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Political Studies Association of Ireland


‘Basic Income: Possibilities, Practicalities, Controversies’, Nov 29, 2019, 2-5pm, Geary Institute, UCD.

Basic income is one of the most powerful yet also controversial political ideas of recent decades. Having broken out of the realm of political theory, it has taken hold in the public and political imagination as a potential way of reducing inequality and achieving a society in which people are enabled to engage in a whole range of valuable activities outside the labour market.  It draws on and translates a number of important principles of the political theory of equality, including universal rights and payments, support for care and relations of interdependency, and the promotion of well-being. At the same time, it has been enthusiastically taken up by some well-known libertarians, including the CEOs of wealthy tech and social media corporations, leading some critics to suggest that basic income might be used as a means of undermining the welfare state and promoting a society in which everything – including health and education – is for sale.

Exploring these and other questions, the PSAI Political Theory specialist group, in conjunction with the Equality Studies Centre, UCD, hosted a three-hour workshop on Basic Income on the 29th of November. The aim was to explore the theory and reality of proposals for a basic income, and its potential role in the creation of a more egalitarian, sustainable social order.

The workshop was delivered by John Baker, member of the specialist group and Prof Emeritus of Equality Studies and UCD; and Anne Ryan, active member and former trustee of Feasta, and former lecturer in the Department of Adult and Community Education at Maynooth University. Together Anne and John are joint coordinators of the national network Basic Income Ireland. The workshop was facilitated by Marie Moran, director of the Equality Studies Centre UCD, and co-convenor of the Political Theory Specialist Group.

The workshop was divided into three presentations, interspersed with lively discussion and feedback from participants.

  1. Basic Income: An idea whose time has come

In this presentation, Anne explained what basic income is, its appeal, how it might be funded, and its general effects.

  1. Some Challenges for the Basic Income Movement

In this presentation, John set out some challenges and controversies faced by advocates of basic income, focusing on paid and unpaid work and on the idea of an adequate income.

  1. The role of basic income in creating ecological and social resilience and sustainability

In this presentation, Anne argued that basic income plays an integral part in establishing a strongly sustainable, satisfying, sane, humane and ecological future.

The workshop was sponsored by the PSAI and the Equality Studies Centre UCD. We are especially grateful to the PSAI for providing a lovely lunch and much needed coffee for participants! And many thanks to John and Anne for helping the PSAI Political Theory Specialist Group put theory into practice for interested members and friends!