Is a Citizen’s Income Psychologically Feasible?

  • Malcolm Torry
Part of the Exploring the Basic Income Guarantee book series (BIG)


Feasibility tests based on such presuppositions as ‘the rich don’t need it’, ‘if people earn more then their benefits should be reduced’, ‘people won’t work if you just give them the money’ are failed by universal benefits. It might be true that Citizen’s Income would pass psychological feasibility tests based on existing universal benefits, but that would still not necessarily persuade individuals wedded to the embedded presuppositions. Multiple individual conversions would be required to shift public opinion, and to shift policy makers’ mindsets. The chapter shows that this might be a possibility. Alternatively, the problem could be circumvented by establishing Citizen’s Incomes for one age group at a time, beginning with those thought to be more ‘deserving’.


Public Opinion Benefit System Moral Discourse Resale Price Maintenance Child Benefit 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

5.1 Introduction

Would a benefits system based on Citizen’s Income be a major shift in policy or merely a minor administrative adjustment? The answer is ‘Both’. A revenue neutral scheme would be largely a change in administrative methods: away from income tax personal allowances, means-tested benefits, and social insurance benefits, and towards universal, unconditional, and nonwithdrawable benefits. If the scheme implemented was household financially feasible, then individuals and households would experience little difference in their disposable income at the point of implementation. Later on, they would notice the difference that lower marginal deduction rates were making (if their earnings rose, they would experience an increase in spending power); many households would enjoy greater freedom from bureaucratic control; and every individual would enjoy the efficiency of the Citizen’s Income payments, and the financial security that that would create; but at the point of implementation, many people would wonder what all the fuss was about. So yes, Citizen’s Income would be a relatively minor change in the way in which a country manages its tax and benefits systems. But it would also be a whole new way of managing a population’s income maintenance. For the first time, every individual would regularly receive money into their bank account without having to earn it, without paying any contributions, and without having to submit themselves to means tests, work tests, or any other tests. It is this characteristic of Citizen’s Income that thrills some people and perplexes others; and it is this characteristic that will require public understanding and approval before legislators will be prepared to think about implementing a Citizen’s Income scheme. Financial feasibility is not enough. Psychological feasibility will be required.

5.2 Psychological Feasibility

De Wispelaere and Noguera define psychological feasibility as

the legitimation of a policy through securing a broad level of social acceptance among the general public … the challenge of psychological feasibility is to convince the public at large that [Citizen’s Income] is a normatively attractive and practically effective policy.1

There are two ways of approaching this problem, and each of them understands the term ‘psychological feasibility’ in a slightly different way:

5.2.1 Hegemonic Moral Discourses

We can recognize, with Antonio Gramsci, that dominant groups within society can exercise ‘hegemony’. Gramsci sometimes uses the term to express the process whereby an invading country imposes its culture and laws on an occupied country,2 but more often as the idea that an interpretation of the world has been imposed on society by a dominant group that benefits from that imposition.3

The functions in question are precisely organisational and connective. The intellectuals are the dominant group’s ‘deputies’; exercising the subaltern functions of social hegemony and political government. These comprise: 1. The ‘spontaneous’ consent given by the great masses of the population to the general direction imposed on social life by the dominant fundamental group; this consent is ‘historically’ caused by the prestige (and consequent confidence) which the dominant group enjoys because of its position and function in the world of production. 2. The apparatus of state coercive power which ‘legally’ enforces discipline on those groups who do not ‘consent’ either actively or passively. This apparatus is, however, constituted for the whole of society in anticipation of moments of crisis of command and direction when spontaneous consent has failed.4

The transition from the first to the second mechanism for coercion might be illustrated by the increasingly sanctions-dominated character of ‘active labour market’ policies in European and other countries; but whereas the mechanism through which hegemony is exercised can sometimes be physical or legal force, it will usually be rather more subtle: for instance, via articles in the press—and it will take into account the interests of the classes on which hegemony is imposed.5 Take the ‘scroungers’ and the ‘strivers v. skivers’ language that for thirty years has circulated in the UK press.6 Politicians rarely use those words, but their speeches will often reference the implied social division. As George Osborne, the UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, put it in 2012:

Where is the fairness, we ask, for the shift-worker, leaving home in the dark hours of the early morning, who looks up at the closed blinds of their next-door neighbour sleeping off a life on benefits?7

The combination of ‘striver’ with ‘skiver’ is now so deeply embedded in the public consciousness that only ‘striver’ has to be mentioned for ‘skiver’ to be understood.8 The language represents a hegemony: in this case, a presupposition that society is divided into two classes of people. It is simply not true that society is divided in this way,9 but the fiction is a convenient one for the government, because it makes it easier to cut benefit levels; it persuades a large proportion of the public that the government is on their side, thus securing a solid electoral base; it enables everyone in employment to understand themselves as virtuous, and as belonging to society in ways in which those not in employment do not belong; and it enables harsh sanctions to be imposed on people who are unemployed: a strategy that appears to be designed to perpetuate the stated social division in the public mind.

Such ‘moral discourses’—‘systems of thought that simultaneously take up ideas, ideologies, attitudes, actions, and concepts informing our understandings of self, world, and others’10—flow through society and its institutions, significantly influence our ideas and actions, and, to some extent, control them. One factor that prevents any moral discourse from constituting an unchallengeable hegemony is that society is riddled with contradictory moral discourses,11 so we find ourselves both expressing and acting on entirely contradictory sets of presuppositions. In the UK, a ‘strivers and skivers’ discourse delivers benefits sanctions, and a solidaristic ‘equal citizenship’ discourse maintains the National Health Service as a service free at the point of use. The two discourses might be described as ‘rights contingent upon contribution’ and ‘rights an invitation to contribute’. The hegemony that dominant groups can exercise in society currently ensures the dominance and constant reinforcement of the former,12 thus ensuring the marginalization of the latter.

So the position that we have reached is that powerful groups within society have the ability to promote the moral discourses that serve their interests, those moral discourses become dominant and can significantly influence our ideas and actions, and alternative discourses, although still available to us, struggle to exert influence.

This understanding of the situation suggests that for Citizen’s Income to be psychologically feasible, a solidaristic moral discourse will need to become dominant, which in turn suggests that those groups in society with an interest in maintaining a more divisive moral discourse will need to lose their hegemonic status. The recent major financial crisis has not even dented the current social order or its hegemonic moral discourse, but instead appears to have strengthened them. There would appear to be little chance of a shift in hegemonic moral discourse in the short to medium term. I shall therefore see if by defining psychological feasibility a little differently, we can approach the task in a different way and obtain a psychological feasibility that might contribute to delivering a Citizen’s Income scheme.

5.2.2 Individual and Social Psychologies

A different way of looking at the situation is to focus first of all on each of our individual psychologies. The way that each of us understands the world is influenced by our upbringing, our genetic inheritance, the social norms that we encounter in the society, institutions and groups to which we relate, and the thinking that we do ourselves: the conceptual connections that we draw, the connections that we reject, and the connections that we change. Our own thought processes will sometimes be conscious, and sometimes unconscious, so we shall sometimes be surprised by the new connections that we draw, reject, or alter.

This understanding of our psychologies suggests that Citizen’s Income’s psychological feasibility requires that a sufficient number of members of the relevant population come to understand the advantages and acceptability of Citizen’s Income, and in particular that a sufficient number of individuals in relevant policy-making positions come to understand them. What is required is a relevant and appropriate social psychological shift, constituted by a sufficient number of individual psychological shifts. What is not required is a change in any hegemonic moral discourse.

