2017 is certainly going to be a year of great experiments. While the US transitions into an unlikely, unexpected, and unprecedented presidency, Finland will begin a program to give its citizens a fixed income regardless of their wealth or employment status. Well, for now, this experiment will only involve a randomly selected 2,000 [unemployed] people over the next two years. Each of these people will be paid 560 euros per month (approximately $587 USD).
The experiment is an attempt to understand if a base income will help to reduce poverty—as well as government red tape—in order to better influence societal changes.
Finnish benefits agency research department head, Olli Kangas, notes, “It’s highly interesting to see how it makes people behave. Or, as some critics claim, make them lazier with the knowledge of getting a basic income without doing anything.”
The Finnish government has pledged 20 billion euros over two years to fund this experiment. The plan, of course, is to evaluate the results—as well as other basic income models—and explore potential options.
Now, Finland is not the first country to conduct such an experiment, though this is the largest such experiment of its kind. Previously, the Netherlands, Canada, and India have all conducted smaller similar experiments. Glasgow, Scotland has also conducted a related investigation.
A similar 2016 proposal was rejected in Switzerland, however; failing with only a 23 percent support vote. Luze Stamm is a politician with the right-wing Swiss People’s Party and she says, “Theoretically, if Switzerland were an island, the answer is yes. But with open borders, it’s a total impossibility, especially for Switzerland, with a high-living standard.”
Stamm says that introducing such a system would eventually lead to an immigration crisis: “If you would offer every individual a Swiss amount of money, you would have billions of people who would try to move into Switzerland.”
The program has many critics but Kangas responds “The idea is that it’s better to experiment with a small group of people instead of making legislation for the whole country, in the case that the law is bad. It’s easier to stop everything if it’s obvious it doesn’t work.”