toward universal income in Switzerland

This is a news story that I had missed: the Swiss will soon vote on whether to provide a basic income grant to all adults.

A grassroots committee is calling for all adults in Switzerland to receive an unconditional income of 2,500 Swiss francs ($2,800) per month from the state ….

Under Swiss law, citizens can organize popular initiatives that allow the channeling of public anger into direct political action. The country usually holds several referenda a year. ….

The timing of the vote has yet to be announced ….

Swiss to vote on 2,500 franc basic income for every adult“, Reuters, 4 October 2013.

I was alerted to this by a column of FT ‘undercover economist’ Tim Harford. If the initiative passes, Switzerland will become the first country in the world to provide all its citizens with a basic income.

[Universal income] is endorsed not only by experts on inequality such as Oxford’s Sir Tony Atkinson, but by the late Milton Friedman, an unlikely communist. The idea of a basic income is one that unites many left- and rightwingers while commanding very little support in the mainstream. ….

[Friedman] saw an alternative to the current welfare state. We pay money to certain people of working age, but often only on the condition that they’re not working. Then, in an attempt to overcome the obvious problem that we’re paying people not to work, we chivvy them to get a job. Our efforts are demeaning and bureaucratic without being particularly effective. A basic income goes to all, whether they work or not.

Tim Harford, “A universal income is not such a silly idea“, Financial Times, 23 November 2013.

A universal old age pension is a type of basic income grant, one given only to the elderly.


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