Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Adrienne Martin

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Social programs that provide relief to the poor have been proposed in various forms, and through a variety of moral justifications, over the course of centuries. Gradually, some of these justifications have developed into the idea of a universal basic income, which is seeing a modern resurgence in our day and age. In this paper I follow the historical development of this idea, contrasting teleological and deontological conceptions for it. This account of historical arguments includes the works of the likes of Thomas More, Thomas Paine, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Before examining the contemporary arguments for basic income, I first defend egalitarianism by responding to the levelling-down objection. I then go into detail on Phillipe Van Parijs’ liberal egalitarian conception of justice which he uses to justify a basic income. Van Parijs explores the possibility of basing his justification on John Rawls’ theory of justice, specifically the primary goods and the difference principle, and consequently shifts towards a view grounded in Ronald Dworkin’s luck egalitarianism.

Luck egalitarianism, while regarded as a mainstream conception of equality, draws heavy criticism from Elizabeth Anderson, who argues that today’s egalitarian thinkers have lost sight of what constitutes the core of egalitarian philosophy. Rather than compensating for brute luck, which is the proposal defended by Dworkin, Anderson presents a competing relational egalitarian view called democratic equality, which is centered on realizing a positive aim and a negative aim. The negative aim is to end oppression, and the positive aim is to create a society in which there is equal standing between individuals. Anderson considers distributive justice a means to achieving the ends of relational equality. I argue that a universal basic income can be justified by means of Anderson’s democratic equality in order to achieve the principles of justice that she identifies as the core of egalitarian concern.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.