Basic Income initiative in Switzerland
Here is an interview from the Real News Network with one of the founders of the Basic Income initiative in Switzerland, Enno Schmidt. The initiative would guarantee a basic income of $2800 per month for every adult. That may seem like a lot from the perspective of the United States, but it is enough to live in Switzerland.
The wonderful thing about this video is that Enno Schmidt explains the reasoning behind the idea of a Basic Income incredibly well. His reasoning is profound.
Remember the study released last week that showed the US taxpayer essentially providing a $7B subsidy to certain businesses that rely on minimum wage workers as a part of their business plan? [ Link below]
What we don’t notice is that all of society is a subsidy to business.
Business tries to convince us that we cannot survive without their bestowal of jobs upon us. In truth, every business would blow away like dust the instant people began not to invest their effort and attention in it.
How many people would go in for four hour shifts three times a week at $7.25 an hour, well below subsistence, if they had any alternative? And why should they? But also, how many people would do similar shifts for free, for a job they enjoyed or a cause they believed in, if they could afford it? Lots and lots.
A basic income would put business on the hot seat. You want workers? Fine, then don’t make the work so miserable that people cross the street to avoid it. Correctly structured, your business could attract workers for considerably less than current minimum wage.
“Correctly structured, your business could attract workers for considerably less than current minimum wage.”
An interesting idea! However, our business practices are based on maximizing owner profit rather than employee enjoyment. It would take a 180 degree turn around.
My father was one of those people who would work that 4 hour shift for free. He was a successful musician and claimed that he never worked a day in his life. We all should be so lucky to view our professions in such a way.
The basic income would be perfect for people like your father who are working even though it doesn’t appear that he is working.
Human nature is to be productive. If people had basic income, they would still work and e productive. There would even be more volunteer work which is extremely lacking in the world now. Communities would be healthier.
Basic income is a profound idea.
Over at DeLong’s, he was discussing what people do to add value, divided up into 8 or 9 categories.
Category 3 is “we amuse, please and encourage each other.” When all other work is handled by robots, this category is one which only people can wholly satisfy. I call this the “love economy.”
I am still groping to fully define this, but basically it consists of things that people would do anyway. Raising children, making music, tilling the soil, inventing and devising, dancing and making art, playing complex games, researching and studying, being mystics and theorists, raising and training animals, building and decorating, writing and reading and studying … all these things are activities that people will do even if discouraged, even if they can’t afford them, even in the face of many disappointments.
So, a world of robot labour will leave all these activities to humans, if only because humans won’t stop doing them even when threatened, beaten or starved.
Our challenge is to foster a world where the love economy isn’t starved in favelas, but seen as a desireable norm to be supported as a matter of course.
“That may seem like a lot from the perspective of the United States, but it is enough to live in Switzerland.” I am guessing there is a missing “not”, i.e., you meant to say, “That may not seem like a lot from the perspective of the United States, but it is enough to live on in Switzerland.”
Although, actually it does seem like a lot to me – $33,600 per year, or $67,200 for a married couple. I left GE (due to dissatisfaction – long story) in 2003 and cut way back on my expenses. In 2004 I spent a total of $16K, which was covered by $27K I made on a four-month job as a contractor – despite paying rent on two apartments for that four months. (I kept my apartment in Schenectady while working in Ohio.) The $16K included IRS, NYS, and Ohio tax filing, but I don’t think I counted withholding.
I don’t think I would have taken the job in Ohio if I was getting a basic income of $20K/year (nor spent as long at GE), although it turned out to be interesting and useful work. Maybe if the basic income was $10K/year, though.
During the 1980’s while working at GE at least 55 hours/week (paid for 40 – but paid fairly well) I spent about another 20 hours/week writing programs on an Apple II computer and distributing them for free at Apple Computer Clubs. In more recent years I have spent 20-40 hours a week making “mods” and “maps” for computer games which I distribute for free on the Internet. Neither of those activities has any significant value compared to the engineering work which I used to do, however.
(I stopped taking contractor jobs the year after I started getting my vested GE pension, mainly because my boss in Ohio – one of the best bosses I ever had – left the company that same year and I felt too old to train another boss. Now that I also get SS, I turn down job inquiries.)
I guess I am lazier than a lot of people, but I’ll bet there are still a lot of people who are lazier than me. Society here in the U.S.A. would have to provide a lot more attractive and productive work opportunities to support much of a basic income, I think. (Maybe I would have been a better candidate when I was younger though. Heck, maybe I would have stayed in school to get a Phd in science and done something really worthwhile thereafter. Or not.)
A basic income experiment was tried here in Canada, for three years. [Link below] The amount paid to every person in town was nowhere near $2400 a month. It was actually about equivalent to what welfare would pay a single person, either then or now, per year. Roughly $8000 a year, if I recall correctly, in equivalent buying power.
Where it was tried, people with jobs continued working, teenagers were much more likely to graduate rather than dropping out, divorce rates did not increase, and general health improved.
Adopted widely, a minimum income would replace the welfare system, would wipe out all the machinery of scrutiny and means testing, would allow parents or caregivers to stay home, and provide a stable customer base for many businesses, small and large, especially in poorer neighbourhoods.
The Swiss have opted to provide an actual living income, but even at far lower levels such a policy would benefit citizens and the businesses that depend on them, and remove many of the more pernicious effects of minimum wage dependent industries.