Basic Income Guarantee (B.I.G.) / Living Wage

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Basic Income Guarantee (BIG) / Living Wage

Are we socially obligated to ensure that people who work can achieve a minimum level of material well-being? Are we socially obligated to provide a basic income or living wage (BIG/LW) to everyone in the society regardless of their ability to work?
  • Resource Needs:
  • Information about full time workers living on current minimum wage in US
  • Information about the costs and claimed benefits of schemes like basic income guarantees and living wage
  • Arguments about the theoretical rationale for accepting or rejecting the kind of obligation involved in BIG/LW
  • Arguments about specific approaches, experiments, and experience with BIG/LW
  • Research on effects of wage and income guarantees on economic activity.
  • Strengths from Tuesday's Research:
  • Some very authoritative sources with up to date information and arguments.
  • New Needs
  • Many of the best sources here will need to be digested and "reported out" to the wiki page to be useful to the group.
  • More objections -- political, economic, philosophical -- needed.
  • Are there more philosophical defenses and philosophical objections? Many of these seemed political and economic.


  • Post summaries of something you learned about the topic that is important to thinking about it. Consult the resource needs list above for ideas. Use both Google searches leading to authoritative information and online databases, books, and articles linked through Foley Library. Look especially for databases in economics and politics.
  • One proposal for how to install BIG, which is a way to guarantee that no one's income falls below a certain level, is to eliminate existing welfare programs and introduce a flat tax rate and "social responsibility tax." These would be used to give income to people who fall below the poverty line. Research on this approach suggests that this IS affordable. This would be an alley for social justice in the modern world. (Citation: Pigeon, M. (2003). The basic income guarantee: Ensuring progress and prosperity in the 21st century. Journal of Economic Issues, 37(4), 1182-1185. Retrieved from -Jordan Thurston
  • Proponents of BIG suggest that it would provide economic security, for example, child poverty could be removed and there would be less homeless people on the streets. It could provide this economic security WITHOUT harm to the U.S. government-- all their spending and current activities could continue as usual. Opponents ask what the effect of a basic income guarantee would be on the economy. According to this article, there would be no negative effect on economic growth because no money is actually being removed from the economy. The money is being redistributed, not taken out. Only certain people would be taxed, removing the money from their hands and placing into a more needing set of hands. Similarly, opponents worry about the effect on the labor market because a BIG would mean people could forgo work and still get paid. From experiments with BIG, however, there is no evidence that people dropped out of the labor market. They may take more time to find a new job after being fired, but people did not just drop out of the labor market because they could. An example experiment this article gave was the Alaska Permanent fund, a very popular government program that covers people's basic needs. (Citation: A BIG idea: A minimum income guarantee. (2009). Multinational Monitor, 30(3), 30-34. Retrieved from -Jordan Thurston
  • Pretty interesting. Traces idea of BIG to sources other than socialism and marxism. Hmm. -Alfino
  • Why is living wage particularly a woman's issue? This article takes the topic of living wage and operates on the understanding that women make less than men and therefore are in a different situation and need to be evaluated as their own category. It focuses on what women in particular need for a living wage and the legislation that has been up and coming about creating a living wage for women. Tables highlight what the general living wage would be for women making an important distinction between a subsistence level (barely getting by) and a living wage. This unique distinction between women and men takes into account the pressures on women to have a more varied and elaborate wardrobe to look professional for example. Estimates For a Living Wage For Female Workers (JSTOR)[1] -Maryclare O'Brien-Wilson

  • This article discusses research facts about Basic Income Guarantee and the demographics of the people who it would affect most. According to the article, the idea of raising the minimum wage is widely popular, but getting a plan together that everyone can agree on has been a struggle. Lots of states and cities have taken it into their own hands to establish minimum wages because the federal government hasn't been able to come up with a suitable solution as of yet. The editorial also discusses adjustment for inflation in comparing minimum wage in the US over the years, the ages of workers who are working for minimum pay, and how the restaurant/food service industry is the biggest employer of near minimum wage workers. Retrieved from - Tore Kelln
  • This paper examines a philosophical definition of exploitation (A exploits B if A is better off and B worse off than either of them would have been had the other not existed) to examine the ethical nature of instituting an unconditional basic income. The paper notes that this can be burdensome through a serious of two person interaction examples, while also noting that the same conclusions could not be made in a world that consists of more than two people. The paper also examines the sociological, economic, and political issues surrounding instituting a guaranteed income, while remaining neutral and thereby allowing the reader to reach their own conclusions. The author does assert, however, the philosophical opinion that all people have the right and responsibility to work and earn income. A download can be found at Widerquist, Karl. "The Ethics and Economics of the Basic Income Guarantee: Does She Exploit or Doesn't She?." (2005). - Johnna Coughlin
  • This is a pretty high level treatment. Extra points if you can work through it. - Alfino
  • I found this site interesting because it comes from a libertarian perspective, which I assumed without any research would be an anti BIG/LW perspective. This article, however, is interesting in that it talks about how having a basic income guarantee would actually be better than the current welfare system set in place in the United States. The article suggests that having a BIG would be a more efficient means of spending government money because it would minimize the amount of government workers that are required working to keep poverty programs afloat. Whether you believe with these views or not, it is worth a read. [2] - Tucker Toelke
  • Yes, very quick read, but also with lots of links. --Alfino
  • The more I search for libertarian stances on BIG the more I am finding about how inefficient our current welfare system is. Here is another article that is similar to the one above. The argument is that the government is spending so much money on the existing welfare system in ways that are wasteful and inefficient. Replacing the welfare system with BIG would actually be a better alternative. Again, this is just the argument of the article. [3] - Tucker Toelke
  • This article is a posting from reporting on a recent parliamentary recommendation vote regarding a basic income initiative in Switzerland. The initiative was strongly opposed in parliament but in a poll taken of Swiss citizens in regards to the basic income initiative showed there is strong support for it. Being a recommendation vote there was no decisions actually made in this vote but it does give a good example of how an idea like this one would be handled in a democratic government. (Citation: Jourdan, Stanislas. "Switzerland's Lower House Rejects Basic Income, but Poll Shows Popular Support." BIEN. 2015. Web.) Retrieved from

