By Briana Scalia
While human civilization continues to make tremendous progress in technology and standards of living over the past decades, one aspect that has not been questioned over the past years is the idea of earning a living. While aspects like wages, hours and benefits are constantly being discussed around the world, most people know that in order to live in this world you need to be employed at some kind of job. However, there are some people who feel that a perfect world would not require any of its citizens to work for a living, and instead be able to coexist without the worrying about money. Now, this so -called utopia exists in the not-so distant future.
According to The Daily Mail, residents of Switzerland are planning to vote on a countrywide referendum to try and achieve this goal. The referendum proposes “…a radical plan to pay every single adult a guaranteed income of 425 pounds a week,” roughly 1,700 pounds a month. If Switzerland is able to follow through on this plan, it could become the first country in the world to pay each of its citizens a monthly income, whether or not they are employed. Unfortunately, the plan would cost the federal government a total of 208 billion francs, or 143 billion pounds, a year. If the plan were to make it through the Swiss government successfully, most of the funds would have to be levied from taxes and the rest from social insurance and social assistance spending.
Interestingly enough, a survey given to most Swiss residents asked questions about what life could possibly look like if the referendum were to pass. A majority of participants, including employees from a wide array of careers, stated that if the plan were to go through, they would continue to work. Many were shocked to hear later in the survey that one third of participants believed that others would take advantage of the system and stop working. Also, more than half believe that the referendum will never pass.
While the idea of living in a utopia where no citizen would have to work to earn a living wage is not impossible, I do not believe it could be achieved in the foreseeable future. In order for this system to work, there would have to be a large number of citizens who still willingly work.
This is not dissimilar to the idea of universal health care, where funds are taken from the wealthier population’s wages to support the health care for those less fortunate. There is also the matter of trust between citizens: the trust that those who are not working and contributing to the economy have valid reasons and are not simply being lazy. Already the survey given to Swiss citizens proves that people have a difficult time trusting one another, especially those they have never met.
There are many pros and cons to living in a world that functions without all citizens contributing to the economy. Many of the benefits, of course, involve humanitarian concerns, such as being able to financially support people in need. However, the drawbacks of this kind of economy are already evident in society today, whether it be the struggle universal health care places on the middle class or the differing opinions on what a utopia would actually be like. Overall, while the idea is progressive, inventive and empathetic to the plight of the less fortunate, it does not have a strong enough foundation to be available in our lifetime.
Briana Scalia, FCRH ’20, is a broadcast journalism major from Long Island, New York.