Basic income and intimate labor
Vida Panitch argues that an unconditional basic income UBI has the potential to resolve a long-standing political and philosophical dispute concerning a particular kind of labor market, namely, the market in intimate labor. Liberal and communitarian theorists have long been embroiled in a dispute over the appropriate criminal law response to intimate labor, including both sex work and surrogacy. Panitch shows that neither party’s concerns are resolved by the criminal law response each favors, and that their collective efforts would be better devoted to arguing for a UBI instead, set at a level adequate to ensuring an alternative to intimate work and provided as part of a decent package of in-kind benefits and social services. A UBI with these characteristics would enhance autonomous choice for women who want to leave the intimate trades, without undermining the autonomy of those who prefer the work, as the liberal project demands. It could at the same time prevent important social relations from becoming relations of capital, thereby demonstrating a commitment to the relationality and solidarism central to the communitarian project. Panitch concludes that both liberal and communitarian roads lead away from a criminal law response to intimate labor and toward a basic income.