Extreme Swiss Inequality Reforms
President Obama recently stated that inequality is a “defining challenge” for the United States. Meanwhile, Fareed Zakaria reported that Switzerland, a country with significantly less inequality than the US, considered radical reforms to reduce inequality, including capping executive compensation.
Here is the beginning of the segment from Fareed Zarakia GPS:
If there’s one country in the world that looks like a utopia, its name must be Switzerland. This is a country that has it all. The average income is $82,000 a year – 65 percent more than the average American income. Everyone has great healthcare, childcare, and education. The unemployment rate is 3 percent. There is almost no corruption. According to the OECD, of 34 developed countries surveyed, the Swiss have the greatest degree of trust in their government. And, of course, it is a spectacular country with great traditions of skiing, cheese, chocolate, and wine.
What could possibly go wrong? Well, quite a lot, actually.
The Swiss are furious about income inequality. The story is a familiar one. According to Reuters, in 1984 top earners in Swiss firms made 6 times as much as the bottom earners. Today, they make 43-times what bottom earners make. At some banks and firms, CEOs make 200-times the salary of the lowest-paid employee.
Now, before you assume things about Europe and European attitudes towards capitalism, remember that Switzerland is one of the most business-friendly countries in the world. The conservative Heritage Foundation has an “Index of Economic Freedom.” Switzerland ranks 5th in the world, well ahead of the United States of America.
But in the aftermath of the financial crisis, the Swiss have become far more concerned about the nature of today’s free market system. So, some Swiss political groups came up with a plan. It’s called the 1 is to 12 initiative. The highest-paid company executive should make a maximum of 12 times what the lowest-paid employee makes. In other words, no one should earn more in one month than someone else makes in a year.