HUFFINGTON POST

Former Greek Finance Minister: The Swiss Should Vote 'Yes' On Basic Income

Yanis Varoufakis explains why universal income is an idea whose time has come.
Protesters dressed as robots demand a basic income for everyone during a demonstration at the Bahnhofstrasse in Zurich, Switz
Protesters dressed as robots demand a basic income for everyone during a demonstration at the Bahnhofstrasse in Zurich, Switzerland on April 30, 2016.

Robots are replacing jobs everywhere at an ever faster rate -- and Yanis Varoufakis sees Switzerland as the first country with a practical proposal to adjust to this future.

The former Greek finance minister recently spoke on the topic during an interview at a conference on the future of work at the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute in Zurich. Varoufakis argued that the coming era may be the first in which technological advance destroys more wage-paying jobs than it creates. As that happens, he said, wealth will concentrate at the top for those who own "the means of production" and the rest will face lives of precarious employment and even impoverishment.

Varoufakis foresees that capitalism will face stagnation if too few are able to buy whatever it produces. To address what he called a "post-capitalist" dilemma, nations must move beyond the old social welfare state to a new way of distributing the wealth at the top to the rest.   

"Democracy," said the now famous European firebrand, "must, in order to survive, generate a new model where the ownership of means of production -- to use an old Marxist term -- is redistributed, or at least the claims to the income from the means of production, is redistributed in such a way as to, effectively, guarantee freedom."

The way to do that, the former finance minister said, is to establish an "endowment" for all citizens that shares the wealth created by the new technologies -- a public "trust fund" with dividends paid to all through a basic income.

On June 5, Swiss voters will be able to vote on this grand social experiment of providing a basic income for all. In the following clip, Varoufakis explains why this is an idea whose time has come, and why he would vote "yes."

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