Should the Left and labour support a demand for a Basic Income (BI)? This simple question has provoked a fervent and confusing debate.

The discussion over BI touches on real political and economic anxieties. The attack on the social welfare state, the depreciating power of organized labour and an economy producing increasingly low-wage precarious jobs have led many to search for alternative mechanisms and policies to address these problems. It is no wonder that BI with its promise of streamlined access to minimal economic security has attracted many adherents on the Left.

Discussing BI with clarity is made difficult because of the sweeping scope and abstractness of the issue. Debates over BI necessarily involve an analysis of capitalism, the state, the nature of automation and theories of social change.