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Minimum Wage or Base income?



The question has been sometimes asked about the link between a minimum wage and a basic income. There is even a confusion between the two. Gabriel Barta brings in this article a few elements that raise the thinking on the topic.


The base between the two concepts, from the practical aspects to the theory are radically different:

  • Where the minimum wage induce an external rule to the relationship between an employer and employee, the basic income is shaped in the form of an effective transfer of money from the company to an individual person, independently from any type of employment.
  • The resources involved in one case are exclusively those of the employer, in the other one those of the whole society. These resources include indirectly those of all employers but many other ones also.
  • The improvement aimed by the minimum wage concerns uniquely the people who have a job and earn little, whereas the goal of the basic income is to materialize a right that every inhabitant owns, should they earn few or a lot, being employed or not.

It is true that a certain part of the problematic will make one and another to be wished all the same: improve the fate of poor people. Those for whom this specific problem must be solved urgently are often in favor of the two solutions, which are as a matter of fact perfectly compatible. But since the problem of the poor people form only a small part of the motivation of a basic income, and that a lot of its defenders find other aspects more important or promising; a minimum wage could never represent an alternative to the basic income and even less pretend to make it unnecessary.

The state of the potential interactions between the two concepts or their mutual influence is a lot more complex. It is obvious that a minimum wage added to a basic income wouldn’t need to be so high as a revenue would be. There is no consensus, even among the defenders of a minimum wage on the fact that such a minima would remain necessary or not once a basic income is achieved. Likewise, the effects on everyone’s purse and the employment are not evaluated from the same manner by everyone, should it be for the minimum wage or the basic income or their conjunction.

It clearly comes out of those considerations based on the motivation of the effects of the two concepts that their political base is completely different. The minimum wage is a left-wing project, from those for whom the state regulation that tend to diminish inequalities must be reinforced. The basic income does not instate any new government rule, in the sense that it implies a reshape of social insurances (It even tends to reduce the power of the state) but it changes the relationship between society and individuals. This is as much a project defended by the right (since it is much more liberal than the actual regime), as the left (diminution of poverty) and finds its more solid foundation in the rights and values of a human being, which is a completely neutral consideration.

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