The Case for Universal Basic Income

The Case for Universal Basic Income, Cambridge: Polity, forthcoming, March 2019.

The book has an online statistical and methodological appendix. Click here

An outstanding book which makes a major contribution to the debate on basic income, highlighting its potential to supplement rather than replace the welfare state and to make economic life more democratic.

Andrew Gamble, University of Sheffield

Excerpt from publisher’s summary: 

In this compelling book, Louise Haagh, one of the world’s leading experts on basic income, argues that UBI is essential to advancing freedom and democracy in the 21st century. She shows that, far from being a silver-bullet that will transform or replace capitalism, or a sticking plaster that will extend it, it is a crucial element in a much broader task of constructing a democratic society that will promote human development and economic justice. She uses her unrivalled knowledge of the existing research to show how it can be implemented in a range of different contexts across the globe.

The Case for Universal Basic Incomeis part of the new “case for” series being developed by Polity, consisting of short books that present arguments in favor of important contemporary policy ideas.

Features and Reviews

Professor Andrew Gamble, Universities of Sheffield and Cambridge

‘An outstanding book which makes a major contribution to the debate on basic income, highlighting its potential to supplement rather than replace the welfare state and to make economic life more democratic.’

Professor Bil Jordan 

a powerful and comprehensive analysis of the current situation.

the originality of her case for UBI is that, in overcoming the perils of a fractured labour market in terms of individual security, it also enables the ‘democratisation of the economy as a whole’ (p.15). Here she transcends the case from basic security made by Guy Standing (2017), and that for freedom to choose diverse life styles by Philippe Van Parijs and Yannick Vandeborght (2017), to argue a case for human development and social equality, and ‘a more robust stance on governing the economy developmentally’, giving ‘a more independence-respecting’ security for all (p.17).

This implies that Basic Income ‘is not a form of justice in itself’, but is defended in terms of a ‘human development ethics rather than distributive ethics’ (p.37). In this respect, UBI is different from capital grants, which do not necessarily confer security or alter the dynamic of the whole economy (p.38).

Her humanist perspective on democracy emphasises individuals’ dependence on social conditions over time and in relation to others, giving the concepts of autonomy and choice developmental and social components. In this way, UBI contributes to potential for development regulation and planning (pp. 41-2), as parts of measures to support outcomes such as good health and occupational careers.

These arguments are strongly underpinned by her research on the punitive use of sanctions against claimants of means-tested social assistance and tax credits who are deemed to have failed to take opportunities for employment or increased earnings.

In her conclusion chapter, she warns against positioning UBI as ‘a singular answer to the insecurities inherent in globalisation’; it is more appropriately ‘a contribution to establishing human development justice’ (p.148).

This book is a very valuable, carefully-argued contribution to the newly-invigorated debate about UBI, and should be read by everyone interested in the subject.’

Louise Haagh, The Case for Universal Basic Income

8th October 2019

Joe Waters, Young Fabians, 14th June 2020

The book is featured in Stanford Social Innovation Review, with an Introduction and extract:

Social Policy Reforms and Market Governance in Latin America

‘…the empirical matter presented in all the essays is of undeniable value and richness, which makes the book particularly appealing to anybody interested in the main characteristics and pending issues of key social policies in the aforementioned countries over the last decades. It is also very well organised and would be useful for postgraduate students, researchers, policy-makers and practitioners.’ – Romina Miorelli, Political Studies Review

‘This volume is an excellent piece of research that represents one of the most robust and serious criticisms of the neoliberal perspective of public policy.’ – 

Natalia Ajenjo – Environment and Planning, 2004

The Free Labour Market and Korea’s 1997 Financial Crisis

Haagh, L., “The Free Labour Market and Korea’s 1997 Financial Crisis”, in Amann, E. and Chang H.-J. (eds.), Economic Crisis and its Impacts: Brazil and South Korea Compared, Washington and London: Brookings and Institute for Latin American Studies, 152-200, 2004.

Louise Haagh offers an out- standing examination of the Korean employment system, in contrast with the Danish and Chilean cases. In particular, Haagh usefully problematises the concept of liberalisation of the labour markets, showing that this concept hides more than it reveals, because it can be understood in many different and potentially contradictory ways, which are reviewed and explained in detail in this chapter. Review by: Alfredo Saad-Filho Source: Journal of Latin American Studies , Nov., 2004, Vol. 36, No. 4 (Nov., 2004), pp. 842-844 Published by: Cambridge University Press Stable URL: