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The Physical Basis of Voluntary Trade

Abstract

The article discusses the conditions under which can we say that people enter the economic system voluntarily. “The Need for an Exit Option” briefly explains the philosophical argument that voluntary interaction requires an exit option—a reasonable alternative to participation in the projects of others. “The Treatment of Effective Forced Labor in Economic and Political Theory” considers the treatment of effectively forced interaction in economic and political theory. “Human Need” discusses theories of human need to determine the capabilities a person requires to have an acceptable exit option. “Capability in Cash, Kind, or Raw Resources” considers what form access to that level of capability should take—in cash, kind, or raw resources, concluding that a basic income guarantee is the most effective method to ensure an exit option in a modern, industrial economy.

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Notes

  1. In the 1970s, the US and Canadian governments conducted a total of five experiments on a policy that would guarantee an exit option by a direct cash benefit. Nearly all of the researches involved in those experiments agreed that they demonstrated the feasibility of such a program (Widerquist 2005). Even some strong market advocates have argued that a basic income guarantee can be sustained at reasonable cost within a market-oriented system (Friedman 1968; Hayek 1960, pp. 302–305; Murray 2006).

  2. There is a large literature on the neoliberal perspective including, (Block and Callahan 2003; Boaz 1997; Friedman 1962; Kirzner 1989; Narveson 1998; Nozick 1974; Rothbard 1978).

  3. For a description of how basic income guarantee might work and how much it might cost see (Atkinson 1995; Garfinkel et al. 2005). For a history of the idea see (Cunliffe et al. 2003). For a debate of issues surrounding basic income guarantee see (Harman 2006; Standing 2002; Van der Veen and Parijs 1986; Van Parijs 1992, 1995, 2001, 2002) and (Widerquist 2006b and Widerquist et al. 2005).

  4. There is evidence of market failure in the health care industry, (Hurley 2000; Pauly 1986), but there is also a widespread belief that medical care should be provide outside the market because of their importance, (Bergmann 2004; Thurow 1976).

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Acknowledgement

Thanks for helpful comments to Stuart White, G. A. Cohen, Michael Otsuka, Ayelet Banai, Omar Khan, Kieran Oberman, Steve Winter, Rob Jubb, Ben Saunders, Phil Harvey, Des Gasper, Deirdre N. McCloskey, Mark A. Lutz, and several anonymous referees.

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Correspondence to Karl Widerquist.

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Widerquist, K. The Physical Basis of Voluntary Trade. Hum Rights Rev 11, 83–103 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12142-008-0105-z

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Keywords

  • Voluntary trade
  • Distributive justice
  • Consent
  • Basic income
  • Basic needs