Basic Income and the Alaska Model: Limits of the Resource Dividend Model for the Implementation of an Unconditional Basic Income
Alaska’s Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) is often hailed as the only existing basic income in the world. As such, it is held up as a model and inspiration for the implementation of basic income schemes in other US states and other countries. In this chapter, I question the characterization of the PFD as either a basic income or a robust model for one. I argue instead that the PFD is a resource dividend, a form of redistribution that is related to, but not synonymous with, a basic income. While the ideas of basic income and resource dividends share some philosophical justifications and some roots in intellectual history, they are different enough that they ought not to be confused. Beyond a philosophical desire for semantic clarity, the distinction matters because the justifications for different forms of redistribution, both those justifications that are part of the popular understanding and those that have a more limited academic currency, affect their chances for implementation, their sustainability, and their vulnerability to political processes. In particular, it is possible to design resource dividends in ways that are incompatible with the goals of a basic income and that lead to outcomes in tension with, if not opposed to, its goals. The prominence of the Alaska model in the contemporary basic income debate challenges basic income supporters to more clearly define the idea and specify criteria for the design of basic income schemes.
KeywordsPoverty Threshold Basic Income Social Insurance Program Social Assistance Program Philosophical Root
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