In order for the necessary individual psychological shifts to occur, a sufficient number of individuals will need to challenge social norms that are inimical to universal and unconditional benefits at the same time as they

understand and accommodate the enduring features of the policy-making environment and the ways in which the environment can change to enhance or retard the possibility of policy change.13

In most countries, this will not be an easy task. We have lived with contributory and means-tested benefits for a long time—for four hundred years in the UK—so it is difficult not to judge universal and unconditional benefits by criteria based on presuppositions underlying means-testing and social insurance: ‘the rich don’t need it’, ‘if people earn more, then their benefits should be reduced’, ‘people won’t work if you just give them the money’. If unconditional benefits are tested using criteria based on these presuppositions, then they inevitably fail the tests. We might argue that it would be just as rational to base criteria on the characteristics of universal benefits and then see if means-tested and social insurance benefits pass the consequent tests,14 but that is to ignore the fact that we are not entirely rational beings. The fact that something is logical, or that the majority of the evidence supports it, will not necessarily mean that we will believe it. Logical argument and the presentation of evidence are not enough. In order for Citizen’s Income to be psychologically feasible for an individual, a conversion experience is required. The penny needs to drop. Deeply held presuppositions need to change, and fears need to be addressed.15 But even that is not enough. The psychological feasibility of Citizen’s Income is not simply about individual psychological feasibilities. It is about psychological feasibility for a sufficient proportion of society, and in particular for the large collection of institutions and individuals that constitutes the policy-making process. After proving financial feasibility, the biggest task facing any individual or institution that wishes to see Citizen’s Income implemented will be the achievement of sufficient individual conversions to ensure the relevant social psychological feasibility.

We therefore have two questions to answer: How might individual conversion experiences occur? And how might multiple individual conversion experiences generate a social conversion experience?—that is, how might individual conversions generate a sufficient relevant change in public opinion?

As before, we shall need to discuss the characteristics of different Citizen’s Income schemes, as well as the idea of Citizen’s Income, because it is always a particular scheme that will need to be implemented; so the task is even more onerous than we might have thought. Not only must the idea of Citizen’s Income achieve psychological feasibility, but a particular scheme will also need to achieve it.

There are some public policy fields in which public opinion plays only a small part in policy making,16 but in the benefits sphere, public opinion matters. This does not mean that every member of a population will need to be enthusiastic about Citizen’s Income; it means that for psychological feasibility, a sufficient proportion of the general public will need to be comfortable with the proposal, and that sufficient numbers of individuals and institutions in the policy process will need to be enthusiastic. The task of this chapter is therefore important as well as difficult.

5.3 The Reciprocity Norm

‘Reciprocity’ can mean a number of different things. It can mean a general sense that we belong together in society and that every member of society should receive what they need and contribute what they can, without specifying the order in which receiving and contributing should occur, or it can be defined as the idea that nobody should receive something until they have contributed. Societies that operate benefits sanctions regimes have shifted towards the latter definition, but because there will be societies at various points along the spectrum defined by the two positions, I shall define reciprocity as a flexible concept that can mean either of the extreme positions or any point between them. I shall also agree with Stuart White when he suggests that the expectation of contribution has to be conditional on society being sufficiently just:

Where institutions governing economic life are otherwise sufficiently just, e.g., in terms of the availability of opportunities for productive participation and the rewards attached to these opportunities, then those who claim the generous share of the social product available to them under these institutions have an obligation to make a decent productive contribution, suitably proportional and fitting for ability and circumstances, to the community in return. I term this the fair-dues conception of reciprocity.17

Wherever our society is on the spectrum of definitions of reciprocity, and wherever we are on it personally, reciprocity will need to be ‘fair-dues reciprocity’. If some members of society do not conform to the reciprocity norm, then other members of society are having to contribute more than their fair share and are therefore being exploited by those who are not contributing. ‘Civic labour’ is therefore required—paid work, care work, and voluntary community activity—in order to create the ‘civic minimum’ of income and other services that is the right of every citizen.18 So

in a context of otherwise sufficiently fair economic arrangements, everyone should do their bit.19

Whether this is true of every culture I do not know, but every culture that I know recognizes some version of the reciprocity norm, whether expressed as the work ethic, the contributory principle, or deservingness, depending on where we are on the spectrum of reciprocity definitions.20 Svallfors21 and Staerké, Liki, and Scheideggar22 find that this social norm is not simply an expression of self-interest on the part of taxpayers; it is a deeply held presupposition that undergirds public approval of benefits systems,23 generates the ubiquitous feeling that ‘something for nothing’ is wrong, drives the consistent poll findings that most people think that paid employment is the normative route to an income, and underpins the idea that social security benefits should only be paid to those who cannot work and who for some reason deserve to receive them, for instance, through disability. Here deservingness functions as a substitute for reciprocity,24 and because severe sanctions for current non-contribution can make it psychologically difficult for someone to contribute, being counted as not deserving can make future reciprocity impossible.

Reciprocity provides the strongest legitimation for a benefits system where that system is understood as a redistribution across the lifecycle via social insurance contributions and benefits.25 The fact that in many social insurance systems—such as that in the UK—the levels of benefits bear little relation to the number or levels of contributions paid in is beside the point. People feel that they are getting what they have paid for, even if they are in fact receiving a contingency benefit paid for out of general taxation. The fact that a Citizen’s Income would be a more honest way of redistributing income is again beside the point. It is the reciprocity-related psychology that generates the legitimacy of social insurance, and the same psychology is not immediately available to unconditional benefits.

In 2000, Liebig and Mau sent questionnaires to a random sample of 121 German employees and followed them up with interviews based on a series of vignettes:

We were able to establish that an unconditional granting of a uniform minimum income independent of people’s productive contributions runs against the moral intuitions of our respondents. … People seem to be suspicious of the idea of non-conditionality … The claim to a share in societal wealth is perceived as unfair if citizens are not willing to cooperate socially and make some kind of effort. Conditionality, therefore, affirms the link between income entitlement and productive contributions and thereby safeguards the reciprocity requirements. … A uniform and fully unconditional welfare entitlement is not endorsed.26

Research in the Netherlands suggests public approval of the idea that

the government should intervene to reduce inequality in society and should spend adequate amounts for this purpose, and that these government provisions [should] not have unfavourable repercussions in the economic or moral spheres.27

Coughlin reports similar research that shows that

the idea of collective responsibility for assuring minimum standards of employment, health care, income, and other conditions of social and economic well-being has everywhere gained a foothold in popular values and beliefs. And yet the survey evidence suggests a simultaneous tendency supporting individual achievement, mobility, and responsibility for one’s own lot.28

This suggests that the differences in public opinion in relation to unconditional benefits for different groups in society are the result of different balances between two opposing trends, and perhaps between two opposing moral discourses. The unemployed would be expected to be ‘responsible for their own lot’, hence the suspicion generated when unconditional benefits for the unemployed are suggested. Children and the elderly cannot always be ‘responsible for their own lot’, and so are owed a minimum standard of income by society.

5.4 Can Mindsets Be Shifted?

Whatever the cause or causes of the deep psychological barriers to Citizen’s Income, at individual and societal levels, the important question to ask in relation to our exploration of the feasibility of Citizen’s Income is this: Can mindsets be shifted? Can sufficient individual psychological change deliver the social psychological change that would be required to make Citizen’s Income feasible?

