According to Wikipedia, Switzerland had a referendum on 5th June 2016 that also included the "basic income" topic:

By October 2013 more than 130,000 citizens had signed, meaning a referendum on the issue had to be held. Publicity included a truck filled with eight million coins emptying the money in front of the Federal Palace in Bern.[14] Even though the initiative's official text submitted to the vote did not specify any level, the campaigners proposed 2,500 Swiss francs for adults (about 1,650 USD at PPP in 2014) and 625 francs for children per month.

Having or not the right for basic income seems a good subject for a referendum. However, actually proposing an amount seems more like a "technical" issue, as the budgetary impact is hard to be evaluated by laymen.

As mentioned by Wikipedia, the official text did not mention any amounts (maybe due to legal issues), but some amounts were published.

Question: Why did the campaigners of the basic income actually propose some amounts? Aren't these suppose to be computed later, if the initiative is approved, based on budget approvals, estimated impact etc.?

  • I don't like the title, but I can't seem to find a decent way to put it right now. Any suggestion for a better one is greatly appreciated.
    – Alexei
    Aug 16, 2017 at 17:07
  • It is just a suggestion based on average living cost. You can't simply let the number dangling.
    – mootmoot
    Aug 16, 2017 at 17:28
  • "why did proponents specified Basic Income amount for Swiss referendum?" Mar 15, 2019 at 17:45

2 Answers 2

  • Process 1:

    Propose UBI without amount.

    Voter like me (who isn't wholly opposed to low level UBI if done right) thinking:

    If the proposal passes, chances are proponents will then work the system - either right now or over time - to make UBI too high to be reasonable. Yet, since the referendum passed, nothing can be done. I better vote "no" since the downside risk is too high.

    To specifically address your sub-question of "Aren't these suppose to be computed later, if the initiative is approved, based on budget approvals, estimated impact etc": No. That's NOT how the amounts are likely to be computed - they will be computed based on a political process, not a purely technical one (for the recent example, look at minimal wage debate in USA. No activist proponent proposes the amounts based on sound economic analysis - they simply propose the largest amount they can get away without being rejected outright in a given political climate).

    The way to address that concern would be to pass specific policy on how amounts are to be determined as part of a referendum. Except, that is technical AND based on that amounts can be estimated pre-referendum anyway, so same exact thing as current way.

  • Process 2:

    Propose UBI with amount.

    Voter like me (who isn't wholly opposed to low level UBI if done right) thinking:

    OK, the proposed amount is within reasonable range; and CRS/OMB/Swiss equivalent has done an economic and budgetary projection since they have hard numbers to work off of, so I can make an informed choice based on that. I'll vote "yes".

As you can see, floating specific numbers potentially gives you extra votes (from those who don't oppose UBI on principle but are worried about it growing out of control, since entitlements tend to ONLY grow given political realities), while realistically not too many vote losses (people who want bigger UBI are unlikely to vote against in vain hope that they can get a bigger proposal passed).

As such, floating specific numbers is a way to make the proposal to likely get more votes and thus more likely to pass.


Because people asked or would ask.

If you don't propose amounts, then people arguing against it could pick their own levels. For example, they could set the basic income at the median or average wage and point out how ridiculously expensive that would be. Or they could set the basic income as having a small total cost and point out how that wasn't enough on a per-person basis.

Proposing an amount means that a specific cost and benefit can be established. Not proposing an amount allows your opponents to make up their own amounts at the extremes of the possible. And you can't really respond without proposing amounts of your own. Proposing an amount is the lesser of two evils. It makes both criticisms concrete, but it limits those criticisms.

The whole point of the citizen referendum process is that people don't trust their government to do what is best. If they did, then they'd just let the government handle the legislation. But the citizen referendum process allows people to overrule the government. In that circumstance, people accepting "amount to be named later" is unlikely.

  • That's a good explanation. Yet, I am wondering why those amounts were not included in the proposal.
    – Alexei
    Aug 16, 2017 at 20:18
  • @Alexei You gave your own rationale for not including the amounts in your own question: technical issue. I guess whoever wrote the text for the referendum would agree with your reasoning, and the campaign actually mentioning an amount shows why that reasoning is flawed. That doesn't mean it didn't exist.
    – oerkelens
    Aug 16, 2017 at 21:31
  • @Alexei: Probably so legislators can change the amount later in the face of budgetary pressures, new evidence, or inflation. Not sure about Switzerland, but some referendums are binding and require a new referendum to change. Mar 14, 2019 at 15:05

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .