Citizens and residents of Switzerland have been waiting for a vote that would guarantee a basic income for Swiss citizens for months, now that the vote has been cast, the result is a resounding “No!” Switzerland’s citizens have collectively and by a wide margin voted “No” against a measure that would have given a guaranteed income to the residents of the nation. The measure was introduced in Switzerland amid continuing debate in the nation (and around the world) regarding income disparity and lack of viable employment opportunities.
As The New York Times reports, Switzerland’s citizens said no to a basic income for its citizens by a large margin. Roughly 77 percent of Switzerland’s voters said no to the basic guaranteed income for its residents. The proposal would have given each citizen in Switzerland a basic income of $2,560, plus 635 francs for each dependent child under 18 in order to give everyone a “dignified quality of life,” as well as to combat poverty and social inequality.
Switzerland’s “No” vote to its basic income proposal was a big blow to social equality warriors, as Switzerland was the first country in the world to put such an idea to a vote. Other countries and cities have either started or are considering similar guaranteed basic income proposals, but Switzerland is the first nation to put the idea on the ballot.
Finland will be implementing a program similar to the Switzerland basic income proposal. In that case, a pilot program will provide a monthly basic income to 10,000 adults. The basic income amount will be $625, far less than the amount that Switzerland proposed. If the trial program is successful in Finland, the initiative will become a national one.
Utrecht in the Netherlands is also said to be implementing a program similar to Switzerland’s failed basic income initiative in the near future.
In the United States, such guaranteed basic income programs have been bantered about during the 2016 presidential election campaign season. Candidate Bernie Sanders is leading the drive for more “social justice” in the United States and has suggested programs such as the one recently rejected by Switzerland’s voters. Right-wingers have lamented that guaranteed basic income programs are nothing more than social welfare programs by a different name.
In Switzerland, opponents warned that the proposal would derail an economic model that, far from showing signs of near-collapse, has allowed the country to remain among those with the highest living standards in the world, even with a growing and aging population. Switzerland has an unemployment rate of around 3.5 percent, less than half the average in the European Union.
When it comes to Switzerland’s basic income initiative, backers of the voter initiative didn’t fully explain to their constituents how they expected to fund the program. According to Switzerland’s government, of which virtually every primary political party member had rejected, the guaranteed basic income program would have required an additional budget of 25 billion Swiss francs every year to fund. That money would have had to have been raised through either large tax increases or massive spending cuts.
“Some opponents of a Swiss guaranteed income also attacked it as a return to Marxist economics, even if the idea has far older roots, dating to the 16th-century writings of Thomas More and the 18th-century works of Thomas Paine.”
While the idea of equitable wealth distribution have ancient roots, the current discussion in Switzerland about a basic guaranteed income comes amid societal changes such as technological advances that reduce the need for a human worker pool.
“I understand that a new generation is worried about how and where young people will next find work, but this proposal was pure nonsense. You cannot give a society the idea that money is available for doing nothing.”
Not everyone sees the idea of giving Switzerland’s citizens a guaranteed as unnecessary social welfare. Some see it as a necessary product of an increasingly industrialized world where workers’ jobs are being replaced at an alarming rate by technology.
“We’re losing all our values, creating countries that no longer need workers but still need consumers, but how can we expect people to buy anything if they can’t earn a salary tomorrow?”
Campaigners who supported Switzerland’s guaranteed basic income proposal said that it was “a first step toward a fairer economic model.”
“One out of five people voted for the unconditional basic income, so that is a success in itself.”
What do you think? Did Switzerland’s voters do the right thing? Or did Switzerland drop the ball when voting “no” to the guaranteed basic income initiative?
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