Switzerland is one of the world’s wealthiest countries per capita, and also one of the most democratic. It’s the only European country with true direct democracy in which all citizens have to do is gather 100,000 signatures calling for a vote to hold a nationwide referendum with a binding result. Last November, Swiss citizens created the so-called 1:12 referendum, which would limit the wages of top executives so they couldn’t earn more in a month than lower paid employees do in a year. That proposal lost the vote, but early next year they’ll have an opportunity to decide on an equally radical referendum: a $2,800 basic income for every adult, whether employed or unemployed. There is currently no minimum wage in Switzerland, but there will also be a vote on that next year.
Anger about salaries and fairness has surged among Swiss voters because some of their biggest banks including UBS are responsible for speculative investment bubbles and continue to pay top executives huge bonuses while reporting huge losses. According to Bloomberg News, Switzerland is home to at least five of Europe’s top 20 paid executives. The inequality pay ratio in Switzerland is 1:194 (while in the U. S., average CEO to average worker compensation was 1:243 in 2010).
The idea of a Basic Income or Universal Wages are not only supported by Marxists and Communists, but have have been gaining traction among Libertarians as well. A great post at Thought Infection recently made an argument for such proposals from a civil libertarian perspective:
Freedom in the 21st century should mean freedom from having to engage in productive work simply to meet your basic needs for comfort and dignity.
At one time, the ready availability of jobs amply filled the need for a basic access to a comfortable and dignified life, but precipitous technological and economic changes erode this dynamic further each day. The function of the economy has never been to provide gainful employment to people, but simply to provide material goods. As the economy manages to produce more with less human labor, we must create new mechanisms aimed specifically that maintaining and raising the minimum level of comfort and dignity to everyone in a society…
…Worse than just being immoral, the desperate poverty of the lower classes is both immoral and useless. It is not a lack of money that compels the great successes of the modern age, but rather the availability of opportunities. It is because healthy, well-fed people were able to get a good education that allowed us to realize the great miracles of the modern age (eg, the internet, smart phones, Google, etc…).
We must rebalance the right of society to compel people into productive work with the obligation of society to support its citizens. It should be noted that basic income is not aimed at the unrealisitic and undesirable goal of unfettered access for all to every luxury of the world. Freedom from work does not mean the right to luxury; it simply sets a baseline below which no person should fall. Basic income seeks to strike a fair balance between allowing the benefit of work to coexist with a system aimed at delivering dignity and opportunity for all in a society.
Beyond just better enabling access to opportunities, basic income will also allow people the freedom to live as they choose; to explore unpaid work in the form of volunteering, participating in creative projects, or starting new business ventures. Some argue that there would be less incentive for people to start businesses and be productive, but it could just as easily be argued that it would remove the disincentive from the high-risk, high-reward ventures that are so valuable to modern society…
…Requiring people to live so much of their life working simply to earn a basic income is a waste of human potential and bad for progress. By eliminating the obligation to work just for simple survival, basic income would allow a new dynamic expansion of human freedom and human potential.
A society compelled to perfect cohesion and homogeneity lacks the dynamism to compete in the modern world. New ideas can only come into being at the chaotic interface between contrasting worldviews and lifestyles. In a world where progress is completely reliant on our ability to innovate and create new ideas, we should be seeking to maximize the spectrum of lifestyles which can be expressed within the society. By removing the need to work just to live, we will let people explore their true potential, and we will realize the untold benefits of a new dynamism.
And this brings us to the real reason that I think basic income will happen soon, not only because it is morally the right thing to do (which it is), but because it makes good sense economically. Just as slavery ended when factories made the economic model of slavery obsolete, we will move towards basic income because it makes good economic sense for the modern innovation economy.
Dynamic, creative and competitive economies of today must seek to stretch the social fabric to its limits. Basic income will serve to reinforce this fabric and enable the risky ventures that will power us forward in the 21st century.
Read the full article here: http://thoughtinfection.com/2013/12/15/basic-income-means-basic-freedom/