What’s Special about Switzerland?

Almost everything about Switzerland is exceptional.

Apparently 100,000 signatures on a petition gets the question into a national referendum. Unlike California, these petitions don’t seem to be pushing the state into anything resembling bankruptcy.

The Swiss unemployment rate is stable at about 3.2 %. You can get variations on this number, but this one is found here.

At the same time, Switzerland decided to limit immigration. This referendum passed narrowly, and has implications for Swiss relations with Europe. While independent, Switzerland has to some extent followed EU practices; now some treaties may be invalidated. You can find this here.

Finally, Switzerland is considering a guaranteed annual income, for everybody. It would be just enough to live on. Given the temptation to move to such a country, the previous referendum’s results make sense. Given prosperity and low unemployment, a guaranteed income also makes sense, if you do it carefully.

While this referendum did not pass, it does ask an interesting question.

What would happen if all income were taxed at a flat rate, no deductions? What would happen if all financial support systems were replaced by a guaranteed income? I first heard this scheme from Richard Ketchum, a long-deceased but still (for all his students) an influential teacher of creative writing. His idea was, everyone would have just enough to live in a garret and eat. No clawback when one works. All earned income taxed from the first penny. No special tricks for capital gains or film companies.

I wonder if Switzerland could pull something like this off. Is that such a dumb question?



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