My experience of explaining Citizen’s Income to intelligent individuals, or to groups of intelligent people, is that at the forefront of people’s minds are such understandable presuppositions as ‘to reduce poverty we need to give more money to the poor’, ‘to reduce inequality we need to give more money to the poor’, ‘if you give more money to the poor then they might not work’, and ‘the rich don’t need benefits’. I might draw the individual or group’s attention to existing unconditional benefits, such as the UK’s Child Benefit. This gives the same amount of money to every family with the same number of children, and it reduces poverty because it provides additional income for families with the lowest incomes, and it reduces inequality because it constitutes a higher proportion of total income for those with low incomes than it does for those with high incomes. Child Benefit provides additional income for those with the lowest incomes, but because it is not withdrawn as earned income rises, it does not act as an employment disincentive and so is more likely to encourage additional gainful employment than means-tested benefits are. The wealthy pay more in Income Tax than they receive in Child Benefit, so it hardly matters that they receive Child Benefit; and it is better that they do receive it because to give the benefit to every family with children is administratively efficient, and it removes any possibility of stigma. I might also draw the group’s attention to means-tested benefits. These give more to the poor than to the rich, but because the benefits are withdrawn as earnings rise, they prevent families from earning their way out of poverty, and they make it less likely that people will seek gainful employment, and they therefore tend to increase inequality.

When I suggest that the intentions behind the group’s presuppositions are better served by Child Benefit than by means-tested benefits, and that a Citizen’s Income would also serve those intentions better than means-tested benefits currently do, I can see the penny drop for some of the group’s members. They have understood. But by the end of the session, there will still be some members of the group who cannot see beyond the idea that if the poor need more money, then means-testing is the obvious way to make sure that they get the money that they need. At the end of a radio interview in which a similar conversation had occurred, the interviewer remarked: ‘Give the money to everyone? I’ve never heard anything so ridiculous in all my life.’ A conversion experience had not occurred.

The presuppositions are so difficult to shake off because we have lived with them for so long. Since Elizabethan times, the UK has operated means tests, with the State giving more to the poor than to the rich and then withdrawing benefits as other income rises. Four centuries ago, this might have been the only option, but in the context of a progressive tax system, unconditional and nonwithdrawable benefits are the administratively efficient way to provide those with low incomes with additional income, and, at the same time, to ensure that they experience no employment disincentives. Unfortunately, whether in small groups, larger groups, or a whole population, the apparently hardwired presupposition in favour of means-testing remains the majority opinion, so individuals conform to it unthinkingly.29 Moreover, in order to save ourselves intellectual effort, we tend to accept the opinions of such authorities as newspapers and radio show hosts, and our acceptance of the majority opinion becomes even more firmly embedded, particularly when policy change moves in the same direction as public opinion.30 There is nothing surprising about any of this, and it is here that the understanding of Citizen’s Income’s psychological feasibility as a combination of individual psychological feasibilities, and the understanding of it as a change in society’s moral discourse, comes together: for if the moral discourse were to change, then a lot more people would be susceptible to individual conversion.

The question for us here is this: Is it possible to shift the public mindset sufficiently without the most hegemonic moral discourses changing? Is it possible that sufficient numbers of people will understand that in the context of a progressive tax system, a universal benefit is a more constructive way of targeting money on the poor than means-testing will ever be?—that universal benefits make people more likely to work, and not less?—that the tax system takes far more from the wealthy than they would receive in universal benefits, so that it is not a problem that they would receive the benefits along with everybody else?

Since William James wrote The Varieties of Religious Experience, we have known quite a lot about individual conversion experiences, both religious and otherwise31; and, more recently, Serge Moscovici has shown how a minority within a group can convert the majority to their viewpoint:

A minority, which by definition expresses a deviant judgment, a judgment contrary to the norms respected by the social group, convinces some members of the group, who may accept its judgment in private. They will be reluctant to do so publicly, however, either for fear of losing face or to avoid the risk of speaking or acting in a deviant fashion in the presence of others.32

If individual but unexpressed conversions then occur, public compliance with the view expressed by the majority can for a long time coexist with an increasing minority thinking differently. Then one act of courage can reveal how opinion is shifting, particularly if the shift required by the majority is not too great.33 A snowball effect can then occur because

a consistent minority can exert an influence to the same extent as a consistent majority, and … the former will generally have a greater effect on a deeper level, while the latter often has less, or none, at that level.34

Nemeth, Swedlund and Kanki have shown that while the minority needs to propound a consistent position if it is to shift opinion within the group, it also needs to be flexible where it can be if the majority is to be converted to its position, because flexibility in the context of consistency communicates the minority’s confidence in its position and makes clearer where it is being consistent.35 The right balance is essential. Too much flexibility and consistency is lost, which leads to lack of influence; but too little flexibility and dialogue partners will wish to abort the discussion.36 If a convinced minority can exhibit the right balance between consistency and flexibility, then they will open the minds of members of the majority to a range of alternatives, thus replacing the majority’s previous convergent mental processes with divergent thinking that might be willing to take in a variety of views and then judge between them.37 Two processes are therefore at work. The minority’s opinion will directly influence the majority, and at the same time, the minority’s flexible consistency encourages the majority to think around the issues and to take seriously the alternatives now on offer.38 Active, consistent, and flexible minorities can therefore exercise considerable influence.

Moscovici’s research related to groups and institutions, and we ought not to assume that a whole society will function in the same way; but our recent experience of a rapid global shift of public opinion towards same-sex marriage suggests that the same process might also occur on a societal level. That particular transition might be informative, particularly in relation to the incremental practical steps by which it occurred. In the USA, Bill Clinton balked at permitting openly homosexual people to serve in the armed forces, and now we have seen an increasing number of States permitting same-sex marriage and a Supreme Court judgement in favour of it. Within just sixty years, the UK has seen the decriminalization of homosexual activity, anti-discrimination legislation, equalities legislation, civil partnerships, and, now, same-sex marriage. Perhaps the most rapid shift has been witnessed in the Republic of Ireland, where in a traditional catholic country, a referendum in 2015 has put same-sex marriage into the constitution. The same process occurred in the UK with equalities legislation more generally. Starting with the Race Discrimination Act in 1965 and the Equal Pay Act in 1970, the UK government has legislated for various equalities when doing so has been somewhat ahead of public opinion. Each legislative step changed public behaviour and propelled an already changing public opinion more quickly along its trajectory, and thus prepared the ground for the next legislative step that would be slightly ahead of public opinion. The public opinion trajectory was always clear, so although it might have looked as though the government was taking a risk, in fact it was not. The same process has been witnessed across much of Europe in relation to smoking in buildings open to the public. Public opinion was beginning to turn, passive smoking was being recognized for the health hazard that it is, and governments have not found it difficult to legislate to prevent smoking in enclosed spaces that are open to the public, including workplaces. While there are still too many people who smoke, and particularly young people, there would be public approval for further restrictions. The Mayor of London recently proposed that smoking should be banned in public parks. There was much approval expressed, and the objections of those still insisting on the freedom to smoke were rather muted. Public opinion can be difficult to gauge,39 and its future shape can be difficult to predict, but we should never discount the possibility of rapid change.

So what might cause a similar rapid conversion to unconditional benefits among both the general public and policymakers?

5.5 Education

In any developed country, the tax and benefits systems will have evolved over many decades, and they will have reached levels of complexity that make individual and public understanding very difficult to achieve. Research has shown just how little most people understand even when the questions that they are asked relate to those parts of the tax and benefits systems in which they themselves are involved.40 In developing countries, a variety of schemes might be in existence: benefits systems, tax systems, subsidy systems, and guaranteed job systems, and they will all be complicated and little understood by the people affected by them.

Is it hopeless to seek to educate even a few individuals, and then the general public, about a subject that even professional benefits advisers find difficult to understand? In the UK, the most recent edition of the Child Poverty Action Group’s Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook runs to 1740 pages.41 Forty years ago, I administered means-tested benefits for two years. During the 1970s, the regulations were in ring binders, and they filled a bookshelf. Now everything is computerized, but if my experience then is anything to go by, staff members will have only a hazy idea about what is in the regulations. Errors are rife.42 It all adds up to an impression that not even the experts understand the system, so what hope is there that anyone else will understand it?

