Grundeinkommen - ein Kulturimpuls
October 6, 2013 10:59 AM   Subscribe

Switzerland to vote on $2,800 monthly 'basic income' for adults (reddit, mr; previously-er)

  • Old utopian ideal revived on Swiss streets: "The campaigners say it is time for a broad public debate about the value of work in society and the widening gap between rich and poor – and more specifically to grant every legal resident in Switzerland contributions of CHF2,500 ($2,597) a month outright. The aim is to give everyone the right to self-determination and to live a life with less pressure, according to a promotional leaflet."
  • Basic income – better off without working?: "The 'emancipation of Switzerland' or an 'attack on the welfare state'? The debate over a basic income"
  • Streets of Basel paved with gold: "Switzerland does not have a minimum wage written into law. It does have bargaining arrangements between its workers and management and covers the majority of the working population. The founder and Daniel Häni both made The Basic income, a cultural impulse that praises the idea of a Basic income. The movie, directed by [sic] and Enno Schmidt, was released in 2008 and has been translated into more than ten languages including English, French, Slovak and Finnish."
  • Swiss To Vote On Giving Everyone A Basic Income: "Will a basic work? It is hard to say. There have been studies proving that giving people a guaranteed basic income, regardless of their situation, can help them escape poverty. However, the monthly pay of 2,500 Swiss suggested by Generation Basic Income exceeds the federal budget of Switzerland by more than 300%, if we are to assume the number of adults is around 80% of the Swiss population. How it would be funded remains to be seen."
  • Basic Income for Europe in 2014? "Switzerland is just one of several countries with a growing public interest in political activism, thought to be because of a developing network politics of political activists. This has caused many to wonder if Internet activism can develop into a true political movement and make any serious economic changes on a global basis."
posted by kliuless (64 comments total) 63 users marked this as a favorite
 
I am for this.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 11:12 AM on October 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


This is just to prank Ted Cruz, right?
posted by Devonian at 11:18 AM on October 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


the monthly pay of 2,500 Swiss suggested by Generation Basic Income exceeds the federal budget of Switzerland by more than 300%, if we are to assume the number of adults is around 80% of the Swiss population. How it would be funded remains to be seen.

Pshaw! - mere details. They need to just enact the law and worry about the irrelevant little technicalities later.

Oh, and if they were fussy about minarets before...
posted by codswallop at 11:21 AM on October 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Even fairly moderate voices are out there using a basic income as a compromise that te left and right can (in a perfect world?) agree to.

But the Swiss proposal does seem a bit high? Yes? I ask that as someone also in favor of this.
posted by furnace.heart at 11:22 AM on October 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't have the necessary knowledge of economics to judge how feasible this is, but if they gave all citizens a Basic Income the Swiss government would have to print a lot more francs. Wouldn't that produce massive inflation, and erode the financial security that they're trying to provide?
posted by Kevin Street at 11:23 AM on October 6, 2013


It's a lovely utopian concept and I'd personally be very tempted to move to such a place. But I don't have a clue how it's supposed to work in reality, on any level whatsoever. I'm not sure its advocates do either.
posted by naju at 11:26 AM on October 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


It does seem pretty high to me as well. I've always thought of GBI as something roughly at the poverty level. In the US that would be $11k/year for a single person household. Mumble mumble math there are ~300 million is about 3 trillion total or about 4 times the cost of social security.
posted by Skorgu at 11:27 AM on October 6, 2013


umble mumble math there are ~300 million is about 3 trillion total or about 4 times the cost of social security.

Are you saying we have to pay everyone?
posted by lalochezia at 11:29 AM on October 6, 2013


Fundamentally sound concept that has a strong economically conservative/libertarian lineage. Which means today's conservatives/libertarians would cry "Communism!" never go for it.

On its face it looks high to me, but I'm not aware of Switzerland's economy, so maybe it's realistic?
posted by 2N2222 at 11:41 AM on October 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's a lovely utopian concept and I'd personally be very tempted to move to such a place.

