Radical pluralism: Arguments for an unconditional basic income in the United States
In this essay, I consider the problem of democratic citizenship under capitalism: how can we reconcile the vast economic inequalities generated by the capitalist organization of the economy, and the inequalities of power to which they lead, with philosophical commitments to egalitarianism and the political equality of the democratic state? In the context of examining the ethics of a basic income—an unconditional form of income redistribution which radically disassociates work and economic well-being—I ask why a basic income receives so little support in the literatures of distributive justice and citizenship, despite its promise, if set at a high enough level, to eliminate poverty and to significantly mitigate the worst effects of economic inequality on political equality.
I argue that unsupported claims about the fairness of the capitalist economic system, together with an androcentric conception of the citizen as worker, prevent even liberal egalitarian theories of justice from recognizing the merits of a basic income. Adopting a feminist perspective on questions of justice and citizenship, I argue that a basic income is not only a superior safety net in a capitalist economy but the cornerstone of a theory of justice and citizenship I term radical pluralism. Radical pluralism seeks to combine the insights of egalitarian theories of justice with a truly gender-neutral theory of citizenship based on the conception of the citizen as universal caregiver. Radical pluralism guarantees all citizens, regardless of gender, the greatest autonomy over their own lives consistent with their abilities and with a similar degree of autonomy for others.
0615: Political science