Are there ways that contemporary capitalism can be rendered a dramatically more egalitarian economic system without destroying its productivity and capacity for growth? This book explores two proposals, unconditional basic income and stakeholder grants, that attempt just that. In a system of basic income, as elaborated by Philippe van Parijs, all citizens are given a monthly stipend sufficient to provide them with a no-frills but adequate standard of living. This monthly income is universal rather than means-tested, and it is unconditional--receiving the basic income does not depend upon performing any labor services or satisfying other conditions. It affirms the idea that as a matter of basic rights, no one should live in poverty in an affluent society. In a system of stakeholder grants, as discussed by Bruce Ackerman and Anne Alstott, all citizens upon reaching the age of early adulthood receive a substantial one-time lump-sum grant sufficiently large so that all young adults would be significant wealth holders. Ackerman and Alstott propose that this grant be in the vicinity of $80,000 and be financed by an annual wealth tax of roughly 2 percent.
A system of stakeholder grants, they argue, "expresses a fundamental responsibility: every American has an obligation to contribute to a fair starting point for all." This is volume 5 of the Real Utopias Project, which embraces a tension between dreams and practice. It is founded on the belief that what is pragmatically possibly is not fixed independently of our imaginations, but is itself shaped by our vision. The fulfilment of such a belief involves "real utopias": utopian ideals that are grounded in the real potentials for redesigning social institutions. In its attempt at sustaining the deepening serious discussion of radical alternatives to existing social practices, the Real Utopias Project examines various basic institutions and focuses on specific proposals for their fundamental redesign
Series editor Erik Olin Wright is Vilas Distinguished Professor of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin. His empirical research has focused especially on the changing character of class relations in developed capitalist societies. Since 1992 he has directed the Real Utopias Project. Bruce Ackerman is Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at the Yale Law School. Anne Alstott is Deputy Dean and Jacquin D. Bierman Professor of Taxation at the Yale Law School. Phillipe Van Parijs is a professor at the Universite Catholique de Louvain, and a visiting professor of the Philosophy Department of Harvard University.