Sure, Swiss voters rejected a proposal to guarantee an income to all residents, whether or not they are employed.
But 23 percent did vote in favor of the idea, which itself is a victory given the full-scale campaign against the proposal—by mainstream economists and many others.
Critics have called the initiative “a Marxist dream”, warning of sky-high costs and people quitting their jobs in droves, to the detriment of the economy. “If you pay people to do nothing, they will do nothing,” said Charles Wyplosz, economics professor at the Geneva Graduate Institute.
And then there was the anti-immigrant argument by the right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP):
SVP spokeswoman Luis Stamm told the BBC: “Theoretically, if Switzerland were an island [basic income] would be possible.
“You could cut down on existing social payments and instead pay a certain amount of money to every individual.
“But with open borders it’s a total impossibility. If you would offer every individual a Swiss amount of money you would have billions of people who would try to move into Switzerland.”
Still, the idea of a guaranteed basic income continues to grow, with trials planned for the Canadian province of Ontario, Finland, and the Dutch city of Utrecht.
Interest in the United States is also increasing, although a proposal by the likes of Charles Murray is going to undermine what support the idea currently has among people who actually work for a living. That’s because Murray wants to use a guaranteed income not only to replace existing anti-poverty and corporate-welfare programs, but also to eliminate Social Security and Medicare.
The whole idea behind a guaranteed income is to decommodify areas of economic and social life, building on Social Security and Medicare, which are based on the idea that the larger community uses a portion of the surplus to take care of some of its members, outside commodity exchange. Murray (along with other conservatives who support a basic income) wants to do exactly the opposite: force people to use their basic income to purchase additional commodities, even after retirement.
That’s not a guaranteed basic income. That’s just more freedom to choose private commodities.