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1IntroductionRobert Goodin (1992) defends Basic Income (BI) as a minimally presumptuous scheme of social protection. Because BI makes no assumptions about the beneficiary nor about his or her surrogates or proxies for identification, it is less susceptible to sociological error, less vulnerable to social change and, as a result, more efficient than targeted or conditional schemes.In the same vein, I will defend BI as a non-distrustful scheme of income support, especially when compared to Conditional Cash Transfers (CCTs), the dominant anti-poverty program across the developing world, which supplements the income of more than 20% of the Latin American population (Cecchini & Atuesta, 2017, p. 21). While BI imposes no restrictions on the manner in which citizens can spend their transfers, nor does it make the benefits conditional on specific behavioral changes, CCTs make transfers dependent on the fulfillment by poor mothers of two basic human capital requirements, which must be duly proved: sending their children regularly to school and health checkups. As I will argue, these conditions entail an attitude of suspicion and distrust by the political community which presumes that poverty is not just a temporary lack of the necessary means of subsistence but is, above all, symptomatic of a moral defect.Despite all this, suspicion and distrust are not immediately a problem. Two conditions need to be met for the constitution of a normative problematic surrounding these particular attitudes. First, suspicion and distrust must be unwarranted; if they were solely directed toward unequivocally dishonest individuals, then it would be an effective attitude to detect potential social risks, such as free-riding, harm to the children, and so on. Second, the harm of being arbitrarily distrusted should not be completely overshadowed by likely relational improvements, as in the case of strict controls and surveillance needed to receive a millionaire bequest that will improve your social position or when checks and tests are part of the application process to a high esteemed job.When there are less suspicious alternatives procedures, the relational harm of distrust will not be completely overshadowed. I thank an anonymous referee for pointing me the importance of alternative procedures in this analysis.Finally, the specificity of the normative problem of unmerited distrust depends on its distribution: if everyone were to be distrusted across endless domains of action, the problem is general, since basic conditions for a society will be compromised; if only some groups or individuals are distrusted and suspected, the normative problem is relational since stereotypes, biases and hierarchies would find a fertile ground for their development.These conditions are essential for CCTs. A typical rejoinder of the conditionality model is that the numerous advantages of being a distrusted CCT beneficiary far outweigh any relational harm made to the individual. After all, evaluations of Latin American CCTs have been, in general, largely positive. Investment in human capital has increased slowly but regularly over time; health and nutrition indicators applicable to both parents and children have also risen (Cecchini & Madariaga, 2011, pp. 117–155). Furthermore, qualitative surveys measuring the impact of the program have found that CCT beneficiaries display increased levels of self-confidence, make more accurate decisions in the household and have expanded their social capital.I will argue that these two conditions present in Latin American CCTs are an expression of distrust and suspicion which insults their beneficiaries and is functional to social hierarchies. In other words, while the default attitude of suspicion toward the poor becomes a central tenet in the establishment of unequal societies, the non-distrustful attitude adopted by BI is an important element in the creation of more egalitarian societies.The structure of this paper is as follows: first, it provides a working definition of attitudes of distrust and suspicion applicable to anti-poverty policies (2). Second, it exposes the specific CCTs’ design rules and expectations that betray this conception of suspicion (3.1). Third, it analyzes a series of evaluations of different CCTs in order to demonstrate that no adequate empirical evidence exists to warrant the suspicion of impoverished mothers (3.2). Fourth, it argues that, unlike BI, CCTs insult their beneficiaries by creating an arbitrary hierarchy of ‘trustworthy individuals’ while at the same time denying them of the respect associated with such a membership (3.3). Fifth, it confronts the argument with several challenges that, on the one hand, support conditionality without appealing to suspicion (4.1), and on the other, turn trust and distrust into secondary considerations in the design of income support programs (4.2 and 4.3).2Defining Distrust and SuspicionThe aim of this section is not to justify a universally valid conception of distrust, but to offer a working definition of distrust and suspicion that is robust enough to account for the monitoring, guarding, deterrence, and punishment imposed on the beneficiaries of public assistance.Distrust involves a threefold relation between distrusted and distruster. Except in pathological cases, people do not trust or mistrust others wholesale; instead, they trust that individuals will act (or fail to act) in a specific manner, or else, distrust them for doing (or not doing) a specific thing. Even in cases when an intimate degree of trust is manifestly present, as in the case of loving couples, distrust and trust often coexist.The definition of distrust adopted here has three elements. First, it has a motivational component. Unlike trust, distrust is aimed at rejecting or minimizing the risk involved in the interactions with others. In this sense, distrust appears to be a more active attitude than trust. Usually, a distruster minimizes his or her vulnerability through monitoring, supervision, or the creation of obstacles in order to bar potential harmful behaviors on the part of the distrusted (Baier, 1986).Second, distrust contains a cognitive element that helps determine how to evaluate the existing evidence when passing judgment. It requires thinking negatively about the distrusted, that is, concentrating on the worst possible interpretation of her or his intentions. An employer will distrust his employee’s absence from work assuming that he just does not want to work that day and that he has lied about being sick, until the truthfulness of such absence can be confirmed by an occupational doctor. Conversely, trust, as Baier (1995, p. 136) observes, requires giving another person the benefit of the doubt.Finally, distrust is also focused on some competences or abilities of the distrusted. An employer distrusts the employee to issue paychecks if the employer is pessimistic about the employee’s technical competence to perform that task. The employer does not need to assume that this