Unconditional Income In a Real Democracy



It looks like the Swiss, a much truer democracy than the U.S., will be voting on whether every legal resident will be given an unconditional $2800 income. The proponents of this dramatic concept are careful to not call it a minimum income.

One reason this radical new law seems very possible in Switzerland is that, unlike the U.S., it is not a half-baked democracy ruled by special interests. All the Swiss have to do to get any proposed law on the national ballot is collect 100,000 signatures. The result of the vote is binding. This means that Swiss citizens, increasingly angry over economic disparity, as exemplified by top banks paying record high bonuses to executives while losing money, can do something about it. They already have recently voted to limit executive bonuses. The is due to the Swiss direct democracy system.

While some economists have said it would mean young citizens might choose not to work and just get their basic income from the government, while those in favor of the measure say it means people would get to do what they really want to do with their lives, instead of working just to survive. The amount proposed is just about double the average Social Security payment in the U.S.  The man behind the basic income initiative is Enno Schmidt, an artist. He says having citizens of one of the richest countries in the world have to struggle to survive is akin to slavery.

This is certainly one of the most prosperity conscious laws ever proposed anywhere. It creates a new ideal, a new vision, and a new reality for this new century and new millennium. Its proponents say $2800 certainly won’t make every Swiss citizen rich, but it will make them solvent. They already have one of the world’s lowest unemployment rates of 3%, and we really don’t know for sure what this unconditional guaranteed basic income would do to their economy. So far, in history,  Switzerland has been pretty smart in creating close to an economic and social welfare utopia, the kind only dreamed of by some of the Founding Fathers of the U.S., like Thomas Paine. I really can’t see them allowing this new law, once it passes–perhaps by the end of the year–to damage their healthy economy.

Now that he’s spending so much time talking about income inequality, maybe it’s time for President Obama to suggest something like this Swiss proposal. I know the U.S. isn’t Switzerland, and many forces would oppose such a suggestion, but wouldn’t it be a good idea to at least start the debate?

One Swiss business leader expressed his dismay at the basic income initiative, saying its passage would make Switzerland into a “Happy Land.” Gee, when did that become a bad thing?  A lot of experts have weighed in on both sides, but I think some of the best arguments that it would not disrupt one of the world’s most stable economies is that $2800 is enough to survive on in Switzerland, but not with a luxurious lifestyle. There will still be lots of incentives to work.

There aren’t too many poor people in Switzerland now, but imagine when there isn’t a single one left. I don’t know how the U.S. would officially react to that situation, especially with so many of its citizens living in poverty (many more than the population of Switzerland) and going hungry. I would hope there would be at least a modicum of shame involved.
Who’s ready for some Happy Land experiences?



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