It might be helpful here to study a policy area that can look as complicated as the benefits system: membership of the EU. Across Europe, we now hear a lot about Euroscepticism. In European, national, and even local elections, political parties that want to take countries out of the EU are doing well in the polls. In the UK, most newspapers are mildly Eurosceptic, and sometimes avidly so. Even though most business leaders, in the UK and elsewhere in Europe, are in favour of their countries staying in the EU, the occasional one who is not is the one who gets the press coverage.43 In order to appease Conservative Party backbenchers who oppose the UK’s membership of the EU, Prime Minister David Cameron is attempting to renegotiate the UK’s membership before holding a referendum on whether the UK should stay in. This all makes it look as if the population of the UK is Eurosceptic. It is not. For most of the past twenty-five years, more UK citizens have been in favour of staying in than of leaving, and the number wanting to stay in is increasing.44

Is EU membership too complicated a subject for education to be effective? Research has shown that education can be surprisingly effective, both in relation to the principle of membership, and in relation to the detail:

Europeans’ attitudes regarding the vertical allocation of competences in the EU are significantly shaped by the political knowledge that they possess about the correct functioning of some European institutions, and … they are more in favour of common EU policies when externalities and economies of scale are present and a redistributive or stabilization function is to be pursued. … our findings suggest that well-informed citizens are better able to perceive the consequences of alternative policy proposals … public support for the EU can be influenced by making citizens better informed about the EU. … raising awareness about the EU can help create greater commitment to European integration among European citizens.45

If this is true of EU membership, then there is no reason to think that it would be impossible for appropriate education to achieve greater public understanding of the advantages of unconditional benefits and for a sufficient number of individual conversions to prepare the ground for government action. In every country, the education required will be different, not because the definition of Citizen’s Income changes, but because the context in which it will need to be implemented will be different in every case; but it would appear that wherever it takes place, education on the effects of the current benefits system, and on the ways in which unconditional benefits could be an improvement, would influence how people might think about the benefits system, and about the possibility of a shift towards unconditional benefits.
But what kind of education will be helpful in the case of Citizen’s Income? De Wispelaere and Noguera suggest that

carefully framing [Citizen’s Income] proposals to avoid triggering negative perceptions, values, and beliefs, and instead trigger positive dispositions, may significantly improve the psychological feasibility of [Citizen’s Income]. For instance, framing [Citizen’s Income] alternatively as a social heritage, a national dividend, an antipoverty measure, or a citizenship right might produce different levels of social support.46

One way to circumvent the negative perceptions attached to the reciprocity norm is to draw attention to Stuart White’s suggestion that in order to be fair, a reciprocity requirement has to be conditional on economic arrangements being ‘otherwise fair’. This suggests that if they are not otherwise fair, then it is as difficult to insist on citizens’ duties as it is to sustain citizens’ rights.47

Some resources are properly seen as belonging to a common citizens’ inheritance fund, and it is implausible that the individual’s entitlement to a share of this fund is entirely dependent on a willingness to work.48

This is the basis for White’s argument for a Citizen’s Income: a secure income floor that would establish the civic minimum that would in turn invite a reciprocal obligation.49 We can therefore conclude that, both in theory and in practice, reciprocity would be served by a Citizen’s Income. Whether a public focused on a reciprocity norm would be able to see this connection is an interesting question. For some people, the penny would drop, but for how many?

A further possibility would be to educate the public in the ways in which means-tested benefits disincentivize employment, and in the ways in which a Citizen’s Income would not. The contributions that employment makes to meeting society’s needs and to household incomes are at the heart of the general public’s reciprocity presupposition, so to show how Citizen’s Income would positively encourage employment should be at the heart of the educational strategy. To take the UK as an example: Anyone on Housing Benefit, Working Tax Credit, and Child Tax Credit, and paying Income Tax and NICs suffers a marginal deduction rate of 96 %. This means that for every extra £1 that they earn, their disposable income goes up by just 4p.50 When Universal Credit is fully rolled out, that will rise to 24p. Anyone earning over £150,000 per annum keeps 53p out of every extra £1 that they earn. A Citizen’s Income would change all of that. But if an enquirer then asks about the detail, we have a problem. Depending on the precise details of the Citizen’s Income scheme implemented, someone currently benefitting by only 4p in the £1 would benefit by 68p in the £1 if they were no longer receiving means-tested benefits; or perhaps by say 65p if Income Tax rates had had to rise to pay for Citizen’s Incomes; or perhaps they would still be receiving small amounts of means-tested benefits, in which case they might still be receiving only 4p or 24p in the £1, but they would more easily be able to earn their way out of means-testing. Complexity can make communication problematic.

Perhaps the argument that the changes in our society and economy demand a different kind of social security system altogether would be more likely to shift perceptions; or perhaps the argument that a Citizen’s Income would deliver labour market flexibility, labour market freedom, social cohesion, freedom from bureaucratic interference, fewer administrative errors, and less fraud would be more likely to shift mindsets in favour of unconditional benefits; or perhaps simply the idea of ‘money for everyone’.

Different arguments are going to work for different people, and whether any of them do in practice cause the penny to drop will be largely a matter of personal psychology. This suggests that a diverse set of messages will be required, rather than a single slogan. The necessary education will clearly not be an easy task; but the task is worth the effort, because as the research on people’s attitudes towards the EU shows, education can change minds.

5.6 Personal Experience

If a country already has one or more unconditional benefits—whether cash benefits, a universal health care system free at the point of use, or free education available to everyone—then there will be individuals who will understand that in the context of a progressive tax system paying benefits to the rich as well as to the poor is not a problem; that unconditional benefits do not impose the employment market disincentives that means-tested benefits impose; that the poor gain disproportionately from unconditional benefits because equal unconditional benefits constitute a higher proportion of their disposable incomes than they do for the rich; and that for the same reason unconditional benefits reduce inequality. Existing experience of universal provision would be of considerable benefit to any educational effort aimed at shifting presuppositions in the direction of unconditional benefits.

If a country has experienced a successful Citizen’s Income pilot study, as Namibia and India have done,51 then whole communities will have experienced the benefits of Citizen’s Income, and those communities will need to be at the heart of any educational strategy; and if a country has some other kind of universal provision—such as Alaska’s Permanent Fund Dividend52—then it will be relatively easy to shift public opinion in the direction of a more regular and more stable payment. A country with existing experience of something close to a Citizen’s Income—as in Iran53—will be in an excellent position to hold a public debate if it decides to have one.

If a country has no experience of unconditional benefits, then imagining what they might be like will be more difficult, but it might still be possible to create the necessary public understanding by suggesting an analogy with a universal franchise or equality before the law.

5.7 Implementation One Step at a Time

Fear matters. Both employers and trades unions might fear that they will lose control over employees if every employee is given a Citizen’s Income and is therefore less reliant on their weekly or monthly wage. In practice, of course, people would be more likely to seek employment with a Citizen’s Income than with the current benefits system because the marginal deduction rates that they suffer would be reduced, making it more worthwhile to earn additional income, but that fact might not reduce the fear that employers and trades unions might experience. Workers themselves might fear tax rises, and might fear that a Citizen’s Income could draw in additional migrant workers willing to work for low wages; and there might be a general sense of unease about how the employment market would be affected by a Citizen’s Income scheme. Men on means-tested benefits might fear the greater independence that Citizen’s Incomes paid to each individual would offer to their wives.54

One way of attempting to assuage such fears, and to circumvent the potential psychological infeasibility of a Citizen’s Income paid to every legal resident of a country, would be to approach a Citizen’s Income by way of evolutionary steps.