incompetence is due to a lack of will or to an intention to harm the company; as stated earlier, distrust is compatible with trust in others areas of interaction, i.e. when the employer is optimistic on employee’s technical competence to transfer phone calls (McLeod 2015).In this paper, distrust will be understood as an attitude based on (and mediated by) the general expectation that, if the opportunity presents itself, the other party will try to take advantage of a given situation by exploiting a vulnerable aspect of ourselves.Two additional elements are crucial for the purposes of this paper. First, distrust can be either warranted or unwarranted. Second, the negative assessment of another person’s intentions entails an intricate heuristic which takes into account heterogenous elements associated with the act of interpreting them: the distrusted’s past behavior and body language, the distruster’s previous experience, the possibility of communication, the initial processes of socialization, membership in a particular social group, the importance of the good at stake, etc. (Ostrom, 2003, pp. 40–47). Because this process is learned through various social contexts, it is highly permeable to prejudices and stereotypes and can reduce cooperation to a tight circle held by kinship and friendship (Anderson, 2010, pp. 44–66; Smith, 2010). Therefore, while in perfectly rational contexts distrust could, at least in principle, serve to consistently identify untrustworthy individuals, in epistemically and socially unequal contexts, distrust often rests upon biased evidence which tends to portray an entire group as unequivocally untrustworthy in ways that are very hard to challenge (D’Cruz, 2019; Fricker, 2007). As Shay Welch aptly argues, when oppression influences people’s perceptions of each other, distrust and trust become functions of one’s social location (Welch, 2013, p. 52).Taken together, these elements show the importance of assessing the attitudes of distrust in anti-poverty policies such as CCTs. Social protection consists in an asymmetrical relation between a funding group of the political community and a beneficiary which is often immersed in a context of poverty and social inequality. That asymmetry constitutes a reservoir of prejudice in which stereotypes are transformed into distrust.3Conditional Cash Transfers and the Usual SuspectsAn associative duty to assist is highly dependent on the moral characters of its beneficiaries. Of course, it makes all the difference whether those receiving assistance happen to be orphans, ex-convicts, welfare cheaters, beaten women, or disabled persons; each of these groups has a specific risk profile that could justify, to a greater or lesser extent, the imposition of a series of obstacles and precautions that would help to regulate the interaction. In a word, the higher the risk involved in the relation at hand, the harsher and more deterring should the social welfare system be. In this general sense, suspicion and distrust could be appropriate attitudes.This section has two objectives. First, to compare the risk profiles put forth by BI and CCTs using the above-mentioned definition of distrust (3.1). Second, to analyze the various impact evaluations of Latin American CCTs in order to ascertain which of those risk profiles are congruous with the relevant evidence (3.2). If our examination shows that the evidence is not consistent with the risk profiles developed by the CCTs, then it is reasonable to conclude that distrust is not warranted and these schemes of social assistance promote negative stereotypes that reduce opportunities for cooperation.3.1Risk Profiles under BI and under CCTsThe risk profiles that are part of CCT and BI can be deduced from their respective operative and design rules insofar as they create obstacles and oversight, incentives or licenses, as well as predictions of behavior which express some of the aforementioned elements of distrust (or trust). For example, both BI and CCTs provide assistance through cash, as opposed to in-kind benefits, which was previously the case in Latin America social welfare schemes (Barrientos & Hinojosa, 2009). The logic behind this was that the poor should not be trusted when it came to spending their funds appropriately; they would waste it on alcohol, drugs, or expensive mobile phones. Since the implementation of this important change, the identification of distrust became virtually impossible when considering only the benefits.Let’s begin with the cognitive component of distrust. CCTs assume that the motivation of its beneficiaries is effectively flawed, that is, they prepare for the worst possible outcome as concerns the beneficiaries’ intentions. Differently put, it does not only assume the lack of adequate motivation when it comes to pursuing the well-being of dependents; it also assumes that any assistance automatically fosters perversion or laziness, which must be countered. For example, almost all CCTs impose restrictions on the number of children that can benefit from their programs in order to discourage uncontrolled reproduction. Yet transfers only cover a small fraction of those under the poverty line: it ranges from 15% (Progresa) to 35% (Bolsa Família) of those living below the urban poverty line, with an average of around 20% across the entire continent (Cecchini & Madariaga, 2011, pp. 118–135). Without these limits in place, CCTs foresees that there would be strong disincentives when it comes to searching for employment, with the main assumption being that the poor have a backward-bending supply curve of labor. So, while it is true that transferring cash involves trust, the transferred amount is extremely relevant as a means of assessing the implicated degree of trust.This assumption of a flawed motivation is also present in the criteria being imposed when trying to determine the eligibility of beneficiaries. Latin America CCTs use a considerable array of targeting techniques, from self-targeting and community selection through geographical and household targeting to the implementation of a marginality index (Cecchini & Madariaga, 2011, pp. 14–30); even secret formulas for eligibility have been considered but were finally dismissed for efficiency’s sake (de Janvry & Sadoulet, 2006). However, the outcome produced by each of these methods is subject to double-check by public officials, who are ultimately responsible for providing the eligibility criteria. The logic behind this is that the definition of eligibility should be placed within the exclusive sphere of state control even if, as is often the case, it introduces confusions as to why some individuals are included and some are excluded, which creates feelings of resentment and injustice. In a word, unchecked eligibility not only leads to inefficiency; it also culminates in the diversion of resources to the undeserving poor.In sharp contrast, and due to its unconditionality, BI dissociates the cash transfers from the satisfaction of certain duties revolving around the wellbeing of children. This does not mean