Switzerland has a very direct style of democracy. For example, changes to the constitution, or “popular initiatives,” can be proposed by members of the public and are voted on if more than 100,000 people sign them. If a majority of voters and cantons (Swiss states) agree, the change can be come law.
This system not only allows individual citizens a high degree of control of their laws, but also means that more unorthodox ideas become referendum issues.
Recently, there has been a spate of popular initiatives designed to curb inequality in the country. Earlier this year Swiss voters agreed to an idea proposed by entrepreneur Thomas Minder that limited executive (in his words, “fat cat”) salaries of companies listed on the Swiss stock market. Next month voters will decide on the 1:12 Initiative, which aims to limit the salaries of CEOs to 12 times the salary of their company’s lowest paid employee.
There’s a crazier proposal than this, however. Earlier this month an initiative aimed at giving every Swiss adult a “basic income” that would “ensure a dignified existence and participation in the public life of the whole population” gained enough support to qualify for a referendum. The amount suggested is 2,500 francs ($2,800) a month.
Promo from treemedia.com a movement promoting UNCONDITIONAL BASIC INCOME. They state that an UNCONDITIONAL BASIC INCOME for all may very well be how we solve many of our most pressing and intractable problems and free people to create lives free of the bondage of economic servitude.
While most observers think that the vote is a longshot, it has certainly sparked debate — and not just in Switzerland. Writing for USA Today, Duncan Black said that a “minimum income” should be considered for the U.S.
“It’s pretty clear that the most efficient way to improve the lives of people is to guarantee a minimum income,” Black concludes.
However, Black understates just how radical the proposal is. We spoke to Daniel Straub, one of the people behind the initiative, to get a better understanding of what the proposal really means, why it is so radical, and what the world could learn from it.