Their flavour of utopia might mean you wouldn't get in.
posted by biffa at 11:43 AM on October 6, 2013 [13 favorites]


2500 Sfr is high, but not as high as it appears. The cost of living in Switzerland is very high. One of the highest in the world. Quick anecdote for reference: a slice of pizza will cost you about 8 bucks US if you're lucky. Also, I assume that there is an adjustment to the tax rate on earned income plus cost savings from removing welfare departments. It's not nearly as unfeasible as it appears at first glance.
posted by molecicco at 11:43 AM on October 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


During my 13 European countries in 30 days clusterfuck I planned on spending three days in Switzerland. It was by far the most expensive place we went. 10 Bucks for a beer in a really shitty place. It was so expensive that we only made it a night and went back to Prague when we woke up.

$2,800 isn't that much there. At least it wasn't in 1999.
posted by johnpowell at 11:48 AM on October 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


2500 Sfr is high, but not as high as it appears. The cost of living in Switzerland is very high.

That's the basic problem with these "basic income" proposals anywhere. What if every landlord doubles the rent, every store doubles the price of beer, etc.? It's not enough to pass the income subsidy but the subsidy has to keep track with basic living costs and/or inflation. While, at the same time, it's hard to make arguments for social welfare policies: housing, medicine, schooling etc. when opponent can just stand up and say "everyone has a guaranteed income, why should the state build affordable housing, subsidize education, health, ...?" So, basic income goes along with "liberalizing" the welfare state.

Basically, it's a "free market" idea which everyone pretends is something else. For proponents on the left, it's based on some fairly naive ideas about how politics in a capitalist economy works: the basic income is poison to building solidarity.
posted by ennui.bz at 11:54 AM on October 6, 2013 [11 favorites]


Are you saying we have to pay everyone?

Well that's generally the point of GBI, yeah. "Every legal resident" in the Swiss system for example.

To throw some more mumbly numbers around, the US spends 14.8% of GDP on welfare (omitting education), Switzerland currently spends 26.4%. At a US GDP of ~16 trillion that 14.8% comes out to about 2.2 trillion. I don't know enough about the various programs to say that GBI would be able to replace those welfare systems but it's appealing enough in its simplicity (and at least order-of-magnitude similar in size) to be worth thinking about.
posted by Skorgu at 11:54 AM on October 6, 2013


Is this really any more realistic than the whole "President Obama to decide on "Death Star" proposal this year!" headlines from a while back, thanks to the whole petition thing?
posted by ShutterBun at 11:55 AM on October 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty sure the actual math may be a problem, but I think this is where we will end up going. It should be more like $5000 a month. No more welfare, unemployment, etc. those who want to work, will, those who want to peruse other interests will do that. When all the jobs are being taken by robotics, something will have to be done.
posted by Windopaene at 11:56 AM on October 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Their flavour of utopia might mean you wouldn't get in."

Oh, absolutely. Everybody in the world would be trying to immigrate to Switzerland, and the system would buckle under the strain. It would be different if many nations started providing basic incomes at the same time, but if Switzerland was the first to do so, it would have to restrict immigration even more than they do now.


"...a slice of pizza will cost you about 8 bucks US if you're lucky."

That better be good pizza.
posted by Kevin Street at 11:56 AM on October 6, 2013


The article says adults.
posted by biffa at 11:57 AM on October 6, 2013


That's the basic problem with these "basic income" proposals anywhere. What if every landlord doubles the rent, every store doubles the price of beer, etc.? It's not enough to pass the income subsidy but the subsidy has to keep track with basic living costs and/or inflation. While, at the same time, it's hard to make arguments for social welfare policies: housing, medicine, schooling etc. when opponent can just stand up and say everyone has a guaranteed income, why should the state build affordable housing, subsidize education, health, etc. So, basic income goes along with "liberalizing" the welfare state.

Big, big fan of the guaranteed minimum income here.
  1. Redistribution of wealth is the point. Inflation produced by rising wages (or by a guaranteed minimum income) flattens economic inequality. It's sort of wonderful.
  2. Have you done much reading about the Mincome experiment?
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:01 PM on October 6, 2013 [14 favorites]


Sorry, that was aimed at the 'pay everybody?' bit above.

