About a month ago, Switzerland made international news by holding a referendum on whether or not to give all Swiss citizens a basic income of about $2800 a month. Although the date for the vote still hasn’t been set (as far as I can tell), it certainly raised quite a buzz as analysts tried to frame the pros and cons of a proposal that, quite frankly, is not a new idea at all. Here’s a good summary of some of the arguments and research on the issue.
At its heart, a “basic income” proposal is a system in which each resident of a particular country or region receives a sum of money unconditionally by the government. Unlike many systems of welfare, such money comes with no strings attached, and no means testing to ensure that one needs such assistance. This means that it cuts out much of the bureaucracy involved with welfare benefits: no more case workers ensuring that people are indeed looking for work; no more food stamps that force individuals to spend money on food rather than on other items that may be equally necessary. The system, at least in one sense, is inherently fair, in that everyone in the country receives the same amount: rich or poor, every person gets the basic income from the government.Continue Reading