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Kira M. Newman – Would Unconditional Basic Income Make Us Happier?

On June 5, Swiss voters weighed in on a referendum for universal basic income, a policy that would give every person, rich or poor, working or not, a modest amount of money per year—no strings attached.

Although Switzerland voted against the referendum, it’s the first time an entire country has weighed in on the idea. The United States and Canada conducted limited experiments with similar policies in the 1970s, but momentum stalled amid changing political tides and controversy over the results.

Now, basic income is back on the table. The technology investor Y Combinator plans to offer basic income to a group of Americans for five years and study what happens. The Canadian province of Ontario will be designing a basic income pilot as a way to support residents who are struggling in today’s labor market. Finland and the Netherlands have committed to basic income experiments that could reach more than 100,000 people, and the nonprofit GiveDirectly is raising $30 million to offer thousands of Kenyans a basic income for up to 15 years.

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