The radical notion that governments should hand out free money to everyone — rich and poor, those who work and those who don’t — is slowly but surely gaining ground in Europe. Yes, you read that right: a guaranteed monthly living allowance, no strings attached.
In France, two of the seven candidates vying to represent the ruling Socialist Party in this year’s presidential election are promising modest but regular stipends to all French adults. A limited test is already underway in Finland, with other experiments planned elsewhere, including in the United States.
Called “universal income” by some, “universal basic income” or just “basic income” by others, the idea has been floated in various guises since at least the mid-19th century. After decades on the fringes of intellectual debate, it became more mainstream in 2016, with Switzerland holding a referendum — and overwhelmingly rejecting — a proposed basic income of around US$2,500 ($3518) per month.
“An incredible year,” says Philippe Van Parijs, a founder of the Basic Income Earth Network that lobbies for such payments. “There has been more written and said on basic income than in the whole history of mankind.”
But before you write a resignation letter to your boss in anticipation of never needing to work again, be warned: there are multiple questions, including how to finance such schemes. Here is a look at the issues