Should basic income be unconditional?

Rawls argued that leisure should be treated as one of the ‘primary goods’ whose distribution is a matter of social justice. If someone chooses not to work, he should be deemed to have received resources equal in value to a basic wage and so to have no further claim on society: ‘Those who surf all day off Malibu must find a way to support themselves’.

Behavioural Public Policy Blog


By Robert Sugden – University of East Anglia

Shaun Hargreaves Heap argues for a constitutional approach to ‘behavioural public policy’.  His starting point is a problem in the design and evaluation of public policies.  Economists have traditionally assumed that people have well-defined preferences and then worked out how those preferences can best be satisfied, but behavioural economics is showing that those assumed preferences often do not exist.  A new approach is urgently needed.  I completely agree.   Hargreaves Heap’s proposed approach is constitutional or procedural: public policy should be concerned with setting the general rules within which individuals make their own choices, rather than with trying to bring about particular outcomes.  Again, I completely agree.  I have been arguing for this kind of approach since 2004.[1]

I was surprised to find Hargreaves Heap attributing to me the view that people’s lack of well-defined preferences is ‘a reason against policy intervention…

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About Jim Rose

Utopia - you are standing in it promotes a classical liberal view of the world and champion the mass flourishing of humanity through capitalism and the rule of law. The origin of the blog is explained in the first blog post at

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