Separately: I remember Switzerland being very pricey when I was there in 1996 but have been back since a few times and it wasn't totally crazy. Noticeably expensive but not Scandinavia expensive. I just got back from Denmark and it seemed to be at least £6 for a half litre of beer in most places, I don't think we paid that last year in Switzerland. Plus we found a place in Geneva which did Cuban cigars which were a bargain! So they do keep the price of the essentials down.
posted by biffa at 12:01 PM on October 6, 2013


Big Mac + Fries + Drink = approx $14.00 USD last time I was in Geneva.
posted by blue_beetle at 12:01 PM on October 6, 2013


Their flavour of utopia might mean you wouldn't get in.

It would require me to get a pretty serious, high level job that would support me with a work visa. Which sort of defeats the whole point of moving to a place with a basic income, yeah.
posted by naju at 12:02 PM on October 6, 2013


"...a slice of pizza will cost you about 8 bucks US if you're lucky."

That better be good pizza.


It's made of chocolate.
posted by srboisvert at 12:06 PM on October 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Big Mac Index 2013
posted by IndigoJones at 12:12 PM on October 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure that this deals with the wage gap. It seems like a combination of welfare (safety net), high minimum wage (work incentive), and high marginal tax rate with inheritance taxes (don't create a super-rich class) is a better combination. These one-'size-fits-all programs sound good but are often too simple.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 12:13 PM on October 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Actually, the chocolate really is excellent, bountiful, and reasonably priced in Switzerland. The pizza I had in Zurich (those eight-dollar slices) were generally crap. If you want to pay 30 in a restaurant though, then yeah it's pretty good.
posted by molecicco at 12:13 PM on October 6, 2013


"The cost of living in Switzerland is very high."

Like most things this really does depend. I could get by on 2,500 CHF a month here in Switzerland, sure it wouldn't be great fun and i wouldn't be able to afford some luxuries (season lift pass, days out) but it is do-able where i am (FWIW, not a shitty area).

If i were living in one of the big cities then sure it would be more difficult. Isn't this the same the world over though? When i was interviewing for jobs in London my biggest concern was rent, i am getting far far more for my money in Switzerland.

"...a slice of pizza will cost you about 8 bucks US if you're lucky."

Or you could go to Migros or Coop and buy an entire 12" pizza for the same price. Yes, you better believe that eating out is expensive. The Big Mac Index is a funny one, meat here is expensive. Actually, reverse that - meat everywhere else is *cheap*.
posted by lawrencium at 12:19 PM on October 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


You Can't Tip a Buick makes some good points. It seems to me that an assured basic income would work best in countries with really high income inequality, where a tiny minority are well off and the rest of the population have to work all day just to stay alive. (And there's no appreciable social safety net.) Countries like Bolivia or Sierra Leone, say. Even a small guaranteed income would make a lot of difference there.
posted by Kevin Street at 12:20 PM on October 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I always think these cost of living comparisons like a slice of pizza are a bit overblown because in places like Switzerland people just don't eat out very much at all. I spent some time with students there and it was interesting to compare them to American students. Swiss students seem to hardly go out at all. Their universities have little reliance on cafeterias and they are cheaper and more austere than American University cafeterias. Tuition is low or free. They mostly make simple food at home. Groceries are more expensive, but people adjust. For example, students I knew didn't eat much meat at all.

It was the same in Sweden where I studied for a year. People are shocked that I saved money by studying in Sweden. Housing is expensive, but people live with roommates and public transit is so good that it allows you to live a little further out than would be tolerable in the US.
posted by melissam at 12:36 PM on October 6, 2013


Sounds like something proposed by known liberal and commie sympathizer Richard M. Nixon. And that known Marxist Reagan didn't even automatically dismiss it out of hand. (Thanks to dilettante for making me aware of this.)
posted by entropicamericana at 12:40 PM on October 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


Some propose a BGI-like system in the US by extending programs like food stamps to everyone, which is an idea I like.
posted by melissam at 12:41 PM on October 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I really hope this passes, if only to get a measure of how well such a system works in practice. I have a suspicion that, in practice, it really really won't. But empirical data is good.
posted by kafziel at 12:45 PM on October 6, 2013


I think it could work in practice, but I also think there's a strong possibility the required socioeconomic infrastructure is too far fetched at the moment.

Such a big change is going to rewire a lot of the incentives and disincentives that people depend on.
posted by tychotesla at 12:49 PM on October 6, 2013


This is just to prank Ted Cruz, right?


