Switzerland, Free Money, and Migration

By Dan Cadman on June 6, 2016

The Swiss have overwhelmingly rejected a referendum that would have guaranteed a basic minimum income to every adult (approximately $2,500 monthly) and child ($625 monthly) in the nation — whether or not they are employed.

News media such as the BBC have shown and described supporters of the measure demonstrating in the streets dressed up as "robots" in cardboard boxes (the videos are hilarious stuff, by the way), explaining that so much of industry has become mechanized that the government should now step in and let humans be "creative" in ways other than through their labor.

Putting aside the question of exactly how this income would be generated and sustained, one of the main concerns was that the measure would have acted as a giant magnet to draw intended migrants from the length and breadth of Europe and beyond. Could there be any doubt?

Switzerland, a landlocked nation sitting in the heart of Europe, is not a member of the European Union (EU), although its borders are for all intents and purposes open to EU member states. The draw of potentially receiving such an income even if sitting on one's backside (though ostensibly to have been reserved only to adults and children legally residing in Switzerland) would have been irresistible. And while Swiss laws regarding identity, and mandatory registry for citizens and aliens alike in the cantons of their residence, are stringent by American standards, the inward flow of thousands from the EU and beyond would have overwhelmed the Swiss state's capacities in every sense: social and health services; asylum adjudication, immigration control, detention, and expulsion; education; police services; you name it.

There is also the serious question of inducements to commit fraud and associated crimes. Phony documents and identity theft are a plague in every modern society, but with a potential lifetime of free money on the line, foreigners would have every reason to try to beat the system with new-but-fake identity packages. And many Swiss would have been lured past temptation to cater to that market — perhaps one of the ways in which newly idle citizens would be able to express their creativity.

It's good to think that ordinary Swiss have not been suborned by the promise of free money, because there is no such thing. It would have proven to be the equivalent of fool's gold, as most socialist promises and plans are.

Wonder if the leftward-leaning part of our electorate is that smart?