The New Yorker today did a piece commenting on a Swiss referendum to institute a guaranteed minimum income – the number they chose works out to about $25,000 a year.
You know, I could see some appeal to this (no wonder libertarian heads were the first to wrap themselves around this idea)… Suppose there were a guaranteed minimum income that didn’t stink (it sounds like the Swiss proposal is around $14.50/hr). I agree with the data: it’s very unlikely that there would be a steep drop in labor participation – this idea that people are lazy and don’t want to work really does not seem to hold credence (we have a serious problem in that we have not recovered our pre-recession employment participation rate, but it is not because of lazy people).
But employers at low wages (since wages below the proposal are not living wages in most places) would either have to make themselves more compelling or pay more – and this could lead to the kind of structural redesigns that the workplace needs, to transition to a society that does not depend on a strata of people who are paid very low wages, which is something we really, really need to do, because income disparity will kill us.
Just some thoughts…