that parents, poor or otherwise, should not have family duties; they do but, as with many other duties they must perform, these are not a prerequisite for the enjoyment of economic rights. If those duties were not fulfilled, a BI policy would not immediately conclude that there is something wrong with the parents’ motivations. The reality is that, quite often in Latin American, low levels of schooling and the lack of health check-ups are correlated with problems on the supply side (Standing, 2011, p. 31); for instance, in rural areas, schools and primary healthcare centers are very distant and provide poor quality services.For example, during the first stages of Oportunidades, very remote rural and indigenous towns in Mexico did not have schools or health clinics available nearby. The program had to wait until their construction to be launched (Yanes, 2013).Moreover, as Lo Vuolo observes (2012, p. 3), a BI dedicated only to children would make sure that minors do not lose their benefits due to unmet responsibilities by the parents. Therefore, BI would not presuppose the existence of flawed motivation and would not deliberately interpret the information about poor households in a negative manner.As for the motivational element of distrust, it is associated with precautions and punishments that unilaterally condition the interaction between the parties involved. As Welch (2013, p. 49) argues, in cases of social trust such as relations between the state and citizens, this risk involves not only personal vulnerability but failures in social cooperation, that is, the presence of cheaters and free riders that take advantage of the system. In the case of CCTs, the potential risk is that impoverished mothers may become cheaters, that is, they remain irresponsible concerning their family care duties after they receive assistance.CCTs rules of certification and punishment are key in assessing the degrees of distrust. First, poor mothers have to prove their fulfillment of certain conditions to receive the benefit. Depending on the specific CCT, compliance may be monitored every two to twelve months (Bertranou & Maurizio, 2012; Cecchini & Martínez, 2012, pp. 91–114).Second, if impoverished mothers fail to meet these conditions, they are punished. This punishment can take a number of forms. Mexico’s Oportunidades imposes an immediate suspension from the program. In Colombia’s Familias en Acción, mothers are excluded if they fail to comply with their demands over three consecutive months or more than three times in a given year. Argentina’s Asignación Universal por Hijo retains 20% of the monthly transfer; this withheld amount is only cashed out at the end of the year, when adherence to the program’s guidelines is verified by local authorities. In this particular case, suspicion entails a two-fold process: not only are benefits made conditional, but the enjoyment thereof must be postponed until it is certain that the beneficiary has complied with all the rules (Pautassi et al., 2010).At the other end of the spectrum there is Brazil’s Bolsa Família. This exemplary form of CCT does not immediately assume that non-compliance stems from a lack of adequate motivation, but sees it as resulting from a mixture of inadequate resources and public venues. Accordingly, the benefit is canceled only if non-compliance is reiterated five times. Prior to that, a standardized sequence of steps are taken: a social worker visits the household to assist the family in meeting the requirements; the benefits are blocked and suspended for two months and, only then, if non-compliance continues, the expulsion effectively takes place. In this sense, although the benefits are conditional, suspicion is not the predominant factor informing Bolsa Família’s operations (Hunter & Sugiyama, 2014).In sharp contrast, BI does not embrace a punitive strategy to organize social welfare. The scheme simply does not assume that the most disadvantaged members of society fail to meet their responsibilities with regards to child-caring due to a lack of motivation or myopia concerning the importance of human capital; instead, it acknowledges that the problem is, precisely, the lack of resources – a problem which is effectively solved by a decent income. In this regard, it universalizes the assumptions made by the Bismarckian social protection system – vastly adopted throughout Latin America – with respect to formal workers: a typical worker in the formal sector receives a benefit equivalent to the CCT (i.e. family allowance), but is not required to certify his or her adherence to any conditionality (Bertranou & Maurizio, 2012; Cecchini & Martínez, 2012 pp. 43–86). With that being the case, BI would consider any citizen, regardless of her work status, as being equally trustworthy.The two elements of distrust present in CCTs pave the way for a third component, namely, a pessimistic outlook of the poor mother’s commitment to their duties. CCTs interpret the failure to invest in children’s human capital as being the direct result of an inadequate motivation, and not of a lack of resources. That is, poor mothers are “indolent mothers”, indifferent to their care duties unless they are heavily incentivized; they are not “powerless mothers” who are adequately motivated, yet lack the resources necessary to act on those motivations. In fact, the only mothers who end up being excluded from CCTs are the “bad mothers”, the “callous mothers”, those who intentionally harm their children even if incentivized not to do so (Molyneux, 2006). The issue with a logic of conditionality is that it conflates these categories: poor mothers are suspected of being callous mothers, indolent mothers at best.By contrast, BI makes no such interpretations and, therefore, it does not uphold such stigmatizing distinctions. A universal BI would not be committed to identifying deserving poor mothers because the cash transfers are granted to everyone, regardless of their socio-economic position. Moreover, its unconditional character is such that it does not expect the beneficiary to behave in any particular moral way (Raventós, 2007, pp. 126–127).The different ways in which BI and CCTs construct the risk profiles of their beneficiaries are both evident and profound. While CCTs appeal to a “Usual Suspects” type of narrative that evaluates its beneficiaries under a harsh light, BI does not inspect anybody. While CCTs operates on distrust, BI does not.3.2Are the Latin American Poor Really the Usual Suspects?Trust is dangerous because it entails the possibility of betrayal, i.e. the trusted ones using unexpected opportunities to harm the trustee or exclusively pursue their own self-interests. Maintaining trust despite repeated and constant betrayals by the same individuals leads to gullibility (Hardin, 2002, p. 37). Given the risk profiles identified previously, the following question arises: are those advocating the BI system credulous or are those advocating CCTs distrusting without sound reasons?This section analyzes a set of heterogenous empirical data at the