A disarmingly simple idea? Practical bottlenecks in the implementation of a universal basic income


  • An earlier version of this article was presented at the 61st Congress of the United Kingdom Political Studies Association (PSA), London, 19-21 April 2011. We are grateful to Martin Lodge for the invitation to present our work and to the PSA audience for stimulating debate. We also acknowledge pertinent suggestions from Bettina Leibetseder and two anonymous referees.

Jurgen De Wispelaere, Senior Research Fellow, Centre de Recherche en Éthique de l'Université de Montréal (CRÉUM), Université de Montréal, C.P. 6128, Succ. Centre-Ville, Montréal, Québec, H3C 3J7, Canada; Email: jurgen.dewispelaere@gmail.com.

Lindsay Stirton, Lecturer in Law, School of Law, University of Sheffield, Bartolomé House, Winter Street, Sheffield, S3 7ND, United Kingdom; Email: l.stirton@sheffield.ac.uk.


This article considers the implementation of a universal basic income, a neglected area in basic income research. We identify and examine three important practical bottlenecks that may prevent a basic income scheme from attaining the universal reach desired and proclaimed by its advocates: i) maintaining a population-wide cadaster of eligible claimants ensuring full takeup; ii) instituting robust modalities of payment that reach all intended beneficiaries; and iii) designing an effective oversight mechanism in a policy context that actively opposes client monitoring. We argue that the implementation of universal basic income faces unique challenges that its proponents must consider carefully.