Why universal basic income isn’t going away any time soon

On Sunday, the citizens of Switzerland, population 8 million, voted in a referendum that proposed three radical additions to its federal constitution, pushing an idea Making Sen$e first did a story on about two years ago:

  1. The government will provide a basic income.
  1. The basic income will allow the people to live in a dignified manner and participate in public life.
  1. Legislation will determine the funding for the system and the actual amount of the basic income.

The proposal lost, 77 percent to 23 percent. But supporters claim that this is just the beginning of a transition as inevitable as the eight-hour day once was and pointed to the following figures from a recent survey of Swiss voters.

  • Seven out of 10 (69 percent) voters believe there will be another referendum on basic income in the future. Of yes voters, 83 percent believe there will be another referendum; of no voters, 63 percent.
  • 62 percent of voters believe basic income is now “on the table” and the debate is just beginning.
  • While 31 percent of all voters can imagine basic income being introduced in the future, among young voters between the ages of 18 and 29, 41 percent believe it’s rather likely or definite a basic income will be introduced.
  • Among voters who think an unconditional basic income will be introduced, 66 percent think it will be introduced within the next 20 years.
  • 49 percent of voters see basic income as a way to value and encourage unpaid household and volunteer work.
  • The strongest argument for basic income, according to 72 percent of Swiss voters, is the changing nature of work due to advancing technologies and a need for new lifestyle models as a result.
  • And finally, while Swiss voters soundly rejected a nation-wide universal basic income on June 5, 44 percent of voters believe unconditional basic income should be tested in a town, canton or different country. Of those 44 percent, about three-quarters (77 percent) would want it to be tested in a Swiss municipality.

As we described in our story two years ago, in the U.S., the idea of a minimum income has long been floated, often by libertarians, as an alternative to an over-bureaucratized nanny state. It is also seen, by those on the left, as an answer to un- and underemployment, a persistent problem even now in supposedly low-unemployment America, as our monthly U-7 Solman Scale, still above 12 percent, makes clear. And what’s driving proponents is the specter of vastly increased un- and underemployment as human jobs give way to technology, as the Swiss survey above suggests.

The income proposed by Swiss promoters of the referendum: about $30,000 a year.

Watch our report on the topic here:

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