intersection of poverty and levels of investment in human capital pertaining to the beneficiaries of Latin American CCTs with the objective of demonstrating that there are no sound empirical reasons to be suspicious of them. Simply put, distrust towards them is unmerited.Despite the enormous quantity of academic and political attention that CCTs have received, an empirical assessment of their constitution is neither simple nor straightforward. This uncertainty stems from three separate but related facts. At the most obvious level, the impact of CCTs is heavily influenced by the broader economic situation in which the country finds itself. Next, comparative evaluations are methodologically challenging because a variety of techniques have been implemented, from experimental quantitative approaches/methods to statistical simulations, from intra-household surveys to qualitative evaluations through in-depth and systematic one-on-one interviews (Maluccio et al., 2010). Finally, due to the intrinsic nature of transfers, it is almost impossible to determine whether a specific variable is changing as a result of the “conditionality effect” or “the income effect” and, as a result, it is quite challenging to open the “black box of conditionality” (de Brauw & Hoddinott, 2011). For instance, a recurrent short-term effect is the immediate increase, ranging from 4 to 8%, of enrollment rates in secondary school (Vera Soares et al., 2008). What causes this? Is it the conditionality of transfers, the fact that the State decides to offer more information, build new schools and better roads, or the increase in household income?Notwithstanding the above, a common set of phenomena helps to minimize the causal impact of the conditionality effect. First, leaving aside specific variables such as region, ethnic background, or the parents’ level of education, Latin America displayed, before the implementation of CCTs, a moderately high level of investment in human capital. For example, before the implementation of Asignación Universal por Hijo, only 1.4% of Argentinean children in urban areas did not attend primary school, while only 9% of teenagers failed to attend secondary school (González & Tuñón, 2012). In Chile, prior to Chile Solidario, health check-ups and primary school enrollment were both above 85% and, although enrollment increased by 8% after the implementation of CCTs, it worth noting that it had been steadily increasing by 0.8% annually since 2006, probably as a result of an overall economic improvement (Vargas, 2011). This phenomenon suggests that poor parents were already fulfilling their duties of care, independently of any “income” or “conditionality” effects.A second well-known phenomenon that is visible in Progresa as well as in the Paraguayan Tekoporá is the “neighborhood effect” (Veras Soares et al., 2008). This is a form of positive externality whereby the households that are not eligible for assistance nevertheless experience improvements in their well-being. This could happen for a variety of reasons, from an increase in the volume of money circulating in the local economy to the interactions between non-eligible households and the CCT beneficiaries. For instance, non-beneficiaries living in small towns where the Mexican CCTs were implemented were 5% likelier to enroll their children in school than non-beneficiaries in similar towns where CCTs were not implemented (Bobonis & Finan, 2009).Third, low levels of state control create the perfect situation for assessing the conditionality effect. The Ecuadorian CCT program, Bono de Desarrollo Humano, was initially classified as a standard conditional transfer. However, conditionalities were never controlled and transfers were cashed despite this. Some beneficiaries were aware of the changes, but many continued to believe that it was conditional. In an interesting paper, Schady and Araujo (2008) take advantage of this anomaly and compare the rate of school enrollment across the two groups.They found that those who did not believe there were conditionalities enrolled their children in school 6–8 per cent less than those who did believe there were conditionalities. Similar results were identified following an administrative failure by Mexico’s Progresa, which in fact led to unconditional transfers (de Brauw & Hoddinott, 2011). These studies are ideal for defenders of the conditionality model, and are consistent with the evaluations of Bolsa Família, which show that if all the children attending a particular school were beneficiaries of the program, the dropout rate would be approximately 1.2 p.p. less than in other schools where children are not beneficiaries (World Without Poverty, 2017). Therefore, the likelihood of investing in children’s human capital increases marginally when conditionality is present and clear. However, the same results can be examined from a different perspective. If the “conditionality effect” has such a crucial causal value, should not the difference between those who are aware of the conditionality and those who are not aware be more pronounced? Is it irrelevant that the large majority of those who were unaware of conditionality nevertheless fulfilled their duties of care?As suggested by the empirical data corresponding to different countries, regions and economic conditions, there is not a conclusive answer to these questions. And yet, the uncertainty runs both ways. Both defenders and critics of the conditionality model bite the bullet and accept that a definitive conclusion can only be reached with more and better statistical analysis, qualitative and quantitative assessments of impact, and increased opportunities for participation by the beneficiaries (Barrientos, 2010; Fiszbein & Schady, 2009, pp. 46–58; Lavinas, 2013; Lo Vuolo, 2013). With that being said, the normative problem becomes more evident when one reflects on where the burden of the proof should lie. If the causal power of conditionality has not been conclusively demonstrated in Latin America, it means that the “Usual Suspects” label does not express the correct empirical diagnosis. Increases in investment in human capital happen regardless of the causal effect of conditionality. Consequently, deciding between a conception of mothers as either Powerless or Indolent is not solely an empirical issue. A claim that distrust is warranted involves the arbitrary placement of the burden of proof on the side of unconditionality.In this regard, it is appropriate to remember the long history of state apathy and inaction towards the most disadvantaged, and the inadequacy of public services in places where CCTs make a crucial difference in the wellbeing of poor mothers and children. At the very least, it is cynical to make distrust the default position and expect extremely impoverished mothers to be responsible for doing what it is almost impossible to do.To be fair, during COVID-19 crisis, most Latin American governments suspended temporarily the certification of conditionalities (Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) & United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), 