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In Defense of a Democratic Productivist Welfare State


In this article, I defend a democratic form of the productivist welfare state. I argue that this form of the state can best cope, theoretically and practically, with the diversity of deeply morally pluralistic democratic societies for two reasons. First, the justification of this form of the state rests solely on general facts about human nature, basic human needs, and efficiency considerations in a world of moderately scarce resources. Second, this state does not aim to promote a specific view of justice, but human flourishing more generally, expressed in terms of individual and collective productivity. The proposed democratic productivist welfare state supports its citizens up to the level that allows them to develop and exercise their talents and abilities without providing incentives for free riding. I argue that, under the specific empirical circumstances that I describe, in particular certain informational restrictions concerning the precise productive and destructive capacities of the members of society in practice and the soundness of the Aristotelian principle, this goal may best be achieved in practice by the introduction of an unconditional basic income at subsistence level, if society is sufficiently developed economically to provide such an income. On productivist grounds, such an unconditional subsistence income also addresses, pragmatically and partially, the problem of historical injustices against the weakest members of society and provides all group members with the means for democratic participation.