Never mind BGI, imagine what they'll think of the enormous sentient spacecraft and getting high by thinking.
posted by fullerine at 12:59 PM on October 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


I agree with kafziel above, in that it would be interesting to see in practice. I think it *could* work, but we need like to see its effect on inflation and work habits. Of course, what "works" is open to interpretation. I would count massive reduction of poverty with little effect on the median standard of living as a success, but some people have decided that economic redistribution a priori wrong morally regardless of practice.
posted by Loudmax at 1:03 PM on October 6, 2013


I would count massive reduction of poverty with little effect on the median standard of living as a success, but some people have decided that economic redistribution a priori wrong morally regardless of practice.

Agreed.
posted by kafziel at 1:07 PM on October 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think this will never achieve the majority necessary to become law. There has been a minimum wage floating around recently which could pass, but something as radical as this is a waste of time for the whole administration of the ballot initiative process.

This is anyway a risk in Switzerland where many many things are decided on ballot initiative. A ballot initiative requires volunteers to gather signatures to place it on the ballot. Often, extreme measures are necessary to motivate the volunteers to gather signatures (why stand in front of the super market all Saturday for something incremental?)

Anyway, this seems like a perfect example of an initiative that goes too far to do anything but waste everyone's time. But, we will see.
posted by jazh at 1:15 PM on October 6, 2013


Guaranteed minimum income is something that I've been saying would be a good idea for a long time. I can't speak to whether the Swiss proposal is workable or not (I just don't know enough about the situation, though this FPP is a great start!) but it's not impossible to do in principal. There are ways to make it more workable.

The advantage of the guaranteed minimum income is that of all the wealth-redistribution strategies (and jeez, can we stop acting as if that's a curse word here in America?) it's the one that has the lowest government overhead. Everybody gets the same amount, no need to deal with an application process or calculating costs or doling out different amount of money to different people or making sure that people are qualified and not taking advantage of the system. One way to make a GMI more feasible is to take advantage of this.

Yes, that means removing some of the existing social safety net. Let's face it, though: in most countries the social safety net is a piecemeal thing, a bureaucratic monster that not only leaves out a lot of deserving people (which the GMI doesn't, of course) but also incurs a lot of overhead and complexity, with attendant costs in abuse, duplication of labor, corruption, and general bureaucratic inefficiency. This is one of the reasons why conservatives often attack it (even if it's frequently not a good-faith argument) and to be honest there's a kernel of truth buried in the mountain of bullshit there. If you have a GMI then you can remove a lot of social welfare programs and build them into a single, simple system that does the same job for more people. You would want to spare those programs that serve people who have special needs that incur extra costs for them, but most other programs could disappear under a properly designed GMI system. So you save some money there through consolidation, simplification, and economies of scale.

You also need to restructure taxes significantly. This would incur a significant one-time cost in terms of the effort involved, but it would be absolutely necessary to make a GMI affordable. The big problem with the GMI, and one of the reasons why it's so expensive, is that you end up giving money to a lot of people who really don't need it. So in addition to raising taxes across the board to pay for the system (hopefully the economic loss from that cancels out when you have a citizenry where everybody can suddenly afford to buy the things they need) you also change the tax structure so that as people need their GMI less, they pay more into the system that funds it. You would need to structure this in such a way as to minimize the disincentive to work (and to find higher-level jobs) that a poorly-designed system could create, but if you marginalize it, let the GMI surcharge kick in gradually, and don't have it start until people are already pretty economically comfortable then you could avoid losing a lot of funds to people who don't need them. Since this is just a reorganization of the existing tax system (something that happens all the time anyway) you shouldn't incur too much additional overhead by doing it.

Obviously there are lots of other hurdles involved in making a GMI work. It's always going to be an expensive proposition, but there's a lot of wealth out there in a lot of countries that's not doing a lot of good in the world. I remain thoroughly convinced that it's something that every developed country could employ to great effect if it really wanted to -- that it's a matter of political and cultural will (and of obstruction by the folks who are at the top of the heap right now) rather than of intrinsic unfeasibility. The above ideas are just a couple of the most obvious ones that came to me off the top of my head. I'm no economist, and I'm sure that there are professionals out there who have thought this through much more thoroughly than me. Even a GMI that doesn't by itself cover peoples' basic needs could still be a worthwhile benefit, and would provide a framework for increases that would eventually ensure a minimum standard of comfortable living for just about everyone.

