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Bidadanure (2019) defined Universal Basic Income (UBI) as a transformational policy where cash grants are given to members of a community with the intention to promote economic security. This amount is given without any conditions. UBI is a social welfare concept that has been discussed in several nations and for many years (Morales & Freire, 2020). The concept of UBI is widely supported as well as criticized in various literatures. Birnbaum while discussing the 'Ethics of Basic Income' pointed out that UBI can provide an 'exit based empowerment' to people that could enable them to develop relations and negotiate terms of agreement where they get equal treatment (Birnbaum, 2021). This essay tries to further explore and analyze this view based on academic literature and thereby try to understand the merits and potential concerns related to UBI.

In academic literature, there is a strong discourse on how UBI is an important tool for the upliftment of people. Even though the concept of UBI was previously considered utopian, it is currently gaining a lot of popularity. UBI was considered to promote social dividend and Martin Luther King Jr. posited that UBI can help to address the issue of systematic discrimination, unemployment and poverty (Bidadanure, 2019). Wolf and Willis (2018) pointed out that UBI can be a tool of empowerment for minorities. UBI can not only allow the basic needs of the people to be met, but also can give them the freedom to turn down or quit jobs that are discriminatory, exploitative or undesirable. Such people would no longer feel compelled to work in jobs that are underpaid or unsafe. This can be considered as the 'exit option' from employment. For minority people who experience marginalization, exploitation and discrimination, UBI therefore can help in their empowerment and upliftment. Standing (2017) explained that UBI can also help to build and maintain relationships as it helps to maintain individual personal freedom in a marital or cohabitation setup, especially for women. This not only reduces dependence on the 'male breadwinner', but also the freedom to exit a relationship or household if they do not wish to continue (Standing, 2017). These evidences clearly posit that RBI can help to alleviate people from situations of poverty and unemployment, act as a safeguard from discrimination and exploitation and give them the choice and freedom to their work and personal relationships through financial independence.

The UBI can allow them to decide their own terms of agreement in terms of either employment or personal relation. From a deontological perspective, UBI can be seen to promote the values of human dignity, autonomy and respect. Deontology is the philosophy about duties to others or to moral rules or principles (Essing-Patenova, 2020).

Johnson and Johnson (2021) pointed out that UBI can provide an upstream intervention for people. Reduction of poverty through UBI can reduce the impact of economic conditions on health and ameliorate the biopsychosocial pathways and support health promoting behavior among people. Birnbaum (2016) posited that UBI can help in the development of a society that is just and democratic and address important citizenship rights of the people. It also allows people to gain access to necessary resources in a dignified manner. UBI is based on the idea that every individual has a sense of inherent worth and they have the right to free themselves from economic insecurities. UBI provides all people, irrespective of their socioeconomic conditions and backgrounds, a regular source of income which empowers them through financial security. This security allows them to make decisions that are aligned with their own values, goals and needs. Financial security also fosters a sense of self-worth and maintaining a life where the basic necessities are being met. It allows a form of economic stability that is not dependent upon their circumstances and helps to establish a society where people are being treated with respect and dignity (Mays, 2019). This shows how UBI supports the deontological value of human respect and dignity.

UBI acts as a safety net that gives economic security across the life of an individual and its key benefits are equality and freedom (Bidadanure, 2019). UBI creates a minimum standard of income that is applicable for everyone, especially people and communities that are vulnerable or marginalized. Studies have shown that UBI has been useful to address and reduce gender based income disparities (Miller et al., 2019). The universal nature of UBI ensures that the benefits are accessible in an equal manner, regardless of gender or other backgrounds. It thus promotes resources and income to be allocated in an equitable manner. It liberates people from poverty traps (Birnbaum, 2020). Furthermore, UBI also helps to expand social assistance as well as universal services for people, thereby helping to establish a society that is fair and equal for people (Nettle et al., 2021). This shows how UBI helps to establish equality and freedom for people through equitable support to overcome disparities and other adverse conditions.

The ability of UBI to support equality can be justified from the perspective of human categorical imperative. Equality is a fundamental aspect of an egalitarian society where all people have equal access to all resources. Aspiration towards equality has not only been a historic achievement of human culture, but it has also reshaped our sense of duty towards others (Artemova, 2020). Hanna (2021) further adds that dignity is a transcendental value which is a category that is higher than any other instrumental and economic value. A sufficient treatment of respect can be seen only when an individual is not being treated as a mere thing or a means, they can give rational consent explicitly or implicitly and are treated with kindness. Respect to dignity is also shown when people are given freedom from oppression (Hanna, 2021). This shows the significance of both dignity and equality as categorical imperatives. It also helps to understand how the ability of UBI to give freedom to people from oppression or exploitation through an exit option makes the UBI a potential tool to promote dignity and equality among people.

Birnbaum discussed the ethics of UBI in the book 'The Ethics of Basic Income' and posited three ethical arguments that favors UBI. The first argument is of wellbeing and poverty reduction, the second argument is fairness and the third argument is the presence of the preconditions that are necessary for the citizens to interact with each other as equals (Birnbaum, 2019). For instance, the availability of the exit option creates freedom in a relationship and avoids complete dependence on partner or spouse. They no longer have to live 'with permission' of their partner or spouse. From this perspective it can be said that UBI can, in principle, reduce vulnerabilities in three important aspects of wellbeing and fairness and create preconditions for having equality among people.

