Daniel Häni: Basic income is an initiative against laziness

Daniel Häni: Basic income is an initiative against laziness

In a recent interview, Swiss entrepreneur and activist Daniel Häni contends that “the unconditional basic income is an initiative against laziness.”


Häni is well known in the basic income as the co-founder the co-founder of Switzerland’s popular initiative for an unconditional basic income (UBI), which launched the campaign for a referendum to establish a national basic income.


In the interview, he talks about new conceptualizations of work in modern society, the value of time, and implied social changes from a UBI. Häni argues that man is not by nature lazy. He notes that, in contrast, much opposition to UBI comes from the opposite–and false–view that man is by nature lazy. Häni also describes the importance of automation (robots) in terms of its relationship to work and humans.


“We have invented the machines and now the robots. We no longer need to be diligent and obedient,” Häni said. “This can make the machines and robots much better. They work around the clock and actually do what we program.” In other words, robots can diligently and obediently perform work programmed into them by humans. By implication, the “unpredictable” (or “human”) work can be done by people, not robots, and the predictable can be done by robots.


Häni cautions against the funneling of the purpose of work that prevails in modern society.

“The narrowing of work on work is outdated and harmful,” he notes. “Labor and income will be separated, at least as far as existence is concerned, or we will suffocate in abundance and starve in abundance. The signs are already there.”


If you want to read the interview (in German), see:

Daniel Häni: „Das bedingungslose Grundeinkommen ist eine Initiative gegen Faulheit.“ (Pressenza).

Daniel Häni, Philip Kovce: Was fehlt, wenn alles da ist? [What’s missing if everything is there?]


SUMMARY: In 2016, Switzerland is going to vote on a popular initiative that asks for the introduction of an unconditional Basic Income. Daniel Häni, one of the promoters of the initiative, wrote this book with Philip Kovce in order to gather support for the initiative. It is made for a lay audience rather than a scientific publication with some succinct arguments against popular criticisms of basic income, for instance that it would be killing personal initiative, promoting idleness, etc. The title gives an indication that the authors do not see the Unconditional Basic Income (UBI) primarily as a mechanism or institution to combat poverty. On the contrary: the UBI prepares for abundance which is the reality of modern societies (even if their actual structures do not yet correspond to this reality and still produce precariousness—but this is not the issue of Häni’s and Kovce’s book). By discussing these items as well as focussing on (paid) labour which our economic system is revolving around, they give several tips to rectify a number of current systemic prejudices: namely that within a society based on the division of labor, people do not work for themselves anymore, contrarily to all appearances; instead, all the others are working for oneself. Above all, the core questions of freedom and democracy are discussed: what are people going to do if they aren’t constricted to paid employment anymore? How will they materially realize this freedom? The main quality of the basic income scheme as discussed in this book is to raise these and other crucial questions for our present and our future.


Most of the arguments are known already from earlier publications and interviews of Daniel Häni, often in collaboration with Enno Schmidt, and in particular from the 2008 movie “Grundeinkommen – ein Kulturimpuls” [Basic Income—A Cultural Impulse]. As a matter of fact, the authors do integrate today more of the topics generally discussed in the context of the BI, above all in Germany, than they did some years ago. On the other hand side, they abstain completely from any discussion of the financing of the BI introduction, in Switzerland and in general.


Language: German

Daniel Häni, Philip Kovce: “Was fehlt, wenn alles da ist?” [What’s missing if everything is there?] orell füssli verlag, Zurich, October 2015, 189 pp., paperback, ISBN 978 3 280 05592 2

VIDEO: Daniel Häni und Enno Schmidt, “Grundeinkommen – ein Kulturimpuls [Basic Income – a cultural impulse]”



[Michael Millar]

SUMMARY: Many people are dissatisfied with their jobs. Students are pressured into picking a career. Instead of improving quality of life, we have an ‘elbow society’, one that prioritises economic growth, competition and quantity. As this happens, technology is increasing productivity and making human labour redundant. Enough food can be produced for nearly double the world’s population, yet thousands die of hunger every hour.

“Grundeinkommen – ein Kulturimpuls” is a fast-moving yet thorough analysis of Basic Income, documenting its history, economics, politics and philosophy. The film is peppered with statistics and diagrams, while opinions are shared from sociologists to supermarket workers, bankers to artists, business leaders to the man on the street.

Who would do the dirty work? Who would get out of bed? How would it be paid for? These questions are discussed, along with proposals for a single consumption tax. Income tax could be abolished while value added tax could be made more social. Victories against inequality such as child labour and the vote for women are compared to the struggle for Basic Income. The film concludes that Basic Income will encourage greater creativity, collaboration and meaning in life.

Language: German, with English subtitles

Daniel Häni und Enno Schmidt, “Grundeinkommen – ein Kulturimpuls [Basic Income – a cultural impulse]”, September 17 2008.