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Unconditional Basic Income and State as an Employer of Last Resort: A Reply to Alan Thomas

  • Roberto Merrill ORCID logo EMAIL logo and Catarina Neves
From the journal Basic Income Studies


In a larger context of an egalitarian project which aims to reformulate capitalism a job guarantee program in the form of a State as an Employer of Last Resort (SELR) is considered superior to Unconditional Basic Income (UBI) by many, namely Alan Thomas. This article claims that most of the arguments used to assert the superiority of SELR fail their objective, for the following reasons: first, SELR falls short in its reformulation of capitalism because neither SELR nor UBI alone can euthanize the rentier class. Second, most accounts are based on a flawed assumption that UBI leads to rampage inflation. Third, if macroeconomic considerations are not enough to justify implementing SELR over UBI, then insisting on the superiority of SELR can only stem from two types of moral reasons: on one hand from a perfectionist view of empowering the worst-off through labor and on the other from demands and obligations of reciprocity. We argue that these two moral-based reasons fall short of providing a justification for the superiority of SELR over UBI. We conclude our paper defending the possibility of conciliating the two policies.

Corresponding author: Roberto Merrill, Centre for Ethics, Politics and Society, University of Minho, Braga, Portugal, E-mail:
The research involved in this article has received funding from FCT – Science and Technology Foundation in Portugal (project UBIEXP reference: PTDC/FER-FIL/28078/2017. ref. POCI) as well as funding for a PhD project, in Political Philosophy at the University of Minho, by Catarina Neves, funded by FCT – Science and Technology Foundation in Portugal (PhD scholarship reference: SFRH/BD/144495/2019).


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Received: 2021-01-19
Accepted: 2021-07-11
Published Online: 2021-07-21

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