Ethics of Universal Basic Income

Seminar in WS 2021/2022

Prof. Dr. Karl Widerquist


Fridays 3 – 5pm, from 7 Jan until 11 Feb (inclusive), Room HS1034


Some familiarity with the history of political, philosophical, and economic thought.

Learning objectives

  • Critical understanding of the political and ethical debate over Universal Basic Income (UBI)
  • Critical understanding of how it might fit into or clash with existing theories of justice (and social justice)

Improve self-understanding of one’s own view of the ethics of UBI and of social justice


This seminar will be based primarily on Professor Widerquist’s writing about the ethics of UBI, including lectures based on his books, Freedom as the Power to Say No, Prehistoric Myths in Modern Political Philosophy, the Prehistory of Private Property, and lectures based on other major works in the field, such as those by Philippe Van Parijs and Guy Standing. Students will make reports on their critical analysis of works in the field—both for and against UBI.

Students in this class will have the chance to read Professor Widerquist’s forthcoming book, Universal Basic Income: Essential Knowledge prior to its publication. They will have the opportunity to be active participants in the revision process by providing feedback prior to final edits and publication.

Target Group

6 ECTs for

M.Sc. VWL (PO 2014):

  •  Constitutional Economics and Competition Policy
  •  Corporate Governance, Business Ethics and Marketing        
  •  Public Sector Economics and International Taxation

M.Sc. BWL (Public and Non-Profit Management):

  • Public Sector Economics
  • Volkswirtschaftslehre

M.Sc. in Economics:

  • Economics and Politics


This module is entirely taught in English.

Examination type

  • Active participation: students must take part in class discussions in a way that shows they have kept up with the readings
  • Research paper: 4000-6000 words (to be handed in by March 13, 2022).


Send a brief academic CV and a paragraph of 50-150 words explaining their motivation to take this class in a single PDF file (saved with the file name: Lastname_First Name_UBIEthics) to by 15 December.

Primary readings

  • Karl Widerquist 2013. Independence, Propertylessness, and Basic Income: A Theory of Freedom as the Power to Say No. New York: Palgrave Macmillan
  • Karl Widerquist and Grant McCall, 2017. Prehistoric Myths in Modern Political Philosophy, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press
  • Karl Widerquist and Grant S. McCall, 2021. The Prehistory of Private Property: Implications for Modern Political Theory, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press
  • Karl Widerquist, forthcoming. Universal Basic Income: Essential Knowledge. Boston: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press

Additional readings

A long list of additional reading will be available. All students will do at least some of the additional reading. Students (after discussion with the class) will decide which additional reading (on and off the list) to read and report on.