For me this is a logical step toward a more compassionate, equitable, functional, happy society that all developed nations should be considering. I'm glad to see the Swiss pursuing this, and I hope that they do it and find a way to make it work out, because it would be absolutely wonderful if we could have a working example of a functional GMI system.
posted by Scientist at 1:20 PM on October 6, 2013 [26 favorites]


1) Redistribution of wealth is the point. Inflation produced by rising wages (or by a guaranteed minimum income) flattens economic inequality. It's sort of wonderful.
2) Have you done much reading about the Mincome experiment?


My point wasn't about the economics of a basic income, but the politics of it. A BI has to be constantly adjusted to reflect the real cost of living and every adjustment builds strong coalitions against it: in particular, it makes a coalition of all income tax payers against people who don't pay income tax. You can see this in the politics of the "earned income credit" in the U.S. and Republican talk of "moochers"... and the EIC was the brain-child of Milton Friedman.

The EIC is essentially a small basic income. But even if it were increased, it still won't give me public transportation, affordable housing, affordable health care, educational opportunity. And, the politics of the EIC make all of those things harder to achieve rather than easier. There's a reason why Milton Friedman supported basic income proposals.
posted by ennui.bz at 1:23 PM on October 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yes, that means removing some of the existing social safety net. Let's face it, though: in most countries the social safety net is a piecemeal thing, a bureaucratic monster that not only leaves out a lot of deserving people (which the GMI doesn't, of course) but also incurs a lot of overhead and complexity, with attendant costs in abuse, duplication of labor, corruption, and general bureaucratic inefficiency. This is one of the reasons why conservatives often attack it (even if it's frequently not a good-faith argument) and to be honest there's a kernel of truth buried in the mountain of bullshit there. If you have a GMI then you can remove a lot of social welfare programs and build them into a single, simple system that does the same job for more people.

this is exactly my point. if you want to dismantle the social welfare safety net, then a "basic income" is a great idea. you realize you are in the far right-wing of most of europe?

people of the left should think really hard about the politics of these proposals.
posted by ennui.bz at 1:27 PM on October 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hmmm...would this play in the U.S.? Let's weigh the options, as the conservatives see them:

1. Tax the wealthy and give the money to the poor, no questions asked.
2. Let the poor starve and die in squalor of preventable disease.

Oh yeah, that's gonna be a real tough choice for them.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 1:28 PM on October 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


I feel like this could work if there were a price ceiling imposed on rents. Otherwise I forsee landlords just setting rents at the level of the basic income for anything currently priced less.
posted by blnkfrnk at 1:30 PM on October 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


As pointed out up thread this is not as much as some might think.
I was in Zurich airport last week and when I gasped at the price of something in duty free, the salesperson said '' Welcome to Switzerland''.
A coffee, water and sandwich cost me usd $24. OK I know it's the airport but that is steep.
posted by adamvasco at 1:47 PM on October 6, 2013


There was an experiment on this in the 70's called 'mincome'.
A final report was never issued, but Dr. Evelyn Forget [pronounced 'for-zhay'] conducted an analysis of the research in 2007.[5] She found that only new mothers and teenagers worked substantially less. Mothers with newborns stopped working because they wanted to stay at home longer with their babies, and teenagers worked less because they weren't under as much pressure to support their families, which resulted in more teenagers graduating. In addition, those who continued to work were given more opportunities to choose what type of work they did. Dr. Forget found that in the period that Mincome was administered, hospital visits dropped 8.5 per cent, with fewer incidences of work-related injuries, and fewer emergency room visits from car accidents and domestic abuse.[6] Additionally, the period saw a reduction in rates of psychiatric hospitalization, and in the number of mental illness-related consultations with health professionals.[7][8]
posted by kaibutsu at 2:06 PM on October 6, 2013 [13 favorites]


ennui.bz, I don't see a guaranteed basic income as a dismantling of the social safety net. I see it as allowing us to do away with the broken social safety net that we have (because while it's important that it exists, it also fails to help a lot of people who need help) and replace it with a new one that's better and more comprehensive. I don't see how that's not a leftist goal.
posted by Scientist at 4:05 PM on October 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


Man a GMI would revitalize the heck out of small town America.
posted by Mitheral at 5:01 PM on October 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


I actually think all developed countries are on a path toward having a basic income eventually. At some point, income inequality will be such that the rich can just pay for all the needs of everyone else, without it even being a huge chunk of their budget.

