Saturday 21 January 2017

Replace welfare state with cash for all - radical, but would it work here?

Published 16/06/2016 | 02:30

People vote in a recent referendum on whether to give every adult citizen a basic guaranteed monthly income of 2,500 Swiss francs, in a school in Bern, Switzerland. Photo: Ruben Sprich/Reuters
People vote in a recent referendum on whether to give every adult citizen a basic guaranteed monthly income of 2,500 Swiss francs, in a school in Bern, Switzerland. Photo: Ruben Sprich/Reuters

Scrap almost all welfare payments - from jobless benefits to children's allowance to the old-age pension. If that sounds like a revolutionary idea, consider this: replace the welfare system with a guaranteed cheque from the State to everyone, every month for life.

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Some people might instinctively mutter "bonkers" at the idea of no-strings-attached cash for all, forever. Others would say, with widening eyes, "show me the money".

Most people, I suspect, would consider the idea just too radical. As it happens, that was the reaction of the Swiss a few weeks ago when they had a referendum on exactly such a proposal. In the Alpine state, voters were asked to back a monthly state payment of €2,250 for all. Despite the appeal of guaranteed free money from the time they turned 18 until the time they went to their graves, the Swiss overwhelmingly rejected it.

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