Richard L. Hedden Little BIG Conference February 6th to 8th, 2014
The Philosophy Department at New Mexico State University will be hosting the Little BIG conference February 6th to 8th. On this page you will find information about the conference and speakers.
Conference Schedule (see below for abstracts and bios)
Tentative Conference Schedule
- Vaughn Bryan Baltzly
- Juliana Bidadanure
- Jamie Bronstein
- Jurgen De Wispelaere
- James Hughes
- Mike LaTorra
- Attila Mraz
- Mark Walker
- Karl Widerquist.
Thursday Feb. 6:
10:15-11:15 Paper #1 (Walker)
11:30-12: 30 Paper #2 (De Wispelaere)
2:00-3:00 Paper #3 (Mraz)
3:30-5:30 Panel Discussion of Karl Widerquist’s Independence, Propertylessness, and Basic Income: A Theory of Freedom as the Power to Say No.
Friday Feb. 7th
9:00-10:00 Paper #4 (Bronstein)
10:15-11:15 Paper #5 (Baltzly)
11:30-12:30 Paper #6 (Hughes)
2:30-3:30 Paper #7 (Bidadanure)
3:45-4:45. Paper #8 (LaTorra)
Abstracts and Brief Bios
Unconditional Cash for Young People: a requirement of Intergenerational Justice?
Abstract: Basic income proponents have highlighted the prospects of basic income for various groups in society. They asked whether and how women, children, migrants, workers in poor countries and the unemployed would benefit from a basic income. Showing that a specific group would benefit from unconditional monthly cash transfers is not sufficient or indeed necessary for a successful defence of UBI. However, research that shows that UBI is likely to be detrimental to a specific vulnerable group will inevitably weaken the case for UBI. On the contrary, when we are able to show that a specific group – for instance unemployed women in abusive relationships – would be likely to benefit from UBI, we strengthen the case for UBI. This way, my paper argues that young people would benefit from a basic income because it constitutes a strong answer to youth unemployment, poverty and exclusion. I draw on the field of Intergenerational Justice to provide a generation–based and age-based defence of UBI for young people. I identify the implications of three principles of intergenerational equality – (1) diachronic equality between cohorts, (2) prudential lifespan planning and (3) synchronic relational equality – and show that they each provide strong reasons to support UBI for young people. I also show that, on my egalitarian account of justice between generations, a basic income for the young is a better alternative than a basic capital grant.
Juliana Bidadanure is currently completing a PhD in Political Philosophy within the School of Politics, Economics and Philosophy at the University of York. In her thesis, she focuses on intergenerational justice and asks what governments owe to their young citizens. She engages with the normative aspects of youth disadvantage, unemployment, poverty and exclusion. She asks which inequalities between age groups, on the one hand, and birth cohorts, on the other hand, mater to justice, and on the question of what it means for people of different ages to stand as equals. She is also very interested in the literature on Universal Basic Income and is currently working on a defence of the idea of a universal basic income for young people.
Jurgen De Wispelaere
Universal Basic Income: From Justice to Legitimacy?”
Abstract: Many advocates argue for a universal and unconditional basic income on principled grounds as constituting a core component of a just social order. In this paper I argue the idea that basic income constitutes a requirement of social justice is flawed for two reasons. On the one hand, principled arguments are too weak to offer a comprehensive argument in favor for the basic income proposal. Theories of justice often remain silent on key design features of any plausible basic income scheme – and are therefore too indeterminate – or else proscribe radically incompatible design precepts, preventing basic income advocates to reach agreement on a “specific” basic income scheme. On the other hand, even where we have good independent reasons to endorse a basic income policy – perhaps reasons grounded in pragmatic rather than principled considerations – basic income must still meet the test of legitimacy. In a democratic society where disagreement persists regarding which theory of justice to adopt, the principle of legitimacy plays a key justificatory role. However, the contemporary debate about basic income gives us little indication under what conditions basic income should be regarded as a legitimate (rather than a just) policy. In this paper I propose two conditions that basic income must meet: basic income must receive sufficient “popular support” and basic income must be “effective”. Each of these legitimacy conditions poses stringent challenges when applied to the case of basic income, which are nevertheless often misunderstood in the contemporary debate. Moreover, the basic income proposal appears to suffer from a pernicious “governance paradox”, in which strategies to boost popular support for basic income simultaneously impairs its effectiveness (and vice versa). This governance paradox affects both the immediate political feasibility of basic income as well as its long-term political resilience or stability. I conclude that the most important challenge for basic income advocates today is to find a solution to the legitimacy problem, rather than waste further effort examining whether basic income is just.
