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The Argument for Universal Basic Income in the U.S. One of the World's Most Expensive Countries Is Debating Giving Away Money. The Swiss are discussing paying people $2,500 a month for doing nothing.

One of the World's Most Expensive Countries Is Debating Giving Away Money

The country will vote June 5 on whether the government should introduce an unconditional basic income to replace various welfare benefits. Although the initiators of the plan haven’t stipulated how large the payout should be, they’ve suggested the sum of 2,500 francs ($2,500) for an adult and a quarter of that for a child. It sounds good, but — two things. It would barely get you over the poverty line, typically defined as 60 percent of the national median disposable income, in what’s one of the world’s most expensive countries.

More importantly, it’s probably not going to happen anyway. Switzerland's People Power Plebiscites are a common part of Switzerland’s direct democracy, with multiple votes every year. The initiators say the sum they’ve mentioned would allow for a “decent existence.” A Basic Income Should Be the Next Big Thing. Now and then a worthy economic proposal comes along that seems as politically unattainable as it is sensible.

A Basic Income Should Be the Next Big Thing

Then, on closer inspection, you see that it's more than a policy-wonk's fantasy. And you wonder whether it could actually prevail. This may be happening with the concept of a universal basic income. The notion that government should guarantee every citizen an annual stipend of, say, $10,000 -- no strings attached, no questions asked -- is being studied by politicians, economists and policy experts worldwide. Think of it as Social Security for all. Bernie Sanders says he's "sympathetic" to the theory behind a universal basic income but stops well short of advocating it.

A Basic Income Is Smarter Than a Minimum Wage. Just as the U.K. raises its minimum wage and as Bernie Sanders's demands for a 50 percent increase in minimum pay keep winning him votes in the U.S., some politicians in one of the world's most socialist countries, Sweden, are in favor of going in the opposite direction.

A Basic Income Is Smarter Than a Minimum Wage

They could be right, especially if nations can find a way to unhitch basic subsistence from work. Sweden, along with some other countries with big social safety nets -- Denmark, Norway, Switzerland -- doesn't have a legally mandated minimum wage. The Basic Income Bros. Universal basic income is having a moment.

The Basic Income Bros

Or maybe it’s a year, or a decade. The Finnish government said in November that it’s contemplating an 800-euro ($875) monthly payment to all citizens. Smaller pilot projects are in the works in several Dutch cities. The Swiss will vote next year on whether to institute a 2,500 Swiss franc ($2,536) monthly basic income there. Those are all countries in Continental Europe, already known for its generous welfare states. Finns May Get Paid for Being Finns. Finland could become the first country to introduce a universal basic income.

Finns May Get Paid for Being Finns

An official at the Finnish Social Insurance Institution, known as KELA, said last week that each Finn could receive 800 euros ($876) a month, tax free, that would replace existing benefits. Full implementation would be preceded by a pilot stage, during which the basic income payout would be 550 euros and some benefits would remain. QuickTake Income Inequality KELA will present a proposal by November 2016, but for now the idea sounds unrealistic.

What Is the `Guaranteed Income Bill'? Inequality Fight: Swiss Will Vote on Minimum Income - Businessweek. Marilola Wili braces her foot against the wall to pull open a vault door inside a former bank building in downtown Basel.

Inequality Fight: Swiss Will Vote on Minimum Income - Businessweek

In the darkness inside, 15 tons of coins glint like dragon treasure. “It’s something everybody’s dreamed about, swimming in money,” says Wili, a waitress and musician as well as a member of Generation Basic Income. That’s an activist group trying to persuade voters to amend Switzerland’s constitution to guarantee every citizen a yearly income of 30,000 Swiss francs ($33,000)—whether they work or not. The vault is part publicity stunt, part fundraising effort. Switzerland’s system of direct democracy offers anybody who can gather at least 100,000 signatures the chance to put a ballot initiative before the country’s voters. Unease about income inequality and concerns about out-of-control capitalism are rising even in Switzerland, a nation long regarded as a business-friendly bastion—welcoming even the most questionable forms of wealth.

It's Time for a Negative Income Tax - Businessweek. The latest data show that the job market continues to improve, slowly.

It's Time for a Negative Income Tax - Businessweek

Payrolls have expanded at a moderate average monthly rate of 189,000 over the past 12 months. Assuming no government shutdown or debt ceiling crisis in the fall (please), most economists predict more of the same. The median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg call for an average monthly gain of 185,000 in the fourth quarter of this year and 191,000 a month in the first quarter of 2014.

All told, the job market is on the mend. The same cautious optimism doesn’t hold for wages. With rare exceptions, just about everybody agrees that the paltry pay gains for the bottom half of society is bad for individuals, for their families, and for economic vitality.