Imagine getting a check for almost $2,500 a month, for life, for doing absolutely nothing.
No scratch-off ticket or winning numbers needed: It turns out, you just have to be Swiss. The best part? The only people who can block the Swiss from gifting the "basic guaranteed income" to themselves are ... the Swiss!
Voters in the historically wealthy country, who already enjoy a high standard of living, will head to the polls on June 5 to decide whether to gift themselves the monthly payments, described as enough to enjoy a "modest" living in Switzerland if beneficiaries decide the money is enough to stop working.
And there's the rub: The group that proposed the basic guaranteed income idea says most Swiss won't choose to stop working despite receiving the payments, although it's not clear how they're able to predict that. The group, described as a coalition of "intellectuals," is headed by a former government spokesman and a Zurich-based rapper who calls herself Big Zis, according to The Local, an English-language site that reports Swiss news. (Go ahead and ask yourself if this woman is who you'd want coming up with economic policy.)
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Some regular voters don't agree that people will keep their jobs. A poll by Switzerland's Demoscope Institute found a third of respondees believed "others would stop working."
Politicians aren't too keen, either.
Liberal party spokesman Daniel Stolz called the plan a “cocked hand grenade that threatens to tear the whole system to pieces.” The Centrist party's Sebastian Frehner called it "the most dangerous and harmful initiative that has ever been submitted," according to the Basic Income Earth Network.
And yet, amusingly, Switzerland's politicians can't really do anything about it. Since the initiative received the requisite 100,000 signatures, it must go to a referendum. Swiss voters are the only people who decide now.
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An online poll -- which is by nature self-selecting and not scientific -- by Swiss-language site Tagesanzeiger.ch found that 49 percent of Swiss say they'll vote for the initiative, while 43 percent say they won't, and an additional 8 percent are undecided.
So now Switzerland will become the first country to ever hold a national referendum on guaranteed income, the country's politicians can't do anything about it, and the best hope for sanity is that the majority of Swiss don't vote to give themselves money. It turns out that American conservatives' nightmare situation has become reality, only in a different country.
Of course, there's no such thing as free money. If the referendum passes, about 75 percent of the "free money" will come directly from taxes, the Daily Mail notes, while the rest would be financed via social insurance and social assistance spending, which of course is also tax money.
That means if the Swiss vote for the referendum, they'll likely end up in a scenario that involves paying the government more money so the government can pay them money, minus all the processing fees. In other words, it's a fantastic way to waste money. "Cocked hand grenade," indeed.