Swiss reject universal basic income in public referendum

The people of Switzerland have rejected a proposal to give a universal basic income (UBI) to every citizen, with almost 77 per cent saying ‘no’ vs 23 per cent in favor.

They were voting on the idea in a referendum after an independent group, Bien-CH, gained enough signatures on a petition to trigger a vote, per Swiss law.

The idea of a future need for a UBI to grease the wheels of the capitalist economies has been gaining ground with some economists and technologists, driven by the notion that tech-fueled automation will result in fewer jobs — leading to the obvious question: how will people earn money to pay for the goods and services that will fire future economies if there aren’t enough jobs to go around?

At the end of last month, Y Combinator announced an experiment with basic income in Oakland — saying it would pay basic income to a group of people over a five-year period and study the effects. There are also experiments planned in Europe, in the Netherlands and Finland.

The group behind the Swiss proposal had suggested providing adults a UBI of 2,500 Swiss francs a month — well below the mean income of the wealthy nation — plus 625 for children.

The Swiss government did not support the idea of a UBI and had urged voters to reject it. In the event one in five voters backed the proposal.

The obvious question for any universal basic income is how to fund it, with critics suggesting large tax hikes would be required. In the Swiss example authorities had estimated the costs of funding the proposal at an additional 25 billion francs, according to AFP.

However the Swiss non-profit behind the referendum believes funding could easily be achieved by placing a micro-tax on all electronic transactions.

Given there are some 100,000 billion Swiss francs worth of electronic transactions annually in Switzerland, a tax that takes 0.2 per cent would generate 200 billion; more than enough to fund the basic income proposal — and more than enough to replace all other taxes, according to Marc Chesney, a professor at the University of Zurich, who was interviewed by Bien-CH (in the below video) ahead of the referendum vote.