Swiss Turn Down "Helicopter Money"—Guaranteed Basic Income (GBI)
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On Radio Derb (May 13th and June 3rd) I have mentioned the Swiss referendum on Guaranteed Basic Income (GBI)—the idea that the nation’s government should cut an unconditional check every month for every citizen and legal resident.

The wording of the referendum proposal, offered in German, French, and Italian, translates to English as follows:

The initiative proposes to insert the following article in the federal constitution:

(1) The government will provide a basic income.

(2) The basic income will allow the people to live in a dignified manner and participate in public life.

(3) Legislation will determine the funding for the system and the actual amount of the basic income.

The Swiss voted on that proposal (and four others) yesterday. As predicted by all polls, the proposal was soundly defeated.

Radio Derb called the proposal “a straw in the wind”—the wind, that is, which looks set fair to blow away much of what people do as paid work.

Just how much work will get blown away, and whether or not the lost jobs will be replaced by the same or a greater number of spiffy new jobs, is much debated.  A good entry point for the discussion is Lion of the Blogosphere’s May 20th blog post under the alarming title “Humans Soon to Become Useless.”

I offered my own opinion in Chapter 12 of We Are Doomed.  It was of course pessimistic.

What is the next term in the series:  farm, factory, office, ...?  There isn't one.  The evolution of work has come to an end point, and the human race knows this in its bones.  Actually in its reproductive organs:  the farmer of 1800 had six or seven kids, the factory worker of 1900 three or four, the cube jockey of 2000 one or two.  The superfluous humans of 2100, if there are any, will hold at zero.  What would be the point of doing otherwise?
You don’t have to be as downbeat as Lion and Derb to acknowledge that the landscape of paid employment is going to look very different twenty years from now, with much less need for human labor of all kinds.

The official nostrums for dealing with this—the ones, I mean, on offer from liberal pundits in the mainstream media—range from unhelpful to preposterous, with a concentration at the preposterous end.  The commonest suggestion is to make everyone smart and send us all to college.

I don’t think has an official position on the work issue.  We do, though, take it as obvious that continuing to import masses of unskilled foreigners into the situation is really, really stupid.

The GBI concept will be field-tested in the Netherlands next year, and the Finns are currently debating it.

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