Basic Income in the Capitalist Economy: The Mirage of ‘Exit’ From Employment

Publikationsår: 2016

Birnbaum, Simon & De Wispelaere, J.

Basic Income Studies, 11 (1), 61–74.


A widespread argument in the basic income debate is that the unconditional entitlement to a secure income floor improves workers’ bargaining position vis-a-vis their employers. Basic income effectively grants all (potential) workers an exit option from an employment relation that fails to take her interests into account. It gives them the “power to say no”, as argued by Karl Widerquist. Surprisingly, given its importance, the exit argument itself has not been subjected to much systematic analysis by basic income advocates. In this paper we critically examine the exit argument and suggest that, under current economic conditions, an exit strategy might end up worsening rather than strengthening the opportunity set and bargaining position of the most vulnerable workers.