. Although basic income and working-time regulation are not necessarily incompatible — indeed some have advocated the adoption of both policies — there may be other factors that effectively render them policy substitutes. Specifically, not only is working-time regulation more complementary to existing welfare-state policy than is basic income, but — already in existence in the U.S. and most other developed countries — it also does not face the challenges of political and economic feasibility that confront basic income. Thus the choice and comparison is a compelling one, of which legal, policy, and tax scholars should take note.

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