Lasts fall, as a publicity stunt to advocate a new social policy in the tiny, rich country Switzerland, a truck dumped eight million coins outside the Parliament building in Bern, one for every citizen. Along with the coins, activists delivered 125.000 signatures, enough to trigger a Swiss public referendum on providing a monthly income to every citizen, no strings attached.
The Basic Income movement is quickly gaining ground all around the world and could benefit modern society, but how does it really work?
The idea is simple: Every month, every person would receive a check from the government, no matter how rich or poor, how hardworking or lazy, how old or young.
Intended to be enough for a person to survive on, the money for this social welfare scheme could come from the government or some other public institution, in addition to funds or income received from other sources. It could be taxable, or non-taxable.
People often forget money the government has is not all theirs, it's also ours. We too should get a slice in deciding if we want it spent on a new highway, or on humanity.
For example, we have many government agencies aimed at providing unemployment benefits. However the cost of running these organizations is not worth the cost to society.
Also, looking ahead to the future, we may have very little choice but to implement it. Given digitalization has already de-constructed a lot of work fields and the rise of free culture, it actually might be needed to prevent a complete social and economic collapse any way.
At the same time, basic income will also allow people to do things that we are uniquely good at (culture, exploration, innovation, etc) while we can let machines do the rest.
Just think of all the small start-up companies that could be realized if people had the time and support to work on their interests without worrying about their basic needs or being accountable to investors. By eliminating the obligation to work just for simple survival, basic income would allow a new dynamic expansion of human freedom and human potential.
More evidence to bolster the policy’s case. In the mid-1970s, the tiny Canadian town of Dauphin called “Mincome” had tested the social policy. For a short period of time, all the residents of the town received a guaranteed minimum income. About 1,000 poor families got monthly checks to supplement their earnings. The results: Poverty disappeared. But others were more surprising: High-school completion rates went up; hospitalization rates went down.
An example of a 'mini-basic income' today is in Namibia. The introduction led to an increase in economic activity which contradicts critics' claims that the BIG (Basic Income Movement) will lead to laziness and dependency. Namibia had amazing results in a number of other things as well, namely poverty reduction and a reduction in crime rate by 40%.
Of course, a basic income won't solve all our real problems on its own, but has the power to re-shape society. The best way to show how the new policy would really affect the work habits and well being of all, would be to give the idea a try. But to make that happen, we will have to get past the fear of "something for nothing".
In the end, if we can successfully test the policy on bigger scale, we could enter into a brand-new era of human potential.