WEB Notes: You cannot take away from the working man and give to the man who refuses to work. It cannot and will not work nor is it fair to require such things from those who wish to work and those who are physically able to do so.
One afternoon in the final days of 2016, Steffie Eronen got a phone call from her husband, Juha. The Eronens had spent Christmas with relatives in Savonlinna, Finland, and Juha had just made the two-hour drive home so he could return to his job as an electrician. The couple live with their 5-year-old daughter in a cozy, two-bedroom apartment in Mikkeli, a quiet, midsize city in the southeastern part of the country. Juha was calling to let his wife know he was home safe, and oh, by the way, an important-looking letter had arrived for her from the Social Insurance Institution of Finland—or, as everyone calls it, Kela.
“Open it,” Steffie said.
There was a pause as Juha tore into the envelope. Then he laughed.
“You got it!” he exclaimed.
“Basic income,” Juha told her. “You’re in the program!”
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.