The Swiss voted down a measure to give every legally resident citizen of Switzerland an income of CHF 2500 (about $2555 US) every month. The Z Man considers the issue:
There are some good arguments in favor of the guaranteed basic income. One is it is simple. Like the flat tax, the GBI replaces the myriad of welfare programs and the government vipers that come with them. The other point in its favor is it addresses the growing problem of mass unemployment. In the robot future, most people don’t work so this solves the problem of people not having a way to earn money. There’s also the fact that it is value neutral. People get the money to spend on whatever they wish, without the nanny state harassing them.
There is, of course, a downside, at least from the US point of view:
There are many arguments against it, with the most obvious being that welfare programs never go away. In America, the US Congress has repealed exactly one welfare program in the last century. The WPA was passed in the 1930s and later replaced by Comprehensive Employment and Training Act, which was such a hilarious disaster, it was replaced by a program called the Jobs Training Partnership Act. That was eventually repealed in the 90s. That’s a long time to kill one horrible welfare program.
The most likely result, at least in America, is a basic income on top of existing welfare programs. There are 79 means tested welfare programs in America. Everyone of those programs has a federal agency employing thousands of people who do nothing but administer welfare programs. Congress will get rid of those right after they do something about the unicorn infestation. Until the inevitable fiscal crisis forces a mass retrenchment of industrial era government programs, there will be no reform of welfare in America.
I’m not holding my breath. Still, it would be amusing to have a referendum on the matter, the way the Swiss did:
There was little support among Swiss politicians for the idea and not a single parliamentary party came out in favour, but the proposal gathered more than 100,000 signatures and was therefore put to the vote under the Swiss popular initiative system.
What percentage could such a referendum get in the States? Thirty percent, maybe?