Work vs. Freedom: A Liberal Challenge to Employment Subsidies

92 Pages Posted: 16 Dec 2013

See all articles by Anne Alstott

Anne Alstott

Yale University - Law School

Date Written: December 1, 1999


This Article argues that employment subsidies could help ameliorate the situation of low-income workers but that they concede too much to the work-centered agenda that motivated the 1996 welfare legislation that enacted TANF. The case for employment subsidies, the Article argues, rests on mistaken but morally dubious claims about the intrinsic or instrumental value of paid work. By contrast, a program of unconditional cash grants would enhance the freedom and economic security of the least advantaged.

The Article undertakes a detailed comparison of the justifications for and effects of employment subsidies and unconditional cash grants and argues that the latter would enhance the freedom of the poor, pave the way for labor-market reforms, and capture administrative savings.

Keywords: EITC, employment subsidies, low-income workers, minimum wage, basic income

JEL Classification: H2, H53, I3

Suggested Citation

Alstott, Anne L., Work vs. Freedom: A Liberal Challenge to Employment Subsidies (December 1, 1999). Yale Law Journal, Vol. 108, 967, 1999. Available at SSRN:

Anne L. Alstott (Contact Author)

Yale University - Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
United States


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