“Take one income, please,” the caption of a cartoon from a recent New York Times magazine article reads. The image shows a coupon dispenser distributing 1,000 mille francs.
The cartoon illustrates a proposal at the center of a national conversation in Switzerland. The proposal would require the government to provide a monthly income to every one of the country’s citizens -- no questions asked. Sounds crazy, but the economist behind this particular push argues that, among other improvements to society, a so-called "basic income" would spur creativity and entrepreneurship.
“I tell people not to think about it for others, but think about it for themselves,” Enno Schmidt, economist and leader of the basic-income movement, told the Times. “What would you do if you had that income?”
Schmidt told the outlet that entrepreneurs would be free to do the things they want to do, rather than be forced to do what they need to do to get by. Their creativity could run wild.
Interestingly, the article's author outlined what a basic-income initiative would look like stateside, using political scientist Charles Murray (of the conservative American Enterprise Institute think tank) as a guide. Imagine: The U.S. government would give $10,000 a year to anyone who is American, over 21, and not a criminal.
In addition to creating more entrepreneurship, some economists think this idea would cut federal bureaucracy by ending social programs like welfare and food stamps.
However, keep in mind, economists’ opinions on the issue of basic-income vary widely. Experts on opposing side say that cost and disincentive to work are obvious pitfalls.
As for the idea’s popularity in Switzerland, 125,000 people have already signed a petition in favor of the policy, which is enough to trigger a public referendum.