2020). The general argument against conditionalities hold even stronger in this case because one could reasonably expect that the higher levels of poverty post-COVID will be treated with the same scheme of social protection.3.3What’s Wrong with Being Undeservedly Distrusted?This section argues that the normative problem of being distrusted without evidence for being untrustworthy (like CCTs do and BI do not) is that the distrusted party loses status within the political sphere of her own community – a loss which becomes increasingly hard to be overturned. Let me, first, recall the elements of the working definition of distrust: an attitude from the suspicious one of minimizing risks, thinking negatively about the intentions of the distrusted and being pessimistic about his abilities (see 2).When someone is distrusted, he or she is being insulted because of the second element of that definition. Regardless of the actions and motives, he or she is being confronted with negative images that the distruster projects when thinking negatively about him. These images are not only present in the distruster’s set of beliefs, but are also expressed through the first element of the definition, his attitudes of reducing risks; these attitudes, in turn, reduce opportunities for cooperation, for proving one’s trustworthiness or, at the very least, for proving that distrust is unmerited in this particular instance (D’Cruz, 2019, p. 937). In fact, a key aspect of being a professional trickster is the ability to show outrage as well as a sense of being unfairly dishonored when faced with accusations from the distruster; the trickster knows that being trusted is tantamount to being esteemed in a given domain of action.When someone is distrusted without being in fact untrustworthy and a large asymmetry of power exists between distrusted and distruster (as is the case in CCTs), then marginalization is added to the equation. The distrusted person is excluded from the community of trustworthy individuals and loses his or her status as a respectable member. The remaining members of the community can act without having to justify themselves and without being subject to oversight, and obtain from that membership a sense of self-worth and esteem. By contrast, those who are excluded from membership automatically lose their status and are made to feel inferiors; they lose all incentives to behave in trustworthy ways and have to accept that their interactions with the powerful distruster will be mediated by surveillance mechanisms designed by their superiors, which will make it very hard to prove themselves trustworthy anew.The existing literature on cooperation and reciprocity explains this dynamic of mutual reinforcement between inequality of status and suspicion. In the first place, the costs of suspicion tend to be unequal especially when there are large asymmetries of power at play between the parties of a contract: the powerful party does not need the other party’s continued cooperation and can be actively suspicious without assuming major costs (Hardin, 2002, p. 101). This is particularly clear in the case of the “political economy” argument for the conditioning of social protection, according to which the middle and upper classes oppose unconditional transfers because they consider them unmerited gifts (Fiszbein & Schady, 2009, pp. 59–64). Even if what is at stake is not of significance to them, they can make their exit option more likely.In the second place, since the more powerful party does not offer any incentives to the weaker party to become trustworthy, attitudes of distrust tend to be more stable, contagious, and self-fulfilling. Furthermore, misinterpretations and misunderstandings when it comes to the behavior and intentions of others typically result not only in repeated instances of cooperative failure, but also in the reluctance to carry out cooperative activities (Ostrom, 2003). Although this last effect is present also between roughly equal groups, in deeply unequal contexts, it is fuel for the reinforcement of stereotypes and myths about the lack of beneficiaries’ skills and abilities, like its inability to control reproduction, to have a long-term perspective on their wellbeing or to maintain a job, which it was taken as the third element of distrust. For example, a study that analyzes the legitimacy of Bolsa Família has shown that knowing at least one beneficiary can have an attenuating impact on your distrusting feelings about them: 58% of those who knew a beneficiary believed that there is a positive correlation between CCTs and fertility rates, which rose to 62% among those who did not know any beneficiaries (de Oliveira de Castro et al., 2009).In CCTs, beneficiaries seem to be destined to be under the constant surveillance of the non-beneficiaries’ suspicious minds. They can meet the conditionalities for a decade or more without any relaxation in sight of supervisory oversight. Since the only institutional mechanism to become a trustworthy individual is to obtain not just a paid job, but formal, full-time, salaried employment – an extremely unlikely option in the poorest regions of Latin America, very distant from large metropolitan industries – CCTs do not offer realistic options to become trustworthy and escaping the cycle of suspicion.Suspicious minds are not only established but “confirmed” thanks to the distruster’s intrinsic eagerness to interpret any failure on the part of the distrusted as confirmation of their preconceived notions. For example, front-line officials such as doctors and teachers hastily interpret any failure in the compliance with conditionality as a corroboration of the “Usual Suspect” narrative, and behave toward these individuals in a harsh, paternalistic (and at times even racist) manner (Brandão et al., 2013; Ramírez, 2016).In sum, distrust in CCTs is an exclusionary form of insult directed at the beneficiaries, a form of insult which has a negative impact on their self-esteem, sense of belonging, and self-perception as a legitimate member with equal rights within a valuable political community. Because this attitude of active suspicion is often unwarranted, it functions as a key mechanism for maintaining and reinforcing an asymmetrical status between the least and most privileged members of a society. It creates a hierarchy of trustworthiness that structures and conditions social interactions through a game of giving reasons for legitimizing avoidance and the judgment of social esteem. Consequently, the standing of the “Usual Suspect” before the trustworthy is not egalitarian and is very hard to reconcile with democratic values (Elford, 2012). After all, this differential treatment gives distrusters a discretionary power to project and impose their prejudices and stereotypes on suspectees and, at the same time, pushes the latter to develop a number of strategies and attitudes to neither agitate nor disturb the more privileged members of society (Pettit, 1995).By contrast, the BI would not