One possible approach would be to compare a country’s current tax and benefits systems with a Citizen’s Income, ask where the differences lie, and then ask which of these differences could usefully be tackled on their own. For instance, an important characteristic of a Citizen’s Income is that it is paid to individuals rather than on a couple or household basis; so in countries in which taxation and benefits administration is household based, it could be individualized.55 Similarly, steps could be taken to reduce the withdrawal rates of means-tested benefits as a preparation for the zero withdrawal rates of a Citizen’s Income. A particularly useful step would be to equalize the monetary values of the personal tax allowance and of the benefits paid to individuals not in employment, as this would prepare the way for turning both of them into Citizen’s Incomes.56

A Participation Income has been suggested, which would require recipients to show evidence of participation in society as a condition of receipt,57 but see Chap.  6 for reasons not to follow this route. Negative Income Tax and Tax Credit schemes might also look like useful stepping stones. Survey data from Japan suggests that a Negative Income Tax might be a more popular option than Citizen’s Income,58 which might suggest that it would be a feasible first step; but again, Chap.  6 shows that a Negative Income Tax would pose substantial administrative challenges, which would make it difficult to implement. Experience of the complexity of administering a Negative Income Tax would inevitably reduce its popularity, thus putting at risk a future transition to a Citizen’s Income scheme.

De Wispelaere and Noguera suggest ‘sequential implementation’: ‘A universal child benefit, a universal basic pension, a guaranteed minimum income for those under the poverty line, and a tax credit for low-income workers might be acceptable, where a direct move toward a full [Citizen’s Income] might be opposed.’59 After discussing Japan’s changing labour market, the benefits that a Citizen’s Income would offer, and the psychological difficulty that that solution would pose for a workforce imbued with the idea that lifelong loyalty to a company is the route to both company and state welfare provision, Yannick and Sekine also recommend a series of modest steps in the direction of a Citizen’s Income.60 Here a note of caution needs to be sounded. If something that is not a Citizen’s Income is described as a step in the direction of one, then public disapproval of conditional aspects of the implemented stage, or of its administrative complexity, will tarnish the image of Citizen’s Income, even though a Citizen’s Income would avoid those difficulties. An evolutionary approach would be safer if each step was itself a genuine Citizen’s Income. The only way in which we could divide up a population in order to pay genuine Citizen’s Incomes to different sections of it one at a time would be to divide it by age group: so that is how an evolutionary approach will need to be structured.

De Wispelaere and Noguera locate psychological feasibility as a prospective constraint related to diffuse agency: that is, the general public, or significant sections of it, will need to be persuaded of the advantages of Citizen’s Income before implementation will be possible. This would appear to make sense. However, as we have already recognized in Chap.  2, psychological feasibility is also a retrospective constraint, in that a level of public understanding and approval will be required if Citizen’s Income’s implementation is to become a secure element in our social and economic fabric. But there is also a sense in which psychological feasibility can be both prospective and retrospective at the same time. If a Citizen’s Income were to be established for a particular age group, then because that age group’s Citizen’s Income would affect a lot more people than those actually receiving it—and particularly other family members—a good experience of that first Citizen’s Income would generate the psychological feasibility required for the implementation of a Citizen’s Income for another age group.

The question then becomes: For which age group would it be easiest to establish a Citizen’s Income? If financial feasibilities and administrative feasibility were to be similar for a variety of different age groups, then we would need to ask about differential political, policy process, behavioural, and psychological feasibilities. Psychological feasibility will be crucial, because without a sufficient amount of that, the other feasibilities would not be studied or attempted. Public understanding and approval of a Citizen’s Income for a particular age group will therefore be essential, and it is that that will propel the proposal into political and policy process feasibilities. Given the low level of public understanding of the benefits system and of its effects, and of any reform options and their likely effects, psychological feasibility will have to rest on the perceived deservingness of the age group chosen.61 In most countries, children and the elderly will be at the top of the deservingness list,62 with working-age adults at the bottom (because it is to them that the ‘they won’t work’ objection will continue to be attached).63 After children and the elderly, young people, and then the pre-retired, would probably be felt to be the next most deserving groups. Research by Saunders and Pinyopusarek in Australia shows that

while there is considerable support for mutual obligation, at least for some groups of the unemployed, this does not apply to the older unemployed, those caring for young children, and those with a disability.64

Unconditional child benefits already exist, and some countries have Citizen’s Pensions: unconditional incomes for people over the State retirement age.65 Following these existing examples should not be too difficult; and then experience of newly established Citizen’s Incomes will create understanding and approval of their effects, which will lay the necessary psychological foundation for the establishment of a Citizen’s Income for the next age group, and so on.

Throughout, a strict residency test will be required. An important element of public opinion relating to social security benefits is ‘welfare chauvinism’66 among unskilled workers: the feeling that immigrants should not have access to the country’s benefits system. In most countries, it will be important to ensure that the debate about implementing a Citizen’s Income remains well insulated from toxic debates about immigration, so that what is being debated is Citizen’s Income and not whether immigrants should be able to claim benefits.

So far we have assumed that the causal direction is from public understanding and approval to the possibility of policy change. However, the causal relationship is not in fact as unidirectional as we might have thought. Larsen finds that

the structures that characterize the different welfare regimes influence the way the public perceives the poor and the unemployed, which again influences the judgement of deservingness and thereby support for welfare policy.67

We are political beings, and ‘policy attitudes are influenced by the experienced regime-dependent reality’.68 We can therefore have some confidence that to roll out a Citizen’s Incomes to one age group will shift public opinion in favour of universal benefits, thus laying a sufficient psychological foundation for roll-out to the next age group. Perhaps psychological feasibility might not be as difficult to achieve as we might at first have thought.

5.8 Case Studies

5.8.1 Attitudes to Citizen’s Income in Japan

The report of an analysis of the results of a public opinion survey in Japan suggests that variables that influence respondents’ attitudes towards Citizen’s Income are their age, their health, whether or not they have received public assistance, the level of their household’s financial assets, and how they answer the questions ‘Do you think that the income gap will increase in the coming five years?’ and ‘Do you think that it is the government’s responsibility to reduce the income gap?’; and there is a particularly strong positive correlation between this last factor and support for Citizen’s Income. Gender, marital status, whether or not the respondent has children, educational background, and recognition of widening inequalities appear to have no influence.

Unfortunately, there is a problem with the question asked about Citizen’s Income: ‘What do you think about the idea that the government covers the minimum necessary cost of living?’ The decision was taken to employ this form of words because the term ‘Basic Income’ is not sufficiently familiar in Japan, but the problem this leaves us with is that the respondent is left to filter the idea of government provision of income through pre-existing understandings of how governments provide citizens with income. Such pre-existing understandings might include means-testing and social insurance, and might not include universal, unconditional, and nonwithdrawable benefits. There must therefore be some doubt as to whether those responding to the survey thought that they were answering a question about Citizen’s Income.

It is not insignificant that the results are consistent with results from surveys of the public’s attitudes to income redistribution. This suggests that respondents might have been thinking about the redistributive effects of any government redistribution of income, again suggesting that respondents might not have had in mind a Citizen’s Income.

But let us suppose for the moment that a sufficient number of the respondents had in mind a Citizen’s Income as the mechanism that the government would choose to ‘cover the minimum necessary cost of living’, that they were aware of the differences between Citizen’s Income and other forms of state benefits, and that the Japanese population is not untypical in its attitudes to such issues. We can then conclude that certain groups within society will be easier to persuade of the desirability of Citizen’s Income than others, which will be useful information when education strategies are planned.

