Any chance of a basic income for all?

When I wrote in “What about a socialized basic income?” on Sunday (5 June) that the Swiss were voting on a basic income plan I hadn’t realised that the proposed income was so high — £21,000 or US$30,000 a year. It was decisively rejected, 77% to 23%. The Swiss government and all 14 political parties were against the proposal, but not the original lobby group, Basic Income Switzerland (BIS), which expected a defeat at this stage.

But how far will jobs become automated? How far will welfare benefits for the unemployed have to be stretched in the coming years? It’s really impossible to say. But what we do know is that humans are a highly pecking-order species — all the more stratified these days because of increasing specializations.

At present, the top 20% of earners pay almost all net personal income tax. This is sufficient for almost all welfare payments to the unemployed, never mind the increasing burden of care for old people. It’s hardly likely that high earners are going to afford paying for anything approaching a basic income for all as unemployment rises.

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