make this offense. While schooling and vaccination are mandatory in Latin America, BI does not believe that the reasons and incentives needed to increase the investment in human capital are different for poor citizens and non-poor citizens. For example, BI explores other options to ameliorate the rate of compliance, such as promotional and non-punitive conditionalities, which are applied to everyone, not just to the beneficiaries, as well as administrative measures which only target parents, etc.; it does not compromise, then, the access to education and healthcare by the least advantaged children (Lavinas, 2013, pp. 37–38; Lo Vuolo, 2012, p. 3).4Challenges and RejoindersIn this final section, the strength of the paper’s argument will be tested against possible challenges and objections. First, the argument must face two counter-arguments that are commonly used to justify and defend the conditionality model in official documents issued by the World Bank, the largest promoter world-wide of CCTs. Interestingly enough, this counter-argument tries to avoid fostering attitudes of distrust toward the beneficiaries. Against these, it will be showed that the attempt is unsuccessful and that distrust is to some extent unavoidable if some important features of CCTs are to be explained reasonably and coherently (4.1). Second, the argument does not take into consideration other dimensions which are relevant for the justification of conditionality. For instance, it is obvious that a distrustful CCT is preferable to a non-distrustful model that rejects welfare assistance tout court, because the goal of the policy (i.e. to improve the health and education levels of vulnerable Latin American children) is intrinsically valuable. Two of those dimensions – reciprocity and beneficiaries’ subjective assessments – are particularly relevant when it comes to ascertaining the comparative advantages of not being undeservedly distrusted. These are powerful challenges, since they could make the importance of not being distrusted completely secondary, even negligible (4.2 and 4.3).4.1Is Non-distrustful Conditionality Possible?According to the World Bank’s documents on CCTs, conditionality must be a requirement for welfare assistance. However, the explicit reasons for this are not that the institution embraces the Usual Suspect’s narrative examined above, nor the “suspicious minds” of the welfare administrators that run these types of models. On the contrary, it justifies conditionality with two seemingly non-distrustful arguments.The first argument claims that CCTs constitute an efficient response to an inadequate calculation made by poor households regarding the positive externalities of investing in human capital. In light of this, the income effect must be transformed via conditionality into a price effect (Fiszbein & Schady, 2009, pp. 46–49). At first sight, this argument does not assume any morally reprehensible motivation or defective character on the part of the beneficiaries; they simply could not have all the relevant information, were faced with strong cultural barriers, or were unable to have experiences that would endorse the right assessment. In this regard, the purpose of conditionality would be to support and ensure the achievement of the program’s objectives by minimizing or rectifying a number of distorted beliefs.This justification, however, does not completely avoid the attitudes of suspicion. First, it entails a certain reliance on the beneficiary – the expectation that she would change her behavior without expecting this change to happen for a specific reason – while at the same time maintaining some levels of distrust (Baier, 1995, pp. 130–151; Hawley, 2014). An instance of this is when the distruster imposes oversight and supervision in order to increase the probability that the distrusted will perform the desired action; there is no doubt that the distruster will much prefer to avoid any direct interaction, but if such avoidance is impossible or costly, reliance seems like a likely alternative. Second, as it was argued in the last section, it is not just conditionality what brings distrust to the forefront, but also the control and punishment mechanisms that are implemented to deal with non-compliance. Even if this first argument were accepted, it could not adequately explain the choosing between a certification every two months as opposed to one per year, the automatic suspension as a response mechanism to deal with non-compliance or a visit to the household by a social worker. The more frequent and punitive the conditionality process is (Cecchini & Martínez, 2012, pp. 110–116), the more vivid the presence of distrust tends to be. Therefore, this justification does not make the possibility of distrust disappear; or better said, while it does not necessarily imply distrust, it does need it to explain some key elements regarding the specific implementation of CCTs.The second justification for conditionality is framed as behavioral economics. It argues that CCTs introduce incentives to achieve valuables outcomes that could not be otherwise achieved by simply letting the beneficiaries choose from more and better opportunities. Imperfect information, incomplete altruism and intra-household conflicts make the decision of increasing investment in human capital less likely because beneficiaries (wrongly) reduce the investment’s expected rate of return (Fiszbein & Schady, 2009, pp. 51–59). Since just increasing income or providing more information would be an inefficient measure, it is necessary to alter the alternatives of the household’s payoff structure by making the “increasing investment” option more attractive and the “child work” option costlier.This justification could be regarded as, paternalism issues aside, being minimally committed to moral judgments concerning the beneficiaries. After all, not receiving an incentive is different from being punished. For instance, if a society makes rough sleeping less attractive by providing better public shelters for homeless people to spend the night, this is not necessarily passing moral judgment on the character or the motivations of its potential beneficiaries. Furthermore, it seems obvious that the incentives are designed to promote a desirable behavior that is not actually taking place and, in this sense, this approach is different from the pessimistic anticipatory attitude that is characteristic of suspicion.There are reasons to doubt this argument. As Ruth Grant and others have pointed out, incentives are instruments of social control and must be judged according to pluralistic criteria of legitimacy, not simple on the basis of a criterion of consent. While it is true that no one is forced to accept an incentive, these usually emerge – especially in the case of CCTs – as part of a very limited set of possible options. This unequal context makes it reasonable to ask whether there are other less coercive strategies available to influence conduct, such as persuasion and open debate (Grant, 2006, pp. 29–32; Watts & Fitzpatrick, 