Finnish experiment: What if everyone got a monthly check from the government?

Finnish experiment: What if everyone got a monthly check from the government?

[Ed. – This seems to be a Sudden Theme in media postings, just in the last 24 hours.  It has cropped up in multiple media venues, as if on cue.  Looks planned, not spontaneous.  Regarding the feasibility of government handouts along these lines: to the extent that it works, it works only in socially homogeneous, very thinly populated northern places: Finland, Norway, the U.S. state of Alaska.  A key problem, of course, is the one in bold.]

Earlier that year, Finland had announced an unprecedented socio-economic experiment. Two thousand residents would receive €560 a month (about $670) for two years, with no strings attached, and the government would study how the money affected their lives. Specifically, Finland wanted to know if the payments, called basic income, freed up people to take part-time or freelance work as they looked for something permanent—stopgap measures that the country’s existing benefits system tends to discourage. To that end, it selected participants who were unemployed and poor. …

In their proposals for further studies, the researchers estimated that a flat tax of about 55 percent would be required. …

The wealthiest would be relatively unaffected by such a change because their taxes are already high, but a swath of middle- and upper-middle-class Finns would pay more in taxes than they’d get back in basic income. [In other words, for the same amount of work, they would keep less of their own hard-earned money each year. – J.E.]  In national polls, when the possibility of a 55 percent flat tax was raised, the percentage of Finns who supported basic income dropped from 70 to about 30.

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