Finnish politicians are discussing a drastic economic policy: paying every citizen a monthly income. Could it work?by Tom Streithorst / December 30, 2015 / Leave a comment
The Finnish Centre Right Prime Minister has proposed replacing all its means tested welfare programmes with a Basic Income Guarantee giving every citizen 800 euros a month. Although the details still remain to be worked out and the plan is far from certain, over 68 per cent of Finns already support the idea.
Forty-six years since Richard Nixon proposed it to Congress (it passed the House, but died in committee in the Senate), the Basic Income Guarantee is back in the news. Last year, over 130,000 Swiss signed a petition demanding a Basic Income Guarantee that would grant every citizen 2,500 Swiss Francs a month (£21,000 a year). According to a recent poll 49 per cent of the Swiss support the programme and a referendum on Basic Income will be on the ballot in Switzerland within the year.
Although it comes in a variety of flavours, the essential principle is straightforward. A Basic Income Guarantee replaces all means tested benefits with a simple monthly cash payment to all citizens. Everybody gets it: you don’t have to be deserving, or unemployed, or even poor.
Supporters for the idea of a basic income come from both left and right. Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek both were fans. Conservatives like it because it fights poverty without enlarging the nanny state. It also avoids the distortion to incentives inevitable with most means tested programmes. Sam Bowman of the Adam Smith Institute notes that the current welfare system creates “situations where people are better off out of work or taking fewer hours of work. The Basic Income Guarantee eliminates most of those perverse incentives while still providing a safety net for the poor.”
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Community organiser and Basic Income advocate Barb Jacobson agrees. “The marginal tax rate for benefits ranges from 75-98 per cent, which is where the poverty trap originates—it is often not worth getting a job.” She adds, “Conservatives like the idea of getting rid of the Byzantine bureaucracy…