Universal Basic Income: An Idea Whose Time Has Come?

Join our panel of distinguished Catholic thinkers to discuss a variety of perspectives on Universal Basic Income.

Date & Time:

Friday, February 9, 2018
4:00 PM - 6:00 PM


Frey Moot Court Room

School of Law

University of St. Thomas, Minneapolis campus

(Clockwise, l-r) William Cavanaugh, Santo Cruz, Christine Firer Hinze, Msgr. Martin Schlag


(Clockwise, l-r) William Cavanaugh, Santo Cruz, Christine Firer Hinze, Msgr. Martin Schlag

Universal Basic Income: An Idea Whose Time Has Come?

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.”

This spring the Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law, and Public Policy is hosting a panel of distinguished Catholic thinkers to discuss a variety of perspectives on the UBI:

William Cavanaugh is Professor of Catholic studies at De Paul 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.  Among the books he has authored are Being Consumed: Economics and Christian Desire (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2008) and Field Hospital: The Church's Engagement in Markets, Politics, and Conflict (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2016).

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.

Christine Firer Hinze is Professor of Theology at Fordham University in New York City, and Director of the Francis and Ann Curran Center for American Catholic Studies. She holds a B.A. in religion and an M.A. in theology from the Catholic University of America, and a PhD in Christian social ethics from the University of Chicago. Her teaching and research focus on foundational and applied issues in Christian social ethics with special emphasis on the dynamics of social transformation, Catholic social thought, and economic and work justice for vulnerable women, families and groups. She is the author of Comprehending Power in Christian Social Ethics (Oxford, 1995), and Glass Ceilings, Dirt Floors: Women, Work, and the Global Economy (Madeleva Lecture Series, Paulist Press, 2015) .

Msgr. Martin Schlag holds the Alan W. Moss endowed Chair for Catholic Social Thought at the University of St. Thomas and holds joint appointment 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.

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