A sweeping intellectual history of the welfare state’s policy-in-waiting.
The idea of a government paying its citizens to keep them out of poverty—now known as basic income—is hardly new. Often dated as far back as ancient Rome, basic income’s modern conception truly emerged in the late nineteenth century. Yet as one of today’s most controversial proposals, it draws supporters from across the political spectrum.
In this eye-opening work, Anton Jäger and Daniel Zamora Vargas trace basic income from its rise in American and British policy debates following periods of economic tumult to its modern relationship with technopopulist figures in Silicon Valley. They chronicle how the idea first arose in the United States and Europe as a market-friendly alternative to the postwar welfare state and how interest in the policy has grown in the wake of the 2008 credit crisis and COVID-19 crash.
An incisive, comprehensive history, Welfare for Markets tells the story of how a fringe idea conceived in economics seminars went global, revealing the most significant shift in political culture since the end of the Cold War.