Jurgen De Wispelaere is an occupational therapist turned political philosopher. He is an MHERC Post-doctoral Fellow jointly appointed at the Institute for Health and Social Policy and the Faculty of Law at McGill University, where he also teaches in the Department of Philosophy. He is currently completing a PhD on basic income at the University of Tampere (Finland). Previously he held positions at the University of Montreal (CREUM), Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin, and was a visiting scholar at Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, University of Oxford, University of East-Anglia, Universite Catholic de Louvain, Australian National University and Columbia University. Jurgen De Wispelaere is a founding editor of the journal Basic Income Studies and co-editor of several collections, most recently Basic Income: An Anthology of Contemporary Research (Wiley, 2013). He has published widely on basic income and various topics in health and social care policy. He is currently completing a book on Republicanism for Continuum Press (with Simon Birnbaum and David Casassas).
Independence, Propertylessness, and Basic Income: A theory of freedom as the power to say no.
Abstract: This article highlights issues from my new book, Independence, Propertylessness, and Basic Income: A theory of freedom as the power to say no. Freedom is commonly understood in two different ways: the absence of restriction, impediment, or interference (what I call scalar freedom) and the absence of slavery, detention, or oppression (what I call status freedom). This book argues that philosophers have focused too much on scalar freedom and proposes a theory of status freedom as effective control self-ownership—simply, freedom as the power to say no. This book argues for and explores the implications of this theory of freedom. It shows that most societies today put the poor in situations in which they lack this crucial freedom, making them vulnerable to poverty, exploitation, and injustice. People who have no other option but to work for someone else to meet their basic needs are effectively forced laborers and are fundamentally unfree. The book draws an analogy between the economy and a pervasive casino, and argues that no potential reforms can eliminate the casino element to the point at which forced economic participation could be justified and that the basic income guarantee is needed to help secure status freedom and voluntary participation in a modern industrial society.
Karl Widerquist is an Associate Professor at SFS-Qatar, Georgetown University. He specializes in political philosophy. His research is mostly in the area of distributive justice—the ethics of who has what. He holds two doctorates—one in Political Theory form Oxford University (2006) and one in Economics from the City University of New York (1996). Before coming to Georgetown he was lecturer in Political Theory at the University of Reading (UK) and a Murphy Fellow at Tulane University in New Orleans (LA). He has written or edited six books. He is the author of Independence, Propertylessness, and Basic Income: A Theory of Freedom as the Power to Say (Palgrave Macmillan 2013). He is coauthor of Economics for Social Workers (Columbia University Press 2002). He is coeditor of, Basic Income: An Anthology of Contemporary Research (Wiley-Blackwell 2013), Alaska’s Permanent Fund Dividend: Examining its Suitability as a Model (Palgrave Macmillan 2012), Exporting the Alaska Model: Adapting the Permanent Fund Dividend for Reform around the World (Palgrave Macmillan 2012), and the Ethics and Economics of the Basic Income Guarantee (Ashgate 2005). He is currently under contract to author or coauthor two more books: Prehistoric Myths in Modern Political Philosophy (Edinburgh University Press 2014) and Justice as the Pursuit of Accord (Palgrave Macmillan 2015). He was a founding editor of the journal Basic Income Studies, and he has published more than a twenty scholarly articles and book chapters. His articles have appeared in journals such as Political Studies; the Eastern Economic Journal; Politics and Society; and Politics, Philosophy, and Economics.
The History of the Big Idea
Abstract: The value of “effective control self-ownership” is predicated on a notion of human equality not widely accepted until the Enlightenment—or, in the case of women and people of color, decades after the Enlightenment. By the time of the Enlightenment, however, capitalism was well entrenched in the Anglo-American world, and property largely in the hands of those historically considered to be the “better sort.” This paper illustrates the ongoing tension between assertions about human equality and demands for access to property through the ideas, and reception of the ideas, of four reformers from the 17th to the late 19th century: Gerrard Winstanley, Thomas Paine, Thomas Skidmore, and Edward Bellamy. All four reformers’ careers illustrate the drawbacks of attempting to claim that “effective self control self-ownership” ought to be a condition of status freedom.
Jamie Bronstein (PhD Stanford, 1996) is Professor of History at New Mexico State University. She is the author of four books: Land Reform and Working-Class Experience in Britain and the United States (Stanford, 1999); Caught in the Machinery: Workplace Accidents and Injured Workers in Nineteenth-century Britain (Stanford, 2008); Transatlantic Radical: John Francis Bray (Merlin, 2009); and, with Andrew Harris, Empire, State and Society: Modern Britain, 1830-present (Blackwell, 2012). She has also written a great number of articles, linked by their common focus on the impact of economic and political modernization on working people in 19th- and 20th-century Britain and the United States.