2018, pp. 113–141).The incentive argument takes as a given social fact the inefficiency and unavailability of those alternatives; incentives appear to be based on true beliefs about the real motivations of potential beneficiaries and, as a result, they are not subject to question. However, as it was shown in Section 3.2, such inefficiency has no definitive empirical support, and so the problem of unmerited distrust reappears. The Latin American context appears to be such that, even with the best of intentions by vulnerable families, there is little possibility to invest in human capital the “right” way, which throws into question the “added value” of conditionality (Watts & Fitzpatrick, 2018, p. 150). Distrust reappears in this incentive argument because the political community assumes that potential beneficiaries would not be influenced either by persuasion or democratic debate surrounding the intrinsic value of the good in question, but only by an extrinsic good. Therefore, it promotes suspicion about the beneficiaries’ motivations and their ability to make informed choices for the right reasons (Grant, 2006, p. 34).4.2Reciprocity and ContractOne conclusion that can be derived from the argument presented in this paper is that BI contributes to the construction of a more egalitarian society insofar it does not involve insulting assumptions such as unmerited distrust. This claim could be disputed: a typical objection to BI is that it contributes to an even less egalitarian community by allowing massive exploitation whereby some reap the benefits of cooperation without making any contribution at all (Anderson, 2001; White, 2006). An efficient strategy to avoid unfairness, according to this challenge, would consist in the imposition of a duty of reciprocity which makes the enjoyment of welfare benefits conditional on the beneficiary making a contribution to the community. This general duty to reciprocate can take multiple forms but the most common in contemporary social protection programs is that of a contract. CCTs beneficiaries and the state are represented as signing a reciprocity agreement involving mutual obligations by each part: the latter commits to providing welfare services catering to the most vulnerable groups of individuals within the society, and the potential beneficiaries commit to investing in human capital on behalf of their children (Pérez-Muñoz, 2017, p. 444; White, 2003, pp. 130–135).If this contractualist justification of conditionality within the framework of CCTs happens to be successful, the negative effect of being undeservedly distrusted would be mitigated or balanced by the equally negative effect of introducing a new form of exploitation within the society. The form of distrust implicated in the welfare contracts does not single out beneficiaries as being particularly suspect, but rather, it is a consequence of the very concept of a contract. Every contract contains rules that regulate the amounts of risk and benefit, as well as deterrent measures to discourage exploitative and abusive individuals; those rules and deterrent measures do not involve moralistic interpretations of the intentions and motives mobilizing the beneficiaries, but are necessary to prevent greater social harms.This justification can be split into two disputable premises: one based on reciprocity and the other contractualist. Regarding the first premise, the connection between conditionality and reciprocity does not really hold. As Shlomi Segall aptly argued (2005, pp. 338–340), reciprocity can only be demanded when the benefit has the quality of not-excludability and is analogous to a public good. But when the benefit is conditional on performing some act and can exclude some members from its enjoyment – like CCTs do –, then reciprocity cannot apply: individuals could opt out of the income support scheme, renounce (although with great cost) it and, unlike public goods, the scheme could still be provided to others. Therefore, conditionalities – and CCTs – cannot be required by a general duty to reciprocate benefits, but by a very modest contract between beneficiaries and the state. If this is so, the unmerited distrust cannot be weighed against the satisfaction of a reciprocity principle.The contractualist premise states that conditionalities are accepted by beneficiaries and that they are necessary to insure compliance with the terms of the contract. This premise is problematic due to the inequality that exists between the parts implicated in the agreement. First, since the terms of the contract are hierarchically imposed rather than agreed upon,The one exception is Chile Solidario, which involves a formal negotiation of the specific conditionalities that households would have to fulfill (Robles, 2012).and since one part has little to lose whereas the other has much to benefit from, there is an open space awaiting the introduction of one-sided and unfounded attitudes of distrust, which are reflected in the image of Indolent Mothers that CCTs tend to embrace. As I have shown, this image is stereotypical and biased and cannot be linked solely to the protective clauses of a typical contract.Second, and more importantly, the contractualist premise takes for granted the fact that the political community has done its fair share (some background conditions of justice must be in place for the contract to be fair), and that it is the demand side the one who has to be nudged. In the case of CCTs, the political community’s “fair share” could mean, among other things, that they have built a sufficient number of quality schools; that they are sufficiently sensitive to cultural and racial heterogeneities, and that they have managed to convince the middle classes not to abandon those same public schools. When this does not happen and the fulfillment of these duties is very costly to the beneficiary, then receiving that good could exacerbate injustices and leave beneficiaries in a worst position, as even the staunch defenders of conditionality are ready to acknowledge (Pérez-Muñoz, 2017, p. 445; White, 2018).Latin American political communities have not done enough for the least-advantaged members of the society. CCTs are important insofar as they constitute the first massive, long-term, coordinated and institutionalized policy instrument with the explicit mandate of fighting the inter-generational transmission of poverty. For example, while Latin American CCTs comprehend 0.4% of GDP in average (Cecchini & Atuesta, 2017, pp. 29–32), the temporary and unconditional cash transfers implemented during the COVID-19 crisis for both informal and formal workers are far more generous both in terms of the amount and in terms of the spectrum being targeted (ECLAC, 2020). Besides, CCTs exploit an extremely unequal division of intra-household labor, reinforcing a maternalistic conception of the duties of care that place mothers as the operational intermediaries between the state and their children (Rodríguez Enríquez, 2013, pp. 193–194). Moreover, it falsely assumes that impoverished women do