The Citizen's Dividend

How's this for interesting: Switzerland is going to vote on whether to give every adult in the country a no-strings-attached Citizen's Dividend of 2,500 Swiss Francs (~$2,800) per month.  This is the latest move in a campaign to reduce income inequality in Switzerland, which already has one of the world's best education systems and is widely considered one of the best places to live.  (College is free in Switzerland, but interestingly enough more people choose to do apprenticeships instead.)

The obvious question is: how are they going to pay for this?  I don't know, but what I do know is that Switzerland's GDP per capita is around $79,000; for comparison, the US GDP per capita is only around $50,000.  Switzerland's Gini Coefficient, a measure of income inequality (where 0.0 means everyone is perfectly equal and 100.0 means one person has all the money), is around 30; the US is quite a bit more unequal at 45.

Ready to move yet?  Good luck: becoming a Swiss citizen is exceedingly difficult.  Switzerland's cost of living is one of the highest in the world, with a consumer price index nearly twice that of the United States (151.8 versus 80.5).

This Is Not New

The concept of the Citizen's Dividend, also referred to as Basic Income or Citizen's Income, has been around for a long time.  There are Minimum Income movements in several European countries; Canada experimented with the idea on a small scale, and Alaska currently provides all residents with a small oil revenue share (currently $878/year).

Much has been written on the topic.  Before you go all Red Scare on me, a primer on the concepts:

Boston Review: Charles Murray's New Plan—Ending the welfare state as we know it
The Many Faces of Universal Basic Income
Crooked Timber: Guaranteed minimum income: how much would it cost?
BasicIncome.com: A Universal Basic Income
PhilosophyETC: Universal Basic Income
Wikipedia: Universal Basic Income
Wikipedia: Guaranteed Minimum Income (a related idea)

No matter your political leanings, it's hard not to admire their courage in breaking with the status quo and trying something new.

Good luck with this experiment, Switzerland!