This Sunday, Swiss voters rejected a proposal that would have guaranteed all Swiss adult citizens roughly $2,555 per month – regardless of working status. The world has never seen such a law, and for good reason. The ambitious proposal, pushed by a group of economists who don’t seem to understand basic math, was overwhelmingly shut down with a vote of 77% to 23%.
Switzerland’s unique system of direct democracy enables almost any kind of law to be passed if it earns enough signatures and is approved through voter referendum. In recent years, the alpine nation has utilized this system to ban minarets, place restrictions on asylum seekers, and tighten regulations governing executive pay.
The measure voted on this weekend would have guaranteed all adults citizens (and foreign residents of at least five years) a weekly income of at least 2,500 Swiss francs (or about $2,555). This high number, which reflects the high cost of living in Switzerland, would not exclude the unemployed.
Supporters viewed the bill as a social experiment that would eradicate poverty and protect less skilled workers from automation and outsourcing, while at the same time giving parents more freedom to raise their children.
Critics rightly argued that the bill would drastically reduce the incentive to work and prove ruinously expensive for the nation’s economy ($200+ billion per year). The Swiss government, along with most of its political parties, publically and officially denounced the idea.
“The outcome was never in doubt, with the government, businesses and many trade unions lining up in opposition and recent polls suggesting the public was firmly against the idea,” reports the Wall Street Journal.
This is the first time in world history that a nation has been offered the option of government-guaranteed income. “The results demonstrate that voters are satisfied with the way our economy functions and don’t think it needs to be revolutionized,” said Alain Berset, head of Switzerland’s Federal Department of Home Affairs.
Editor’s note: The illustration says “what would you do if your income were taken care of?” The answer for 99% of people is either “nothing” or “get into trouble.”
The argument for the basic income guarantee has been around for a long time, and these are some of the most naive and least intelligent economists I’ve ever met (yes, did meet some).
Even if you could work the number to make it happen, by taking away the need to earn a living you are effectively “short circuiting” a basic human instinct. Humans are meant to strive, if you take strivng away from a human, this effectively destroys the human and by extension the society he is part of. There is science behind this.
We certainly need a safety net for those who fail temporarily, but as the metaphors go, we need a “trampoline” not “flypaper.”