Imagine it's 2053, and while median income and cost-of-living are about the same as today, there are thousands of billionaires and hundreds of trillionaires. They could easily decide to "donate" 1% of their income (through taxes) to keep everyone else housed, fed, and complacent.
posted by miyabo at 6:43 PM on October 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Miyabo, we have that already -- it's just that the only tolerance the system can function at is to put that money into private prisons. The rich are quite happy to feed and house the poor in perpetuity, as long as it's in jail.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 7:58 PM on October 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


When all the jobs are being taken by robotics, something will have to be done.

This argument makes a lot of sense to me. For many decades we have been automating human work out of existence, but the steady increase in access to energy has meant we have been able to develop new industries more-or-less quickly enough to make new jobs for the now-useless workers displaced by machines. This cycle has broken down, though, since we are bumping into the limits of our planet. Where does this go? We are long past the point where we can meet everyone's basic needs without making them work for it, and we're certainly not going to stop automating work away. A guaranteed basic income seems like a pretty sensible way to make up the difference.
posted by Mars Saxman at 8:16 PM on October 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


Due to the Mincome experiment, I don't entirely buy the "disincentive to work" arguments. Though I have to say, maybe disincentives to work might be a good thing — maybe life might actually be better for everyone if fewer people worked.

At the very least, disincentivizing work might be a way to help keep us all from drowning under tepid seawater.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 10:46 PM on October 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I support basic income proposals, both due to the Mincome experiment and on general principle, and I'm pleased this Swiss proposal is raising awareness, but..

Just implementing a basic income directly represents a radical alternation in state financing, which creates opportunities for misallocation, corruption, etc. At present, our problems come largely from misallocating resources, quite obviously in the U.S. with defense spending running like $900B and law enforcement around $100B, but misallocation is pervasive throughout both government and the private sector. Worse, such misallocation is often self-perpetuating.

Imho, we should reduce the misallocation and outright corruption before actually implementing a basic income. Any thoughts on the Swiss banks' final take before this ever became law? Anyone recall that Bank of America bilks millions from welfare recipients through their EBT cards? Now the Swiss would never tolerate BoA EBT cards, but they'd institutionalize less obvious waste, graft, etc.

How do we reduce this systemic misallocation? We're not so great at intelligently reducing spending, either in the public or private sector. We could however simply reduce the work week, first to four days, and later to three days. There are good odds that, if people only work 3 days per week they'll do the important task, and scream louder about being forced to waste their time. At minimum, you spread around the work more evenly by shortening the work week, which buys you similar benefits to a basic income.
posted by jeffburdges at 12:37 AM on October 7, 2013




Well, jeffburges, we currently have a five day work week which is pretty much ignored by:
a) tech-oriented places with expectations that people work 60+ hours a week, and
b) box stores which slot people into eternal part-time job roles, requiring poor workers to work two or three part-time jobs to make ends meet.

Doing the necessary things to _require_ people to work at most 3 or 4 days a week would be pretty onerous, though I agree that reducing work time could have benefits similar to the mincome.

I also think that there should be less of a problem with misallocation and distribution with a program involving everyone than our current piecemeal welfare system. But that's just me....
posted by kaibutsu at 4:50 AM on October 7, 2013


Yes, any truly uniform system is much less exploitable and much less politically vulnerable. Example : France's health care providers are basically private, and can theoretically charge what they want, but they receive a flat reimbursement for their work, so few charge more. Britain has this supposedly wonderful truly universal health care infected by a cancerous separate private system.

My PhD advisor once joked that America invested so heavily in West Germany because they feared that the East Germans might actually make communism work. Swiss doubly so. The Swiss would not issue BoA EBT cards. In fact, they've their own ATM system just to avoid paying outside companies anything.

