Examining the ethical underpinnings of Universal Basic Income as a public health policy : prophylaxis, social engineering and ‘good’ lives

Johnson, Matthew and Johnson, Elliott (2021) Examining the ethical underpinnings of Universal Basic Income as a public health policy : prophylaxis, social engineering and ‘good’ lives. Journal of Medical Ethics, 47 (12): e71. ISSN 0306-6800

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At a time of COVID-19 Pandemic, Universal Basic Income (UBI) has been presented as a potential public health ‘upstream intervention’. Research indicates a possible impact on health by reducing poverty, fostering health-promoting behaviour and ameliorating biopsychosocial pathways to health. This novel case for UBI as a public health measure is starting to receive attention from a range of political positions and organizations. However, discussion of the ethical underpinnings of UBI as a public health policy is sparse. This is depriving policymakers of clear perspectives about the reasons for, restrictions to and potential for the policy’s design and implementation. In this article, we note prospective pathways to impact on health in order to assess fit with Rawlsian, capabilities and perfectionist approaches to public health policy. We suggest that Raz’ pluralist perfectionist approach may fit most comfortably with the prospective pathways to impact, which has implications for allocation of resources.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Journal of Medical Ethics
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This article has been accepted for publication in Journal of Medical Ethics 2021 following peer review, and the Version of Record can be accessed online at https://doi.org/10.1136/medethics-2020-106477 “© Authors (or their employer(s)) OR “© BMJ Publishing Group Ltd” ( for assignments of BMJ Case Reports) “ “Reuse of this manuscript version (excluding any databases, tables, diagrams, photographs and other images or illustrative material included where a another copyright owner is identified) is permitted strictly pursuant to the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial 4.0 International (CC-BY-NC 4.0) http://creativecommons.org BMJ Authors Self-Archiving Policy, September 2018 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/”
Uncontrolled Keywords:
?? health(social science)issues, ethics and legal aspectshealth policy ??
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Deposited On:
07 Dec 2020 10:20
Last Modified:
12 Feb 2024 00:38