But perhaps the message that we should take from this Japanese survey is that surveys of public opinion might be helpful, and that the questions that need to be asked need to be carefully framed to ensure that respondents are clear that they are being asked about an unconditional and nonwithdrawable income for every individual as a right of citizenship.69

5.8.2 Can Attitudes Change in the UK?

The UK’s public mindset automatically rejects unconditional benefits: ‘The rich don’t need it’ and ‘people won’t work’ are symptomatic of this rejection, which has roots going back four hundred years. This is why politicians feel a need to express opposition to universal benefits, and why during a speech made on 6 June 2013 the leader of the UK’s Labour Party, Ed Miliband MP, said that he wanted to see the unconditional Winter Fuel Allowance means-tested: ‘It doesn’t make sense to continue sending a cheque every year for Winter Fuel Allowance to the richest pensioners in the country.’70 It does of course make a lot of sense to send it to every pensioner, because it is efficient to do so, and the wealthy are paying a lot more in Income Tax than they are receiving in Winter Fuel Allowance. The situation is similar with an unconditional National Health Service and unconditional Child Benefit. Compared with other systems, they are both highly efficient, and they serve health and income needs better than any other system possibly could.71 Nobody wants to see the National Health Service being anything other than unconditionally available and free at the point of use. Child Benefit is now being clawed back from households containing at least one higher-rate taxpayer through the tax system, and those households would now appreciate not having the value of their Child Benefit taken from them, which adds another group to people who appreciate the virtues of unconditional benefits. If every household in the UK were to recognize that the National Health Service and Child Benefit belong in the same category, then there could well be a large silent majority in favour of universal benefits.

The only way to test this would be for the government to argue for turning means-tested benefits into a new universal benefit, and then to make the change, preferably for a group within society that the majority could regard as deserving in some way so that the experiment becomes a test of public appreciation of universal benefits rather than a test of public attitudes towards a demographic group.

There is a precedent. It was a slow and somewhat fraught process, but during the 1970s, Family Allowance for every child except the first in each family became Child Benefit: an unconditional benefit for every child. The mechanism by which the change occurred is that Child Tax Allowances were abolished and Family Allowance was raised in value and extended to the first child in each family. Effectively, a tax allowance became a new universal benefit. Only a minority of the public wanted to replace Family Allowance and the Child Tax Allowance with Child Benefit,72 but the change was achieved with almost no public opposition.73 There is therefore no reason for not making similar attempts, and there is every reason to do so.

Groups regarded by the public as deserving, and for whom the government might therefore attempt transitions from tax allowances and means-tested benefits to unconditional and nonwithdrawable benefits, would be the elderly and children, and might then include young adults and pre-retirement working-age adults (perhaps with NIC records functioning initially as a gateway for the latter group, as they will do for the new STP).74

My hunch is that we would see the same process as we have seen for same-sex marriage, and that the popularity of the changes for children, the elderly, young adults, and pre-retirement adults would reveal and embed a public opinion already shifting towards an understanding of the advantages of universal, unconditional, and nonwithdrawable benefits. The silent majority will have become conscious of their understanding and approval of change, and might have become vocal about it. The minority, which was willing and able to express the advantages of unconditional and nonwithdrawable benefits, will have converted the rest of society.

5.9 Conclusion

As Ben Baumberg sees it:

The challenge is … that a discourse that ignores deservingness will not chime with public attitudes, while a discourse that simply accommodates attitudes will struggle to transform them. The path to a revitalized benefits system that reduces poverty instead seems likely to consist of a series of stages that both respond to public concerns and offer the potential for sequenced change. … What is needed is a way of deciding (i) where universalism is particularly important for perceptions of deservingness and solidarity; and (ii) what short-term decisions can be taken that allow the greatest space for the future rebuilding of the welfare state.75

The argument of this chapter suggests that trying to achieve psychological feasibility for a Citizen’s Income scheme that would be implemented for everybody in society at the same time would probably be impossible, but that psychological feasibility might not be impossible to achieve if Citizen’s Income were to be implemented one step at a time, and framed as assistance for demographic groups widely considered to be deserving rather than as a handout to the ‘deserving’ and the ‘undeserving’ alike. How a policy proposal is framed can have a considerable impact on the feasibility of its implementation.76 In relation to the staged implementation of Citizen’s Income, the understanding and approval generated by each demographic group’s Citizen’s Income would generate the psychological feasibility required to embed that particular Citizen’s Income and also the psychological feasibility required for implementation of the next demographic group’s Citizen’s Income.

It is helpful to know that minorities with counter-intuitive new ideas are able to convert majorities that are initially committed to deeply entrenched presuppositions. The lesson to learn here is that the minority’s educational strategy needs to be both consistent and flexible. In the context of the debate on Citizen’s Income, this has to mean that anyone wishing to see serious consideration given to Citizen’s Income will need to be consistent about the definition of Citizen’s Income, and flexible in relation to the detail of the illustrative Citizen’s Income schemes that will inevitably constitute much of the debate.

To implement a consistent but flexible educational strategy in the context of a ‘one step at a time’ implementation of Citizen’s Income would provide an opportunity for existing understanding and approval of unconditional benefits to find its voice and slowly convert individuals and institutions still wedded to means-tested and contributory benefits systems. Recent research reported by Humpage suggests that a substantial reservoir of understanding and approval of unconditional benefits already exists, and that recipients of unconditional benefits believe themselves to be legitimate recipients of payments from the government and those receiving means-tested benefits not to be legitimate recipients.77 Because

the public tend to support universal social programmes more than targeted ones because they are visible and proximate to a wider range of citizens78

we can hope that new universal benefits, once implemented, would receive public approval, even if before implementation the public might be wary.79

Until we implement a Citizen’s Income, we cannot be sure how strong the ‘policy to opinion’ causal direction will be, but the research results discussed in this chapter suggest not only that the verdict could well be favourable, but also that as long as everyone else was receiving them, granting unconditional benefits to the unemployed could be a lot more popular than we might think. The problem is that however much unconditional benefits might become an understood and accepted foundation for the welfare state in the future, there will need to be initial steps in that direction before public understanding and approval have been achieved.

But having said all of that, might we find that public opinion is less significant than we might have thought it to be? As Coughlin suggests,

where specific policy alternatives are involved, a seemingly broad consensus … often hides a deep indecision concerning the crucial details of the debate, as well as a paucity of knowledge about the precise alternatives under consideration. The impact of public opinion is therefore often less than one might anticipate from a glance at opinion surveys80;

and as Liebig and Mau point out:

most social policy innovations have been introduced as contested concepts. The existing justice attitudes are only one factor that could advance or impede new reforms.81

In Chaps.  9 and  10, I shall suggest ways in which we might find a Citizen’s Income scheme being implemented. Not all of them require widespread public approval of the idea. We might find that a handful of individual conversions among relevant policymakers had been all that was required.82 If this were to prove the case, then for those few individuals who needed to be persuaded Citizen’s Income will have needed to be psychologically feasible. The content of this chapter will therefore always be relevant, although perhaps in relation to the conversion of a small group of people rather than to the conversion of the general public.


  1. 1.

    Jürgen De Wispelaere and José Antonio Noguera (2012) ‘On the Political Feasibility of Universal Basic Income: An Analytic Framework’, pp. 17–38 in Richard Caputo (ed.) Basic Income Guarantee: International Experiences and Perspectives on the Viability of Income Guarantee (New York: Palgrave Macmillan), p. 27.

  2. 2.

    Antonio Gramsci (1971) Selections from Prison Notebooks (London: Lawrence and Wishart, London), pp. 287, 343.

  3. 3.

    Antonio Gramsci, Selections from Prison Notebooks, p. 507.

  4. 4.

    Antonio Gramsci, Selections from Prison Notebooks, p. 145.

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    Antonio Gramsci, Selections from Prison Notebooks, p. 373.

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    Peter Golding and Sue Middleton (1982) Images of Welfare: Press and Public Attitudes to Poverty (Oxford: Basil Blackwell), pp. 75, 88, 91; Hartley Dean (2012) Social Policy, 2nd edition (Cambridge: Polity), p. 72.

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    John Hills (2014) Good Times, Bad Times: The welfare myth of them and us (Bristol: Policy Press).