not already take on informal or low-paying jobs. Even with CCTs, a considerable group of poor women undergo great hardship to combine the demands of work with the demands of care (Molyneux, 2006; Ochman, 2016). With that being the case, the conditionality model punishes no to Callous Mothers but those mothers whose fulfillment of the duties of care involve higher opportunity costs (González de la Rocha, 2007, pp. 377–380; Pinzani & Leão Rego, 2019).In light of all this, it is crucial when weighing the costs of being undeservedly distrusted to contemplate the costs of potential unfairness. While it makes sense to discount to some extent the costs of this undeserved distrust when the benefits are considerable, this does not tend to happen in the case of CCTs; if those costs are balanced with the amount of the transfer, the fiscal effort of the political community, and the larger opportunity cost that is incurred by the least advantaged, then it is far from clear that the benefits exceed the costs. Consequently, the distrust involved in the contractualist premise cannot be compared with the standard attitude present in contracts between strangers, but responds to a hierarchical attitude that makes equal status even harder to achieve for the least advantaged members of society.4.3They Don’t CareThe last challenge to the argument against conditionality is that, even if it is true that the unmerited distrust constitutes an exclusionary insult, the fact that the beneficiaries of CCTs do not feel insulted by it weakens the normative force of this relational objection. In fact, the potential harm to self-esteem and equal status is supposed to be compensated by a number of positive subjective experiences that regularly appear in qualitative studies. For example, lengthy interviews with beneficiaries typically show that conditionality is not perceived as being particularly problematic. In fact, they seem to derive from CCTs higher levels of self-confidence and autonomy, as well as a reduction of shame (Adato et al., 2016; Pautassi et al., 2013, pp. 29–40; Pinzani & Leão Rego, 2019, pp. 41–80). As it will be showed, this argument in favor of conditionality is too hasty.First, it seems more reasonable to assume that what beneficiaries value most is not the conditionality per se, but their improved individual abilities to fulfill the duties of care. Being able to perform the action required takes precedence over the punishment being imposed for failing to do so. As it was shown in Section 3.2, they do not regard the investment in human capital on behalf of their children as being duties which are alien to their conceptions of a good life, but quite to the contrary, as extremely important measures to take and observe. In fact, the problem seems to be their overconfidence in the advantages of education: as a consequence of their own insufficient or informal education, they tend to believe that even attending remote schools of low quality can greatly increase their children’s ability to enter the job market.Second, this pro-conditionality defense is too rash because it overlooks the reproduction of a certain stigma which is often involved in these kinds of positive assessments. For example, it is not uncommon to hear from them some process of meritocratic othering: “there are a lot of mothers who only want to cash their transfers and do not take their children to school.” These “other” indolent mothers are never persons whom they know directly or intimately; they are always friends of friends and tend to function as a symbol of antagonism. For the “deserving mothers”, these “undeserving mothers” are the justification for suspicion, which must be sustained as a necessary measure to avoid abuse (Hunter & Sugiyama, 2014, p. 836; Pautassi et al., 2013, pp. 34–38). In other words, they internalize and reproduce the stigma concerning poverty and use conditionality as a way to escape that very stigma which, in turn, further reinforces the stigma. Conditionality and the degree of suspicion, therefore, become signs of social status. As Welch (2013, p. 51) argues, because oppression influences the perceptions that people have of each other and their status in a social group, suspicion arises even from within the most oppressed communities.These factors should prevent one from taking the beneficiaries’ manifested preferences as the final normative stance on conditionality. While their perspective should have a place in the context of an overall assessment, the possible naturalization and internalization of stigmas as well as the expressions of unequal status should also be taken in consideration when ascertaining the importance of not being undeservedly distrusted. Neglecting, or downsizing, this issue, the associative duties of middle and upper Latin American sectors move further away from creating more egalitarian practices, beliefs and institutions. As it was shown, when the relationship between inequality of status and suspicion is taken into account, the explicit preferences by the beneficiaries become more predictable. Given the fragile and detrimental experience of not having any work rights when receiving benefits, coupled with the increasing neglect by the political community, it is safe to say that these preferences tend to mirror the status quo. However, if this were the case, then the real normative problem with the conditionality of social protection would not be the subjective perceptions of the least advantaged members of society, but the manner in which the most privileged members of society relate to them. This attitude of active suspicion, because it is fundamentally unwarranted, functions as a key mechanism for maintaining and reinforcing unequal status between the least and most privileged.5ConclusionThis paper defended the relevance of a comparative advantage of BI over CCTs which revolves around non-distrusting presuppositions. As it was shown, this is a real advantage for normative and empirical reasons: on the one hand, it does not express an exclusionary insult that reinforces unequal status; on the other, it is less prone to sociological errors and less permeable to stereotypes.Evidently, this non-suspicious character is neither the only nor the main egalitarian reason to defend BI over CCTs; its empowering effect, its universality and its potential for reducing economic inequalities, as well as its fairer pattern of distribution are some additional and fundamental reasons. However, focusing on distrust is important because, as suggested, it is a reliable indicator of the level and quality of relations that promote and defend a society. After all, poverty has a relational aspect, so any strategy designed to combat it should account for this intrinsic dimension. Of course, that aspect can be easily forgotten when the beneficiaries are portrayed as “The Usual Suspects”.
Basic Income Studies – de Gruyter
Published: Dec 1, 2022
Keywords: conditional cash transfers; Latin America; basic income; distrust; social protection
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