Universal Basic Income: An Idea Whose Time Has Come?

Join our distinguished panelists for a discussion of Universal Basic Income from a variety of perspectives.

Date & Time:

Friday, February 9, 2018
4:00 PM - 5:30 PM



Approved for 2.0 standard CLE credits. There will be a light reception in the atrium immediately following the program.


Frey Moot Courtroom
School of Law
University of St. Thomas, Minneapolis campus


Approved for 2.0 standard CLE credits (event code: 251482).

POLICYMAKERS across the globe are demonstrating a renewed interest in a proposal for addressing poverty that is at least as old as St. Thomas More’s Utopia (1516):  a guarantee of a basic income for all adult citizens, or “universal basic income” (UBI).  UBI proposals have been endorsed recently by tech innovators such as Tesla’s Elon Musk, Microsoft’s Bill Gates, and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg.  Pilot projects experimenting with UBI grants have begun in Finland, the Netherlands, Italy, and Canada.  Current proponents often point to long history of supporters of versions of the UBI, from Thomas More to Thomas Paine, John Stuart Mill and Bertrand Russell. 

UBI supporters cross ideological and political divides and have included conservative economists from Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek, to liberal economists John Kenneth Galbraith and James Tobin.  In 1970, President Richard Nixon’s proposed a “Family Assistance Plan,” providing a modest UBI, which was passed by the House of Representatives, but could not get Senate approval.  An April 2017 TIME article noted that: “Today, thinkers on the left see the UBI as a way to combat poverty and inequality as well as a potential palliative to the disruptions to workers caused by technology.  To the right, the idea is an attractively simple alternative to bloated social-welfare regimes.”

Join our distinguished panel to discuss various perspectives on universal basic income.  We recommend that you watch the first 5 minutes of this TedX talk with Rutger Bergman "Why We Should Give Everyone a Basic Income" as background information for the discussion.

William Cavanaugh is Professor of Catholic Studies at DePaul University in Chicago, and Director of the Center for World Catholicism and Intercultural Theology.  He holds a B.A. in theology from Notre Dame, an M.A. from Cambridge University, and Ph.D. in religion from Duke University.  Professor Cavanaugh taught at the University of St. Thomas from 1995 to 2010.  His areas of specialization are in political theology, economic ethics, and ecclesiology. 

Santo Cruz is Deputy Commissioner of the External Relations Administration at the Minnesota Department of Human Services, where he is intimately involved with the administration of Minnesota’s current welfare benefits system, with its complicated mix of federal and state powers. Mr. Cruz holds a B.A. in Catholic Studies from the University of St. Thomas and a J.D. from the University of St. Thomas School of Law.

Msgr. Martin Schlag holds the Alan W. Moss Endowed Chair for Catholic Social Thought at the University of St. Thomas and joint appointments in the Department of Catholic Studies in the College of Arts and Science and in the Department of Ethics and Business in the Opus College of Business.

Kate Ward is Assistant Professor of Theological Ethics at Marquette University. Her published and forthcoming articles on questions of economic ethics, virtue ethics, and ethical method appear in journals including Theological Studies, Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics, and Journal of Religious Ethics. She recently coedited an issue of the journal Religions, focused on economic inequality, with Kenneth R. Himes, and is at work on a book manuscript entitled "Wealth, Virtue, and Moral Luck: Christian Ethics in an Age of Inequality." Dr. Ward graduated from Harvard College, where she studied psychology, in 2005, and earned her M.Div with a concentration in Bible from Catholic Theological Union in 2011. Before beginning her Ph.D. studies, she worked at AFSCME Council 31, a labor union organizing workers in Catholic health care settings.

The discussion will be moderated by William Junker, Assistant Professor of Catholic Studies and Co-director of the Terrence J.  Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law, and Public Policy.

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