SWITZERLAND: Government reacts negatively to UBI proposal

The Swiss government opposes the popular intiative for an unconditional basic income, but the national referendum is still to happen in 2016.

The Swiss Federal Council has released its evaluation of the popular initiative for an unconditional basic income (UBI), which received enough signatures last fall to trigger a nationwide referendum on it. The Federal Council evaluates all people’s initiatives in Switzerland making one of three recommendations: it could accept, reject, or no recommendation. The council chose to reject the initiative. The initiative will still take place sometime in 2016, the rejection means simply that the council recommends that citizens vote no on the proposal.

Enno Schmidt & Daniel Straub, the two main organizers of the people’s initiative said, “This is nothing special. We expected this.” The function of a people’s initiative is to bypass the government and go directly to the people even against the ruling government’s wishes.

The Federal Council also release a statement justifying its rejection of the initiative. The statement alleged many shortcomings of UBI, including: many low-paid jobs would probably disappear or be transferred abroad, Women would be forced back into the housework and care work. Taxes would rise considerably to finance the basic income and further weaken the incentive to work. The amount of the UBI proposed is too large and cannot be financed. It contradicts the principle of subsidiarity. The statement also defended the existing social system is in Switzerland. The Federal Council agreed with the founders of the initiative that each person has to be able to can live a life in dignity but argued that Switzerland achieves that goal with its existing system.

Schmidt & Straub’s reaction to the statement was mixed, “The tone of the message is fair, no nasty insinuations and no polemic.” But, according to Schmidt & Straub, the substance of statement implied that Switzerland would perish if this initiative were accepted by the people.

Philippe Van Parijs, of the Basic Income Earth Network said that this statement was an opportunity for Basic Income supporters “to point out the misunderstandings [in the statement] and to work out realistic scenarios in terms of amount and funding.”

For more information (in German) see:

Enno Schmidt & Daniel Straub, “Botschaft des Bundesrates über das bedingungslose Grundeinommen, [Report of the Federal Council on the unconditional Grundeinommen],” Volksinitiative Grundeinkommen, August 2014.

News.Admin.ch, “Bundesrat lehnt die Volksinitiative ‘Für ein bedingungsloses Grundeinkommen» [Bundesrat rejects the popular initiative “for an unconditional basic income’],” News.Admin.ch, 27, 08, 2014.

Didier Burkhalter, “Botschaft zur Volksinitiative «Für ein bedingungsloses Grundeinkommen» [Message Regarding the People’s Initiative ‘for an unconditional basic income’],” the Swiss Federal Council, 2014.

Aagauer Zeitung, “Bundesrat lehnt Initiative für bedingungsloses Grundeinkommen ab [Bundesrat rejects initiative for unconditional basic income].” Aagauer Zeitung, 27, 08, 2014.

For more information in French see:

Ludwig Gärtner, “Conseil fédéral suisse : Le Conseil fédéral rejette l’initiative populaire ‘Pour un revenu de base inconditionnel,’ [Swiss Federal Council, the Federal Council rejects the popular initiative ‘For an unconditional basic income’]Zonebourse, 27/08/2014

Enno Schimdt contributed to this article.

"8 Millionen Fünfräppler auf  Bundesplatz bei Initiative-Einreichung" -Aagauer Zeitung

“8 Millionen Fünfräppler auf Bundesplatz bei Initiative-Einreichung” -Aagauer Zeitung

Karl Widerquist

About Karl Widerquist

Karl Widerquist has written 875 articles.

Karl Widerquist is an Associate Professor at SFS-Qatar, Georgetown University. He specializes in political philosophy. His research is mostly in the area of distributive justice—the ethics of who has what. He holds two doctorates—one in Political Theory form Oxford University (2006) and one in Economics from the City University of New York (1996). Before coming to Georgetown he was lecturer in Political Theory at the University of Reading (UK) and a Murphy Fellow at Tulane University in New Orleans (LA). He has written or edited six books. He is the author of "Independence, propertylessness, and Basic Income: A Theory of Freedom as the Power to Say No" (Palgrave Macmillan 2013). He is coauthor of "Economics for Social Workers" (Columbia University Press 2002). He is coeditor of "Basic Income: An Anthology of Contemporary Research" (Wiley-Blackwell 2013), "Alaska’s Permanent Fund Dividend: Examining its Suitability as a Model" (Palgrave Macmillan 2012), "Exporting the Alaska Model: Adapting the Permanent Fund Dividend for Reform around the World" (Palgrave Macmillan 2012), and "the Ethics and Economics of the Basic Income Guarantee" (Ashgate 2005). He is currently under contract to author or coauthor two more books: "Prehistoric Myths in Modern Political Philosophy" (Edinburgh University Press 2014) and Justice as the Pursuit of Accord (Palgrave Macmillan 2015). He was a founding editor of the journal Basic Income Studies. He edited the USBIG NewsFlash for 15 years and the BIEN NewsFlash for five years. He is one of the founding editors of Basic Income News on the basicincome.org website. He has published more than a twenty scholarly articles and book chapters. His articles have appeared in journals such as Political Studies; the Eastern Economic Journal; Politics and Society; and Politics, Philosophy, and Economics.

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  • Robindra chungkrang

    many question one solution.i.e-unconditional basic income to each and every citizens of the world.

  • Teis

    The interesting thing is what will happen when this is tried on a large scale basis, a big community, when the infrastructure and bureaucratic adaption of it.

    I’ve long thought about what would happen if a small country made collective transport free, ie how it would affect traffic congestion and urban centralisation, and how about the money we spend on fare enforcement and selling tickets (infrastructure, advertisement and work hours). I think this idea or line of thought is related.

    Ultimately we want a free society, but not in the way the liberalists imagined it I gather.

  • Francisco G Nobrega

    Negative reaction? No wonder. Why not use a different approach:


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