UBS: A Theoretical and Moral Framework

Ian Gough – The Political Quarterly, 2019

There is important debate around how to define the “basic” in UBS and Ian Gough (CASE, LSE) has made a vital contribution to that discussion in this paper addressing how we define needs and how they are satisfied.

This article provides a theoretical justification for extending the delivery of public services.

It rests on human need theory and the concept of provisioning systems, recognising the irreducible heterogeneity of consumption, the multi-faceted nature of human needs and the variety of systems on which we all depend. Secondly recognising the importance of shared systems and mutual benefits. The final part restates the case for social rights or entitlements to the satisfaction of basic needs and for collective responsibilities to meet them to serve the values of equality, efficiency, solidarity and sustainability.

Unless a robust justification is spelt out, the case for UBS will be continually undermined by appeals to respect consumer sovereignty and market democracy. The purpose of this paper is to ground the case for UBS in a broader conceptual and moral framework.

The case for Universal Basic Services made here is one part, but an essential part, of a rejection of turbo consumer capitalism and a renewal of social citizenship: a shift from customers and consumers to residents and citizens.

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