Economic insecurity is an endemic problem across the rich countries of the Global North. What is the solution? This paper compares and contrasts two major proposals: the conventional welfare state package of public services and regulations versus a basic income. By comparing and contrasting these systems in three different contexts – a “nightwatchman” context, a neoliberal context, and a social democratic context – and carefully modeling the monetary equivalence between them, we are able to provide a more precise and compelling comparison of the two systems than has yet been accomplished. We evaluate the two systems on the basis of economic security as well as a number of other important criteria, including the economic well-being of oppressed groups, power, carbon emissions, the gender division of labor, free time, social stigma, and transformative potential. We find that without a welfare state background, services and regulations are generally preferable for most vulnerable groups. However, as the welfare state develops, into a neoliberal or a social democratic context, basic income becomes a generally superior option.