A considerable debate exists on whether UBI can be considered to be an efficient use of money. Bidadanure (2019) argued that UBI can make the welfare system simplified as it can lower administrative costs and reduce bureaucratic inefficiencies. Furthermore, the basic income can create a consistent floor of income which not only can alleviate them from poverty but also promote consumption economy, improve access to better education and healthcare and contribute towards economic growth and stability (Nettle et al., 2021). However, Ludovice (2021) argued that funding UBI can require a significant increase in taxes. This can cause a significant burden on the middle class. The increase in consumption tax might need to be increased by 22.3% to balance the budget. It can furthermore lead to welfare losses that can impact the economy negatively in the long run. At a small scale, UBI can cause consumption inequality, while in the large scale it helps in the redistribution of consumption (Ludovice, 2021). So, considering the long term benefits, UBI can be considered to be an efficient use of money.

UBI can have negative impacts on the labor market. Bastagli (2020) pointed out that UBI can cause a reduction in adult labor force participation. When there is a guarantee of a basic income, there might be a lesser drive among people to gain full time employment, especially in high stress or low wage jobs, since UBI can be sufficient to meet the basic needs. UBI helps to reduce fear of financial instability by creating a form of safety net. This can lead to people voluntarily opting out of work opportunities and reducing their participation in the workforce. Individuals getting UBI would have the freedom to allocate more time to personal activities and might also retire early which can thereby impact the demography of the workforce (Huffmeier & Zacher, 2021).

However, Gough (2019) pointed out that UBI can have significant benefits for the labor. It can give financial and social security to the people. This in turn can allow them to engage in higher education and develop skills that are more aligned to their passions and aspirations (Boldureanu et al., 2020). This can greatly improve job satisfaction and productivity. UBI can encourage people to take creative risks which can increase innovation and creativity. This can have a positive impact on the industry and wider market and economy. The reduction in economic inequalities can also reduce disputes or conflicts within the workforce and promote cohesion, which can improve the labor market performance. UBI can lead to improved payment standards for the laborers. Employers would be required to offer better wages and maintain a safe and healthy working condition and give focus on attracting as well as retaining the workforce. If the employees have the option to turn down jobs they deem undesirable or underpaid, the employers might be compelled to increase their pay. Moreover, UBI can support being more involved in unpaid work like volunteering or caregiving which can have positive impacts on the society and community (Bastagli, 2020). Thus from the perspective of the laborers, UBI can be an advantageous tool, but for the labor market, it can lead to decreased participation of labor and increase in labor costs.

According to Marais (2019), a UBI that provides an income that is livable, it can reduce income inequality and extreme poverty, it would also lead to increased consumer demand and the spending power of customers will increase and thus can stimulate economic growth. Additional factors that can also have a positive impact on economic growth include improvement in public health and reduction in the number of school dropouts. These factors would lead to reduction in the number of petty crimes and improve the financial independence of women (Marais, 2019). Miller (2021) pointed out that one of the most common arguments against UBI is that of the risk of inflation. While exploring the risks of inflation, Miller reported that UBI can indeed cause inflation, but such outcome is dependent on whether a strong real growth has taken place. However, differences in growth patterns are quite common depending on the tax structure and nature of benefits. Thus each scenario considered for UNBI needs to be selectively evaluated to understand its impact. To address the risk of inflation, a proper policy measure can help to improve the equilibrium paths and impact on the economy (Coote & Percy, 2020). This indicates how UBI can increase inflation risks and require special policies to address and prepare the economy.

Considering the transplant case (Liao, 2008), the providence of UBI would be similar to donating the organs to the children, while the unwary visitor whose organs goes missing would be the people (Liao, 2008). Using the analogy of the transplant case to that of UBI would imply how the tax paid by citizens can be the source to fund UBI. Thus, the tax payers would serve the example of the 'traveller' in the analogy, while the benefactors of UBI would be the 'children'. Thus, the UBI will serve the ethical purpose of serving the needs of those who are vulnerable and already in need at the cost of others who are in a financially better situation and might not 'miss' their part of the financial contribution in the form of taxes

To answer if I agree with the views about whether UBI provides “exit-based empowerment” that “could enable citizens to build relationships and negotiate terms of agreement in which they are treated as equals”, I completely do agree with the said statement. The provision of UBI to provide financial security to meet basic needs not only promotes financial security of the people but also promotes economic growth, positively impacts labor, and is an efficient use of money for long term benefits. Most importantly, UBI can promote equality, especially for marginalized or disadvantaged communities, an aspect I thoroughly support. As Nelson Mandela said "I am influenced more than ever by the conviction that social equality is the only basis of human happiness'' (AZQuotes, 2023), thus, achievement of equality is akin to the achievement of human happiness. UBI thus can promote equality and happiness in the society and bring people together, justifying the need to implement such tools.


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