- Jack Pearce

  • This news article proposes that the U.S. give each family an income check in order to help the 15% of American citizens living below the poverty line. A bill in the 1970s called Nixon's Family Assistance Plan was never passed but is similar to this idea. The article includes arguments of opponents and supporters of this idea. It also gives examples of where this basic incomes plans similar to this has been implemented; in Switzerland and in the division of oil revenues in Alaska. ( -Kate Pratschner
  • I have attached an article done by USA Today. The article is a compilation of interviews done on people who are living at minimum wage. It is very interesting to hear the different qualities of life a change in just a few dollars on the minimum wage can do for an individual. Although each video is 5-10 minutes long there are short synopses for each one that are helpful and offer a bit of insight. I feel as if this is an important article because for many of us it is a foreign experience to live with the only income being at minimum wage. [4] - Sophie Oswald
  • For those of you who want an general overview of BIG from This isn't an argumentative article, but rather the ideology and general implication of BIG in the US. [5] - Tucker Toelke
  • One thing that many don't realize is that having a BIG distributed across 300 million in the United States would be a gigantic financial burden for tax payers. This article discusses the cost of BIG in the US if it were to actually draw everyone out of poverty. This money comes from tax payers. If US citizens become more dependent on tax payers, yet don't have a taxable income, who is going to pay the bill? [6] - Tucker Toelke
  • This is an interactive map illustrating the gap between minimum wage and living wage by county in the US. The data is taken from MIT's Living Wage Calculator, and the map showcases three categories: Single Adult, Single Parent with One Child, and Parent with Spouse and Two Children. Interestingly, the only surplus of all the data is for single adults living in Washington state. In Spokane County, the minimum wage is $0.21 greater than the living wage for a single adult. The first link is to the map, and the second link is to the MIT Living Wage Calculator data sheet for Washington state [7] [8] - Christian Linder


  • Post arguments that you find or want to put forward on this topic. You can research arguments by doing a Google search, but also by consulting databases like Philosopher's Index, Academic Search Complete, and Proquest.

  • Michael Tanner, the author of this article, goes through the basics of a Universal Basic Income (UBI) wanting to know “whether UBI offers a better way to fight poverty.” He believes that the current system is “a mess,” the US has spent about 19 trillion since 1965 and not much has been accomplished. Giving a flat income of just $10,000 to every American would cost almost 3 times as we are spending now and that amount would most likely not be sufficient. Some factors for getting the money are abolishing services like Medicare and Social Security, or limiting the payments to just adults. Factors to consider when doing it are: location, politics, and time of implementing the program. There are so many factors to consider and of course it is impossible to say what would work best. Tanner suggests at the end following Britain’s lead with some of their “major welfare programs.” He says, “such a baby step would allow us to realize some, though not all, the upside of a UBI, while giving us time to further investigate the potential problems.” [9] - Alex Bourguignon
  • This essay gives a basic ethical argument for BIG, saying that as a society, we have a duty to provide social protection because every citizen of the society has a right to resources. It is a short paper that just touches on ethical reasoning, but it is a good start for an ethical way of thinking about BIG. [10] -Jordan Thurston
  • A simple argument against BIG from an economic perspective: BIG would do nothing to decrease the wealth gap. Also, the amount of BIG may not be enough to move those below the poverty line to lower middle class, especially in areas where the cost of living is high (like NYC). This article is brief but gives good and basic economic objections. [11] -Jordan Thurston
  • An argument for BIG from an economic perspective: many people object to BIG because it is too costly. This paper suggests that it in fact is affordable because it would replace current income security systems and cut out redundancy. This would actually save money. It provides many other financial arguments about how BIG is affordable (taxing, for one), but the main and strongest argument is that BIG is affordable when it replaces current systems. [12] -Jordan Thurston
  • This article was written in response to one that promoted the living wage. In a rebuttal, Hidalgo makes the argument that employers do not have an obligation to pay their workers a minimum wage simply based on dependence, as stated in the original article. To support his argument he uses a descriptive and moralized account of dependence. This an interesting philosophical way to approach the issue. [13] - Sophie Oswald
  • This article provides several different stances on the issue of a Basic Income Guarantee. This writer's idea of BIG is $10000 for every citizen age 21 and older regardless of willingness to work or by monetary wealth. He provides insight on how this plan will affect America based on evidence of past economic aid programs. This article holds a libertarian/ conservative view but provides a variety of data sources to support views and claims. [14]- St. Catherine of Sienna
  • This essay was published on a libertarian site that is pro-B.I.G. While it starts out with a more political standpoint, it goes into a more philosophical defense stating that a living wage could help be reparations for past injustices. There are also clarifications of what exactly B.I.G. is and how it is different than other similar programs being proposed. Lastly, it addresses arguments from those against a living wage. [15] -Morgan Lancaster


  • Post here under your name (or login anonymously and either use your saint name (if you want me to know who you are) or make up your own. Post a brief statement of your views as they are evolving on the topic. What arguments, values, and facts are central (or gaining prominence) in your thinking?