I’ve long been a fan of the concept of basic income. So I was pleased to read about Switzerland activists delivering 125,000 signatures to the Parliament building in Bern — enough to trigger a Swiss public referendum to discuss this concept.
Switzerland’s Proposal to Pay People for Being Alive – New York Times
A universal income is not such a silly idea – Finantial Times
The Basic Income idea is quite straight-forward : give all citizens a modest monthly income, no strings attached, and let them top it up at will with incomes from other sources. In the Swiss proposal for example, adults would receive SFR2,500 per months and kids would receive SFR650 per months. While that sounds like a lot of money, let’s not forget that this scheme would replace most of the Social Security programs already in place. The result would be a much leaner government structure (less administrative overhead) and freer markets (most social legislation could be scratched).
Some may say it would create a disincentive to work. Perhaps in certain circumstances. Studies done in the 70s have shown that beneficiaries of a Basic Income worked three weeks to a month less than before. So what ?
Technological progress has allowed the best of us to leverage their skills to serve more and more people as times goes by. As a corollary, more and more jobs are being automated and factories can now churn out cars by the minute with a dozen workers walking the factory floor where thousands where needed in the 50s. We need fewer and fewer mediocre performers. The increasing returns to capital vs labor quantifies this change.
I know some believe that work is the sole meaning and purpose of life. Good for them. Nothing should stops them from keeping at it. Others will have the opportunity to re-adjust their work-life balance to one they can only dream of presently.
In summary : an admirable solution to the problem of poverty in an economy where employment rather than material is scarce.