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    Hartley Dean (2004) ‘Popular discourse and the ethical deficiency of “Third Way” conceptions of citizenship’, Citizenship studies, 8 (1), 65–82.

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    Charles E. Lindblom (1980) The Policy-making Process, 2nd edition (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall), p. 119.

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    Thomas A. Birkland (2005) An Introduction to the Policy Process, 2nd edition (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe), p. 49.

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    Malcolm Torry (2014) ‘A New Policy World for the Benefits System’, Policy World, Spring 2014, pp. 12–13.

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    Claus Offe (2013) ‘Pathways from Here’, pp. 560–63 in Karl Widerquist, José A. Noguera, Yannick Vanderborght, and Jürgen De Wispelaere, Basic Income: An anthology of contemporary research (Chichester: Wiley Blackwell), p. 561.

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    Cf. J.J. Richardson (1969) The Policy-Making Process (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul), about the Restrictive Trade Practices Act 1956. The general public was largely unaware of the effects of the ways in which trade associations policed resale price maintenance. The motive for change was the UK government’s need to make the economy more efficient.

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    Stuart White (2003) The Civic Minimum: On the Rights and Obligations of Economic Citizenship (Oxford: Oxford University Press), p. 59.

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  19. 19.

    Stuart White (2003) The Civic Minimum, p. 18.

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    Jürgen De Wispelaere and José Antonio Noguera (2012) ‘On the Political Feasibility of Universal Basic Income: An Analytic Framework’, pp. 17–38 in Richard Caputo (ed.) Basic Income Guarantee: International Experiences and Perspectives on the Viability of Income Guarantee (New York: Palgrave Macmillan), p. 28.

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    Stefan Svallfors (2012) ‘Welfare States and Welfare Attitudes’, pp. 1–24 in Stefan Svallfors (ed.) Contested Welfare States: Welfare attitudes in Europe and Beyond (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press), p. 10.

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    Christian Staerklé, Tiina Likki and Régis Scheidegger (2012) ‘A Normative Approach to Welfare Attitudes’, pp. 81–118 in Stefan Svallfors (ed.) Contested Welfare States: Welfare attitudes in Europe and Beyond (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press), p. 81.

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    Steffen Mau (2003) The Moral Economy of Welfare States: Britain and Germany compared (London: Routledge), p. 35.

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    Wim van Oorschot (2006) ‘Making the Difference in Social Europe: Deservingness perceptions among citizens of European Welfare States’, Journal of European Social Policy, 16 (1), 23–42, p. 26.

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    Stefan Liebig and Steffen Mau (2004) ‘A Legitimate Guaranteed Minimum Income?’ pp. 207–28 in Guy Standing (ed.), Promoting Income Security as a Right: Europe and North America (London: Anthem, London), p. 210.

  26. 26.

    Stefan Liebig and Steffen Mau (2004) ‘A Legitimate Guaranteed Minimum Income?’ p. 224.

  27. 27.

    Wim van Oorschot (2006) ‘Welfarism and the multidimensionality of welfare state legitimacy: Evidence from The Netherlands, 2006’, International Journal of Social Welfare, 21, 71–93, p. 90.

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  29. 29.

    Eddy van Avermaet (2001) ‘Social Influence in Small Groups’, pp. 403–43 in Mike Hewstone and Wolfgang Stroebe (eds), Introduction to Social Psychology, 3rd edition (Oxford: Blackwell), pp 408–11; Serge Moscovici (1976) Social Influence and Social Change (London: Academic Press), pp. 15–37.

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    Elizabeth Clery, Lucy Lee and Sarah Kunz (2012) Public attitudes to poverty and welfare, 1983–2011: Analysis using British Social Attitudes data (York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation), p. 2,

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    William James (2012 / 1902), The Varieties of Religious Experience: A study in human nature (Oxford: Oxford University Press), first published 1902; cf. William Sargant (1976) Battle for the Mind: A physiology of conversion and brain-washing (London: Heinemann).

  32. 32.

    Serge Moscovici (1980) ‘Toward a Theory of Conversion Behavior’, pp. 209–39 in Leonard Berkowitz (ed.) Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, vol. 13 (New York: Academic Press), p. 211.

  33. 33.

    Serge Moscovici (1976) Social Influence and Social Change, Academic Press, London, 1976, p. 81.

  34. 34.

    Serge Moscovici (1980) ‘Toward a Theory of Conversion Behavior’, pp. 214–16.

  35. 35.

    Charlan Nemeth, Mark Swedlund and Barbara Kanki (1974) ‘Patterning of the minority’s responses and their influence on the majority’, European Journal of Social Psychology, 4 (1), pp. 53–64.

  36. 36.

    Eddy van Avermaet (2001) ‘Social Influence in Small Groups’, pp. 403–43 in Mike Hewstone and Wolfgang Stroebe (eds), Introduction to Social Psychology, 3rd edition (Oxford: Blackwell), p. 417.

  37. 37.

    Gabriel Migny (1982) The Power of Minorities (London) Academic Press, London, pp. 39, 84–5; Serge Moscovici (1976) Social Influence and Social Change, pp. 93, 109.

  38. 38.

    John C. Turner (1991) Social Influence (Milton Keynes: Open University Press), p. 100.

  39. 39.

    Andrew Denham and Mark Garnett (1998) British Think-tanks and the Climate of Opinion (London: UCL Press), pp. 201–5.

  40. 40.

    D.V.L. Smith and Associates (1991) Basic Income: A research report (London: Age Concern England), pp. 5, 29.

  41. 41.

    Child Poverty Action Group (2015) Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook, 2015/16 (London: Child Poverty Action Group),

  42. 42.

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  43. 43.

    It is interesting that on 17 May 2015, a generally EU-friendly UK newspaper, the Guardian, headlined a single business leader’s call for Britain to leave the EU, and only much later in the article mentioned the large number of business leaders who disagree with him.

  44. 44.
  45. 45.

    Floriana Cerniglia and Laura Pagani (2015) ‘Political Knowledge and Attitudes towards Centralisation in Europe’, Fiscal Studies, 36 (2), 215–36, pp. 234–5.

  46. 46.

    Jürgen De Wispelaere and José Antonio Noguera (2012) ‘On the Political Feasibility of Universal Basic Income: An Analytic Framework’, pp. 17–38 in Richard Caputo (ed.) Basic Income Guarantee: International Experiences and Perspectives on the Viability of Income Guarantee (New York: Palgrave Macmillan), p. 29.

  47. 47.

    Stuart White (2003) The Civic Minimum: On the Rights and Obligations of Economic Citizenship (Oxford: Oxford University Press), p. 152.

  48. 48.

    Stuart White (2006) ‘Reconsidering the Exploitation Objection to Basic Income’, Basic Income Studies, 1 (2), 1–24, p. 13.

  49. 49.

    Stuart White (2003) The Civic Minimum, pp. 155–62.

  50. 50.

    Richard Murphy and Howard Reed (2013) Financing the Social State: Towards a full employment economy (London: Centre for Labour and Social Studies), pp. 25–7.

  51. 51.

    Basic Income Grant Coalition (2009) Making the Difference: The BIG in Namibia: Basic Income Grant Pilot Project, Assessment Report (Namibia: Basic Income Grant Coalition, Namibia NGO Forum),, 23/09/2011; Sarath Davala, Renana Jhabvala, Soumya Kapoor Mehta and Guy Standing (2014) Basic Income: A Transformative Policy for India (London: Bloomsbury).

  52. 52.

    Karl Widerquist and Michael W. Howard (eds) (2012) Alaska’s Permanent Fund Dividend: Examining its suitability as a model (New York: Palgrave Macmillan).

  53. 53.

