Switzerland will soon vote on a radical new law that will guarantee every citizen receives $2,800 a month regardless of whether they are working or not. While it may seem okay for the generally socialistic Swiss to even consider such a bill, having such a program in America, where we value the one over the many, could have great benefits.
The idea of a basic or guaranteed income is nothing new. Thomas Paine’s 1797 pamphlet Agrarian Justice called for a tax to fund an old-age and disability pension and universal income to be paid to all citizens once they reached a certain age.
It can almost universally be agreed upon the American welfare system is in shambles. While it provides a great service to many people, the system is still a complicated bureaucracy and operates as such – lumbering, inefficient and costly.
What if we could condense all those social programs, affordable housing, food stamps, disability payments, unemployment benefits and others into one, single monthly check sent out to every citizen 18-years-old and older?
The program should go one step further and be completely tax-free.
A 30-year-old single-parent no longer has to work at a fast food restaurant to make ends meet, opening that job position up for a teenager who has the want and the ability to work. With such a program, families can decide if a one of the parents can stay home with their children.
Artists no longer have to worry about where their next meal will come from. Students can focus on school, and complete their education without crushing debt. The elderly can decide which doctor they want to see and when. The unemployed can look for the right job that their skillset needs.
There will be an explosion of culture, families and communities, as the fear of monetary slavery is abolished from this country. If we can mitigate the commoditization of the person as something that is sold, rented or under capitalism, as Karl Marx advocated for, we can bring autonomy and freedom back to the individual.
A similar program was implemented in Manitoba, Canada in the 1970s called Mincome. A study by the University of Manitoba saw that when a minimum income was guaranteed to the citizens of Dauphin, Manitoba, mental and physical health, student success, and general happiness increased while ER visits and crime decreased. Similar experiments ran in the U.S. during the late 1960s and 1970s, but one problem the experiments faced was data collection.
The Mincome experiment saw that while there was a reduction in people working, there was an increase in the quality of health and happiness, while a decrease in emergency room visits and mental health cases.
When you take away the fear of wondering how you’re going to pay your bills, feed your children or buy your medicine, people can go on to leave happier, healthier lives. We are already taxed enough.
The problem that many people have is that we have trouble seeing our tax dollars do good work. A universal income would be a great avenue to give the people the power over their tax dollars.
According to the Congressional Research Service, around $1 trillion dollars was spent on means-tested poverty programs excluding Social Security and Medicare, which cost an additional $773 billion and $525 billon respectively. This money is spent in administrative costs, duplicate programs and other governmental expenditures.
Welfare costs are continuing to rise, engulfing an already fragile government budget that should be focused on education and infrastructure. Any mitigation of this financial crisis should be studied seriously going forward—even the idea of a universal income.