This Swiss City Will Weigh Giving Its Citizens Free Money

April 19, 2016, 3:44 PM UTC
Old Town. Lausanne. Switzerland
Old Town, Lausanne, Switzerland. (Photo by Marka/UIG via Getty Images)
Marka—UIG via Getty Images

Basic income is the economic fad du jour.

A number of governments, including Finland, Ontario in Canada, and the Netherlands, are toying with the idea of giving their citizens free money to cover basic needs. Now the latest on the list of interested locales is Lausanne, Switzerland.

Lausanne’s city council on Tuesday narrowly passed a motion calling for it to run a basic income trial program, reports the French daily newspaper Le Nouvelliste. The motion, which is not legally binding, asks the city’s executive council to implement the scheme as an experiment. (The motion received 39 votes in favor, 37 against, and 8 abstentions.)

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Although the proposal doesn’t contain many details, it does clarify some points. The program would run in collaboration with the University of Lausanne, similar to the Dutch plan’s partnership with the University of Utrecht, reports the Basic Income Earth Network, a network of academics and activists who are interested in the idea of a basic income. And the trial would be limited—only a subset of Lausanne’s population of 130,000 would participate.

The concept of a universal basic income has drawn praise and condemnation from both sides of the political aisle, from left-wingers and right-wingers alike. Advocates of a basic income maintain that such a program would ease economic inequality and eliminate welfare state inefficiencies, while critics argue that such a program would create disincentives to work.

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On June 5, Swiss citizens will vote on whether the country should provide about $2,500 Swiss francs per month to adults and about $625 Swiss francs per month to children. The Swiss parliament is overwhelmingly opposed to the basic income initiative, but could be circumvented in the referendum.

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