Welfare for Markets: A Global History of Basic Income

Univ. of Chicago. (The Life of Ideas). Apr. 2023. 240p. ISBN 9780226823683. $32.50. ECON
The coauthors of Free Money for Surfers have teamed up again with this carefully researched historical reference that examines public welfare proposals from diverse ideological perspectives. They show that capitalist free markets do not benefit all individuals. The reality is that many people become wealthy at others’ expense. A controversial social welfare idea is to help population groups by providing them with universal basic incomes (UBI). UBI are minimum cash payments given to citizens unconditionally to meet basic needs. Proponents included economist Milton Friedman, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln, and Thomas Paine. Current advocates, such as billionaires Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerburg, recognize changes caused by automation. Setting up UBI systems is deemed complex. Yet several initiatives have already been successfully launched, such as Brazil’s Bolsa Familia and Alaska’s Permanent Fund. Renewed attention to UBI is given after each global economic crisis, including the COVID pandemic, when many governments, including the United States and Spain, made direct payments to citizens. Government professionals and policymakers can consult this valuable social justice resource for additional insights about the UBI debate.
VERDICT This eye-opening work should be considered as a first purchase for academic library collections.
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