While some voters in the United States are clamoring for free stuff and rallying behind Presidential candidates willing to say they’ll give away freebies, voters in Switzerland were less than enthusiastic about the idea when they went to the polls on June 5.
The Washington Post reports that Swiss voters were offered “a guaranteed monthly income for every adult, paid for by the government.” Adding “No specific amounts are mentioned in the wording of the initiative, but groups that support the measure have suggested about $2,500 for each adult Swiss citizen and foreigners who have legally resided in the country for five years, as well as an additional $640 for each [of their children].”
In short, Swiss voters were given the option of placing every Swiss citizen on welfare and soundly defeated the proposal. The Post adds, “Gfs.bern, a Swiss firm monitoring voter opinions, projected that only 22 percent voted yes for ‘free money’ on Sunday.”
However not everyone opposed to the plan worried that placing every man, woman and child on welfare would remove the economic incentives to find work. Luzi Stamm, who represents the right-leaning Swiss People’s Party in parliament, told the BBC, “If you would offer every individual a Swiss amount of money, you would have billions of people who would try to move into Switzerland.”
Stamm points out one problem of the welfare state while ignoring the other fiscal problems associated with welfare and hiding the argument in an anti-immigrant statement. The real issue is that while some people may benefit in the short-term from a guaranteed basic income, in the long-run more people will stop working because they no longer need to do so in order to survive. Certainly some people will continue to work because they thrive on being productive, enjoy doing certain tasks or get a sense of enjoyment knowing they’ve helped another person. Those who continue to work while also receiving the guaranteed basic income will amass more wealth and likely have a better quality of life than those who stop working. This in turn will lead some to call for an even higher welfare check to close the wealth-gap. An increased welfare check to every man, woman and child will mean the government in charge of the program will need to increase taxes on those who still work, or print more money to cover the added costs. Neither outcome benefits anyone, except possibly those in power.
RT reports, “the [Swiss] government said that the plan would produce a shortfall of about $25 billion a year, requiring higher taxes, and would damage the economy, increase unemployment, and encourag[e] inflation.”
If the supporters of a universal basic income really wanted the less fortunate to prosper, they would petition to remove government regulations that discourage – or outright prohibit – competition, innovation and entrepreneurship.