    Hamid Tabatabai (2012) ‘Iran: A Bumpy Road toward Basic Income’, pp. 285–300 in Richard Caputo (ed.) Basic Income Guarantee and Politics: International Experiences and Perspectives on the Viability of Income Guarantee (New York: Palgrave Macmillan).

  54. 54.

    Claus Offe (2013) ‘Pathways from Here’, pp. 560–63 in Karl Widerquist, José A. Noguera, Yannick Vanderborght, and Jürgen De Wispelaere, Basic Income: An anthology of contemporary research (Chichester: Wiley Blackwell), p. 561.

  55. 55.

    Peter Esam and Richard Berthoud (1991) Independent Benefits for Men and Women: An enquiry into option for treating husbands and wives as separate units in the assessment of social security (London: Policy Studies Institute).

  56. 56.

    Bill Jordan, Phil Agulnik, Duncan Burbidge and Stuart Duffin (2000) Stumbling Towards Basic Income: The prospects for tax-benefit integration (London: Citizen’s Income Trust), p. 65.

  57. 57.

    Tony Atkinson, ‘Participation Income’ (1993) Citizen’s Income Bulletin, no. 16, pp. 7–11; A.B. Atkinson, (1996) ‘The Case for a Participation Income’, The Political Quarterly, 67 (1), 67–70.

  58. 58.

    Yannick Vanderborght (2005) ‘The Basic Income Guarantee in Europe: The Belgian and Dutch back door strategies’, pp. 257–81 in Karl Widerquist, Michael Anthony Lewis and Steven Pressman (eds.) The Ethics and Economics of the Basic Income Guarantee (Aldershot: Ashgate), pp. 274–6; Rie Takamatsu and Toshiaki Tachibanaki (2014) ‘What Needs to be Considered when Introducing a New Welfare System: Who supports Basic Income in Japan?’ pp. 197–218 in Yannick Vanderborght and Toru Yamamori (eds) Basic Income in Japan: Prospects for a radical idea in a transforming welfare state (New York: Palgrave Macmillan), p. 205.

  59. 59.

    Jürgen De Wispelaere and José Antonio Noguera (2012) ‘On the Political Feasibility of Universal Basic Income: An Analytic Framework’, pp. 17–38 in Richard Caputo (ed.) Basic Income Guarantee: International Experiences and Perspectives on the Viability of Income Guarantee (New York: Palgrave Macmillan), p. 29.

  60. 60.

    Yannick Vanderborght and Yuki Sekine (2014) ‘A Comparative Look at the Feasibility of Basic Income in the Japanese Welfare State’, pp. 15–34 in Yannick Vanderborght and Toru Yamamori (eds) Basic Income in Japan: Prospects for a radical idea in a transforming welfare state (New York: Palgrave Macmillan), p. 31.

  61. 61.

    Christian Albrekt Larsen (2006) The Institutional Logic of Welfare Attitudes: How welfare regimes influence public support (Aldershot: Ashgate), p. 48. Perceived deservingness rises as the group’s control over neediness falls, level of need rises, the identity of the group strengthens, the group expresses gratitude, and a future payback can be expected.

  62. 62.

    Richard M. Coughlin (1980) Ideology, Public Opinion and Welfare Policy, p. 95; Stefan Svallfors (2012) ‘Welfare States and Welfare Attitudes’, p. 6.

  63. 63.

    Wim van Oorschot and Bart Meuleman (2012) ‘Welfare Performance and Welfare Support’, pp. 25–57 in Stefan Svallfors (ed.) Contested Welfare States: Welfare attitudes in Europe and Beyond (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press), p. 52.

  64. 64.

    Peter Saunders and Maneerat Pinyopusarek (2001) ‘Popularity and Participation: Social security reform in Australia’, pp. 143–64 in Erik Schokkaert, Ethics and Social Security Reform (Aldershot: Ashgate), p. 161.

  65. 65.

    Denmark and the Netherlands: see Pensions Policy Institute for the National Association of Pension Funds (2014) Towards a Citizen’s Pension (London: National Association of Pension Funds), p. 27: The UK’s new STP will be close to a Citizen’s Pension.

  66. 66.

    Jan Mewes and Steffen Mau (2012) ‘Unraveling Working-class Welfare Chauvinism’, pp. 119–57 in Stefan Svallfors (ed.) Contested Welfare States: Welfare attitudes in Europe and Beyond (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press), pp. 149–50.

  67. 67.

    Christian Albrekt Larsen (2006) The Institutional Logic of Welfare Attitudes: How welfare regimes influence public support (Aldershot: Ashgate), p. 4. Cf. p 109: the higher the degree of means-testing, the more the recipient group will be stigmatized. In each country that he studies, Coughlin traces both welfare state structures and social attitudes to welfare provision back to nineteenth-century elite presuppositions: Richard M. Coughlin (1980) Ideology, Public Opinion and Welfare Policy, p. 51.

  68. 68.

    Christian Albrekt Larsen, The Institutional Logic of Welfare Attitudes, p. 145.

  69. 69.

    Itaba, Yoshio (2014) ‘What Do People Think about Basic Income in Japan?’ pp. 171–95 in Yannick Vanderborght and Toru Yamamori (eds) Basic Income in Japan: Prospects for a radical idea in a transforming welfare state (New York: Palgrave Macmillan).

  70. 70.

  71. 71.
  72. 72.

    Richard M. Coughlin (1980) Ideology, Public Opinion and Welfare Policy, p. 99.

  73. 73.

    Malcolm Torry (2013) Money for Everyone: Why we need a Citizen’s Income, Bristol: Policy Press, pp. 22–5.

  74. 74.

    Thirty-nine per cent of workers between the ages of fifty and sixty-four would like to work shorter hours in the same job, and in this age group, 18 % are self-employed, 28 % are working part-time, and 23 % have negotiated flexible working arrangements with their employers (Department for Work and Pensions (2013) Older Workers Statistical Information Booklet 2013 (London: Department for Work and Pensions),, p. 15). Alfageme, Pastor, and Viñado suggest that a Citizen’s Income would work well with their proposal that throughout the lifecycle, there ought to be opportunities to take periods out of employment paid for by sacrificing pension. This provision could be particularly valuable for pre-retirement working-age adults. See Alfredo Alfageme, Begoña García Pastor and Celia Viñado (2012) ‘Temporary exit from employment and Citizen’s Income: A reply’, Critical Social Policy, 32 (4), 716–19. Jay Ginn has suggested that a Citizen’s Income approach would be preferable to their proposed funding mechanism: Jay Ginn (2012) ‘Temporary exit from employment: A response’, Critical Social Policy, 32 (4), 709–15.

  75. 75.

    Ben Baumberg (2012) ‘Three ways to defend social security in Britain’, Journal of Poverty and Social Justice, 20 (2), 149–61, pp. 158–9.

  76. 76.

    T. Alexander Smith (1975) The Comparative Policy Process (Santa Barbara, California: Clio Press), pp. 169–71.

  77. 77.

    Louise Humpage (2015) Policy Change, Public Attitudes and Social Citizenship: Does Neoliberalism Matter? (Bristol: Policy Press), p. 228.

  78. 78.

    Louise Humpage (2015) Policy Change, Public Attitudes and Social Citizenship, p. 240.

  79. 79.

    Louise Humpage (2015) Policy Change, Public Attitudes and Social Citizenship, p. 244.

  80. 80.

    Richard M. Coughlin (1980) Ideology, Public Opinion and Welfare Policy, p. 161.

  81. 81.

    Stefan Liebig and Steffen Mau (2004) ‘A Legitimate Guaranteed Minimum Income?’ pp. 210–11.

  82. 82.

    Charles E. Lindblom (1980) The Policy-making Process, p. 57.

Copyright information

© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Malcolm Torry
    • 1
  1. 1.LondonUK

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