BIG Openings Created by Fiscal Crisis, Technological Unemployment and Longevity
Abstract: In the last two decades robotics and the communication and information technologies that allowed global coordination of production eroded manufacturing employment in the North. Now robotics and artificial intelligence are beginning to fundamentally change the relative profitability and productivity of investments in capital versus human labor, creating structural unemployment at all levels of the workforce, from the North to the developing world. As the cost of robotics and expert systems fall the percentage of the population that can find employment will also fall, stressing economies already trying to curtail “entitlements” and adopt austerity. Two additional technology-driven trends will exacerbate the structural unemployment crisis in the coming decades, desktop manufacturing and anti-aging medicine. Desktop manufacturing threatens to disintermediate the half of all workers involved in translating ideas into products in the hands of consumers, while anti-aging therapies will increase the old age dependency ratio of retirees to tax-paying workers.
Ignoring the limits of humans in relationship to accelerating technology, economists and public policy makers are largely in denial about the emerging structural unemployment, insisting that new jobs for humans will be created as they were in the transitions from agriculture to industry, and industry to post-industrial society. Instead of re-discovering the Left goal of eliminating unnecessary toil and expanding leisure, Left economists insist that only perfidious capitalists and conservative policies prevent full employment. Techno-utopians on the other hand promote magical thinking solutions, such as universal ownership of equities in a supposedly skyrocketing future stock market, or universal access to free, self-replicating desktop manufacturing with free product designs. Neo-Luddites, predictably, call for curtailing technological innovation to preserve human labor.
In order to enjoy the benefits of technological innovation and longer, healthier lives we will need policies that consciously control the pace of replacing paid human labor with a universal basic income guarantee (BIG) or “citizens dividend” provided through taxation and the public ownership of wealth. The intensifying debate over the reform of “entitlements” is the ideal opportunity to propose a new social compact that replaces the model of education/salaried work/pensioned retirement with one of life-long citizenship obligations in return for the citizens dividend.
James Hughes Ph.D., the Executive Director of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, is a bioethicist and sociologist at Trinity College in Hartford Connecticut where he teaches health policy and serves as Director of Institutional Research and Planning. He holds a doctorate in sociology from the University of Chicago, where he also taught bioethics at the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics. Dr. Hughes is author of Citizen Cyborg: Why Democratic Societies Must Respond to the Redesigned Human of the Future. He is a Fellow of the World Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a member of Humanity+, the Neuroethics Society, the American Society of Bioethics and Humanities and the Working Group on Ethics and Technology at Yale University.
Chicken Little, the Boy Who Cried Wolf, and Technological Unemployment
Abstract: A Basic Income Guarantee is one suggestion to mitigate the effects of looming massive unemployment precipitated by advances in computers and robotics in the next couple of decades. Critics point out that, despite claims for over two hundred years that advances in automation would lead to massive unemployment, the prediction has not come true. Two hundred years of failure, they maintain, provides good evidence that the latest prediction of massive unemployment will not come to pass. This talk will argue that massive unemployment is still a good prediction despite two hundred years of failure. Furthermore, it will be argued that even critics should see BIG as a safe hedge against high unemployment.
Mark Walker was born in a small log cabin built on conceptual foundations of his own design. He is an Associate Professor in the Philosophy Department where he occupies the Richard L. Hedden Endowed Chair in Advanced Philosophical Studies. Mark’s PhD is from the Australian National University. He previously taught at McMaster University in the department of philosophy and in the Arts & Science Program. He serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Evolution and Technology and on the board of directors of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. Dr. Walker’s teaching and research interests include ethics, epistemology, philosophy of law, philosophy of religion and philosophy of science. His current primary research interest is in ethical issues arising out of emerging technologies, e.g., genetic engineering, advanced pharmacology, artificial intelligence research and nanotechnology.
Michael La Torra
A Thoreauvian Income: How a Basic Income Guarantee Might Simplify and Enrich Life
Abstract: I shall argue that a universal Basic Income Guarantee (BIG), sufficient to sustain life but not so large as to discourage work, could simplify daily life (as per Henry David Thoreau), allow for enriched personal experiences, and yield social benefits in the form of unpaid voluntary labor, increased educational attainment, and greater innovation due to reduced fear that failure might lead to destitution. For this to be so, I claim that the BIG must be added to other social benefits, including universal health care and universal education. In order for such a basket of social benefits to be feasible, I will argue that some trade-offs are required in the early stages of their implementation, where extent of coverage (i.e., universal within a nation to start, and then expanding globally) is held senior in importance to degree of coverage (i.e., amount of resources to be spent per capita for basic income, health care, and education). Finally, I assert that social benefits of the policy I describe would grow over time, leading to less crime, more security, better health, and higher levels of general happiness and individual well-being.