There is however still corruption and graft that any government program must feed, so expanding the budget 300% will make someone amazingly rich, probably bankers, and they may expand their share over time.

It'd definitely create economic equality, but it's a more radical and more corruptible change than shaving off half a work day and planning to shave off another half day several years later.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:16 AM on October 7, 2013


I like it in theory, but it seems risky to do this in a world where Grand Theft Auto V exists.
posted by Theta States at 7:06 AM on October 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Imagine it's 2053, and while median income and cost-of-living are about the same as today, there are thousands of billionaires and hundreds of trillionaires. They could easily decide to "donate" 1% of their income (through taxes) to keep everyone else housed, fed, and complacent.

Or they could let feudalisation get its course and end up with a pyramidal social structure where they get the fealty of those to whose welfare they donate their surplus profits.
posted by acb at 7:20 AM on October 7, 2013


Bookend proposal also faces vote on 11/24:

"A separate proposal to limit monthly executive pay to no more than what the company's lowest-paid staff earn in a year, the so-called 1:12 initiative, faces a popular vote on November 24."
posted by Hairy Lobster at 10:08 AM on October 7, 2013


This thread is a nice distraction from the US default kabuki theater, thanks. It's nice to see that other parts of the world are actually thinking about the future, instead of standing around waiting to fall over backwards.

As I sit here scanning ads for my next contract, I can ponder what I could do if I had a guaranteed minimum coming in to cover most of the basics (the "nut" as it's called in business). I could plan to take a break for some more education, or travel, or put more time into a lower-paying industry that offers more karmic rewards... oh wait, that's what my spouse and I have been doing for the last several years, anyway. But a GMI would allow more flexibility, and more security, especially in saving and planning for old age.

The GMI vote will be interesting to watch.
posted by Artful Codger at 10:30 AM on October 7, 2013


"A separate proposal to limit monthly executive pay to no more than what the company's lowest-paid staff earn in a year, the so-called 1:12 initiative, faces a popular vote on November 24."

Note that there's a pretty serious flaw in the reportage here: The proposal is to limit a company's CEO pay to 12 times what the least-paid worker makes.

I was recently thinking that something like this would be a great idea. Management wants a pay raise? You have to raise the janitor's salary by one-twelfth what you want to get, too. The brass can make whatever they want, but they have to be able to give a proportionate cut to all the lower-down workers, too.
posted by kaibutsu at 2:32 PM on October 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


kaibutsu: "Note that there's a pretty serious flaw in the reportage her"

Ah, yes, looks like you're right. It's a straight up factor of 12, not 12x annual lowest income per month. Here's the webpage for the initiative (in German)
posted by Hairy Lobster at 2:44 PM on October 7, 2013


Wait... there are 12 months in a year. So what's the flaw in the reporting? Am I missing something obvious here? Annual income of the lowest worker, paid each month over a year, will result in 12x the pay of the lowest paid worker (not accounting for bonuses, overtime, etc).
posted by molecicco at 7:07 AM on October 8, 2013


Ah, you're right; I somehow glossed over the word 'monthly' on first (and second) reading....
posted by kaibutsu at 1:31 PM on October 8, 2013


Fed Doves Need to Think Big: "When weighing the costs and benefits of alternative policy actions under these circumstances, I would have to question whether the financial system has become too complex — perhaps complex enough to generate negative marginal social value. Rather than degrading our macroeconomic performance through suboptimal monetary policies, I also would have to consider whether we should contemplate big changes to the financial system — a lot more rules, substantially higher capital requirements for all institutions and maybe even fewer financial products."

A Fed Bailout for Main Street: "There might be better options available. Suppose that the Fed offered a checking account to every American and deposited money into this account on a regular basis. If the Fed wanted to stimulate the economy, it could put money into people's pockets at a relatively faster pace. If it wanted to slow things down, the Fed could pay depositors less. (Confiscating deposits would almost certainly make people upset, if Cyprus's recent experience is any guide.) This kind of reform could make monetary policy both more effective and less likely to produce unfair distributional consequences."
posted by kliuless at 9:27 PM on October 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Cash to the poor: Pennies from heaven - "Giving money directly to poor people works surprisingly well. But it cannot deal with the deeper causes of poverty."
posted by kliuless at 11:57 PM on October 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


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