An article published on 30 January 2024 by, a German platform that aims to promote sustainable lifestyles, came up with two opposing positions on the Universal Basic Income. Economists Bernhard Neumärker, Director of FRIBIS, and Giacomo Corneo, Professor of Public Finance at the Free University of Berlin, each put forward their arguments. And despite their differences, they agreed that the existing social system needs to be reformed.

Bernhard Neumärker on the potential of the UBI

For Bernhard Neumärker the UBI is far more than a mere response to “wage slavery”. Instead he sees it as a catalyst for a fairer and more productive economy. The UBI would give workers in the low-wage sector an “exit option” which could lead to fairer wages and make society as a whole more productive as people would have the freedom to choose work that suits their inclinations. Neumärker argues that the UBI would reduce bureaucracy, increase individual freedom and allow people to refuse morally dubious or exploitative jobs. A UBI could respond more flexibly and purposefully in times of crisis than means-tested systems, such as Hartz IV (the German unemployment benefit and social security system). Here he highlights the positive effects on mental health, based on experiments, in Finland, for example.

Basic income sceptic, Giacomo Corneo

Giacomo Corneo, on the other hand, is critical of the introduction of a Basic Income, arguing that a UBI would be divisive. It could, for instance, lead to some people living exclusively from the basic income while others continue to work and have to pay tax on a large proportion of their income in order to finance the basic income. Here, Corneo sees the danger of an “exploitative relationship”. As an alternative, he envisages a “stock market socialism” in which bigger companies are to a large extent (at least 51%) publicly owned and their dividends are used for a form of social dividend. This would, however, be lower than a UBI.

For more about the arguments and responses of Prof. Neumärker and Prof. Corneo, see the article here (in German).