Michael LaTorra is a College Assistant Professor of English at New Mexico State University with professional interests in the communication of technical information in science, engineering and business. Prof. LaTorra has been an active member of the Transhumanist community since the year 2000, having served as Board Chair of Humanity Plus (formerly the World Transhumanist Association) and continuing to serve on the Board of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. Among his publications are the paper “Trans-Spirit: Religion, Spirituality and Transhumanism” Journal of Evolution and Technology, 14(2), and the book A Warrior Blends with Life: A Modern Tao (North Atlantic Books, 1993). In addition to his academic work, he is an ordained Zen priest and abbot of the Zen Center of Las Cruces.
Vaughn Bryan Baltzly
Combinatorial Complexity and the Fragmented Safety Net: Considerations of Administrative Inefficiency as They Pertain to Arguments for a Basic Income Guarantee
Abstract:: In this talk I connect two familiar ideas in a way that, while perhaps unfamiliar, is nevertheless natural, intuitive, and (most saliently for present purposes) of central relevance to certain arguments in favor of Basic Income Guarantees. The first idea is the familiar observation that, in many countries (and particularly in the United States), the social safety net is fragmented. That is, social insurance is administered via numerous discrete, targeted policies and programs. (This familiar observation is coupled with the equally familiar claim that certain administrative inefficiencies attend to this fragmentation.) The second idea is that of combinatorial explosion, as applied to institutional interaction and bureaucratic administration. When these two familiar ideas are connected, we recognize that the already-inefficient fragmentation of the public safety net only invites further administrative inefficiency over time, based on the inevitable need for these numerous discrete programs to interact and coordinate. In other words: administrative inefficiency increases exponentially – in a form of combinatorial explosion – as the number of distinct welfare-state programs grows. The bulk of my talk will be devoted to demonstrating the import of this simple consequence of these familiar ideas, by developing a case study involving housing for homeless veterans.
Vaughn Bryan Baltzly is a Research Associate with the University of Maryland Department of Philosophy. He is also an adjunct instructor with the University of Maryland School of Public Policy, where he teaches courses in moral and political philosophy to aspiring policy-makers enrolled in the mid-career Master’s in Public Management program. This “free-lance philosophizing” is made possible, in part, by Vaughn’s day job as a bureaucrat with the U.S. government. Since joining the federal workforce as a Presidential Management Fellow in 2010, Vaughn has worked in areas ranging from strategic capital investment planning to export finance – but with the bulk of that time devoted to efforts to redevelop surplus federal properties as affordable supportive housing for homeless veterans. He has a doctorate in philosophy and a master’s degree in public policy, both earned from the University of Maryland. His research focuses on liberal neutrality, with recent emphasis on the implications of state neutrality for marriage policy.
Distributive requirements of legitimacy: the basic income guarantee and political equality
There are two ways to interpret arguments for a basic income guarantee (BIG). On the one hand, the BIG can be construed as a requirement of distributive justice. On the other hand, it can be proposed as a necessary condition of democratic legitimacy. On this latter reading, the guarantee is meant to serve as a substantive countermajoritarian constraint on democratic decision-making. In my paper, I argue that there is very limited support for the latter interpretation: there are distributive requirements of legitimacy, but they are less robust than what proponents of BIG argue for. First, I briefly distinguish between requirements of justice and requirements of legitimacy. While requirements of justice specify individual rights in general, requirements of legitimacy specify how disagreements on individual rights, including entitlements to material resources, can be settled in a fair and conclusive way. Second, accordingly, I argue that a robust BIG cannot be a necessary condition of legitimacy, since it is not necessary for settling disagreement on justice in a fair and conclusive way. Those and only those distributive requirements can specify necessary conditions of legitimacy which are instrumentally conducive to free and equal political participation. Finally, I address and rebut two objections based on Karl Widerquist’s (2013) arguments. One of them supports BIG as a compensatory measure for “living under rules not entirely of [one’s] choice” (ibid., p. 173); the other one considers BIG as a means to eschewing the effects of the polity’s coercively imposed laws to the largest possible extent. I conclude that the BIG is best argued for as a requirement of justice—a proposal about entitlement to be supported in partisan politics—rather than a requirement of legitimacy.
Attila Mráz is completing a PhD on the relation between justice and legitimacy at Central European University, Budapest. He was a Balzan Fellow at New York University’s Department of Philosophy is 2011-2012, and is currently pursuing research at the University of Arizona’s Department of Philosophy. His work focuses on the relations between distributive justice, political equality and legitimacy, as well as on the implications of different internalist metaethical positions for legitimacy.