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Hayek Programme Online Webinar Series

Universal Basic Income (UBI) as a tool of adaptation and discovery

Otto Lehto (NYU)

Thursday 07 March 2024 18:00 - 19:30

Many of our seminars and public events this year will continue as in person or as hybrid (online and in person) events. Please check our website listings and Twitter feed @STICERD_LSE for updates.

Unless otherwise specified, in-person seminars are open to the public.

Those unable to join the seminars in-person are welcome to participate via zoom if the event is hybrid.


About this event

Many of its proponents argue that UBI gives recipients "real freedom" (Van Parijs), consumer sovereignty (Friedman, Hayek), or increased protection against domination and exploitation in the labour market (Pettit, Standing, Widerquist). At the same time, many critics worry about the costs of the program.

Assuming that UBI indeed has freedom-increasing properties, and that it can be implemented in a fiscally sound manner, how attractive a proposal (if at all) is UBI as "real freedom"? Issues of justice, fairness, and efficiency must all play a part in the debate. However, my talk argues that the best case for UBI-as-freedom lies in its capacity to act as a tool of adaptation in the face of radical uncertainty, social complexity, and emerging crises (like pandemics and A.I.). The increased autonomy that UBI gives to people may facilitate more creative and decentralized ways of solving problems. If the incentives are properly aligned, the decentralized actions of free and autonomous citizenry will lead to more innovations and more productive uses of resources. This benefits society on the whole. Of course, without sufficient safeguards, UBI-as-freedom may lead to various undesirable social outcomes, including a host of antisocial, unproductive, and destructive behaviours and attitudes. This means that UBI should be integrated into a broader institutional perspective that interferes minimally with the real freedom of the citizens but indirectly guides people's actions towards the public good.

Otto Lehto is a philosopher and political economist whose current work focuses on PPE, complexity theory, evolutionary theory, political philosophy, ethics, basic income, social epistemology, human enhancement, and naturalism. He is currently a postdoctoral research fellow at NYU School of Law (2022-) and an affiliated Junior Researcher at University of Freiburg's FRIBIS Institute (2021-). He gained his PhD in Political Economy from King’s College London (2022) on the topic of Complex Adaptation and Permissionless Innovation: An Evolutionary Approach to Universal Basic Income. He also has a BA in English Philology (2009) and a Master's Degree in Social and Moral Philosophy (2015) from University of Helsinki. He is the recipient of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) LAHP studentship (2017-2019), Adam Smith Fellowship at George Mason University (2019-2020), and a Templeton Foundation Grant at King’s College London (2020). He is currently writing a book about basic income, innovation, and freedom. His website is www.ottolehto.com.

The online webinar series of the LSE Hayek Programme will feature academic scholars or policy experts on a range of interdisciplinary topics that are related in some way to the intellectual contributions of F.A. Hayek.

These include individualism and economic freedom, the nature and future of liberal democracy, social justice and welfare, decision-making under radical uncertainty, macroeconomic management, the rule of law and justice, and others.

All sessions will be conducted on Zoom, lasting 1.5 hours, with a structured format of 45 minutes for speaker presentations followed by a 45-minute Q&A session. Additionally, for those unable to attend live, all webinars will be recorded for later access.

Events in the series will begin in March 2024, usually held one Thursday each month, from 6pm - 7:30pm unless otherwise stated.

For further information please contact Bryan Cheang, by email: b.cheang@lse.ac.uk.