Why we should give everyone a basic income | Rutger Bregman | TEDxMaastricht

Why we should give everyone a basic income | Rutger Bregman | TEDxMaastricht


Translator: Michele Gianella
Reviewer: Robert Tucker
Rutger Bregman
Basic Income for everyone
Ladies and Gentlemen,
today I’d like to share
a big idea with you.
In fact, I believe it could be
one of the biggest ideas
of the 21st century.
It’s an idea that
could unite politicians
from the left to the right
in fixing our broken
social security system.
It’s an idea that could
give dignity to millions
and accomplish what we should have
accomplished long ago
especially in our rich
and wealthy countries:
eradicating poverty.
But first,
I have to be honest with you:
it’s actually not my idea.
Now, in fact it’s
the idea of this man,
Thomas Payne,
who sadly wasn’t able
to make it today
(Laughter)
because — well,
he died 200 years ago.
But it was also
the idea of these guys:
some of history’s greatest thinkers.
Now I can hear you think:
What kind of idea
could unite men so different
such as the civil rights campaigner,
Martin Luther King, on the one hand,
and the free market
economist Milton Friedman,
on the other hand?
What idea could
unite thinkers so different
such as Thomas Payne,
who thought that the government
is the solution to most of our problems,
and on the other hand,
Friedrik von Hayek,
the Austrian economist,
who said that, well,
the Government is in fact
the problem, most of the time.
What is this idea, that goes
against the spirit of our time,
right through
the old political divisions
between the left and the right?
What is this great idea,
this Utopian idea
that so many of
history’s greatest thinkers
have been dreaming
about for centuries,
yet which has failed to come true,
so far?
Well, some people call it
the “citizen’s dividend”;
other people call it
the “basic income.”
Now, I like to call it
“free money for everyone.”
Now, that sounds good, right?
I know, it also sounds
like a Utopian fantasy,
something that will never come true,
especially not in our lifetime.
But I want to remind you beforehand:
Utopias have a tendency
of coming true.
Just think of how
the end of slavery,
equal rights for men and women,
and democracy,
they were all regarded
as impossible ideals, once.
But in history, there is
something called progress.
So let’s start with this
simple, basic question:
What is the basic income?
Well, it is a monthly grant,
enough to pay for your basic needs:
food, shelter, education.
That’s it.
Now, some of you might ask:
Don’t we have this already?
Isn’t there something
called social security,
don’t we have the welfare state?
Well, yes, but the basic income
is something entirely different.
In the first place, it’s universal,
so everyone would get it.
Whether you’re a billionaire or a beggar,
whether you’re a man or a woman,
employed or unemployed,
the basic income is a right,
a right as a citizen of your country.
Moreover, it’s also unconditional,
so you get it no matter what.
No one’s going to tell you
what you have to do with it;
no one’s going to tell you
what you have to do for it.
The basic income is not a favor,
but it’s a right, just like, for example,
the freedom of speech is a right as well.
But most importantly,
in the past few decades,
in the past 30 or 40 years,
it has become more than just an idea.
“Free money for everyone”
is more than just an idea nowadays,
it has become a proven idea.
As you can see on this map,
there have been experiments
— this map is from 2012, by the way —
there have been experiments
all over the world
and especially in the South,
from Mexico to Brazil,
from South Africa to India,
researchers and governments
have experimented
with giving people free money.
This map shows all the
“cash transfer programs”
as they call them, that reach
at least 5,000 individuals.
And there have also been
very large-scale experiments
in the 70s and 80s in Canada
and in the United States.
They’re almost forgotten nowadays,
but they were a big success.
Now, what researchers have shown,
time and time and again,
by comparing a test group
of poor people who receive free money,
and a similar control group,
so that they could see the effects —
time and time again, they have shown
that free money results in —
well, lower inequality,
lower poverty, obviously;
but it also results in
less infant mortality,
lower health care costs,
lower crime rates,
better school completion records,
less truancy, higher economic growth,
better emancipation rates,
and all kinds of other
positive social outcomes.
Time and time again,
researchers have shown
that free money may be
the most efficient,
the cheapest, and the most civilized way
to combat poverty.
Now, I’m not going to
be able to summarize
all the experiments that happened on it,
so I want to tell you
about just one experiment
that was done a few years ago
in the City of London.
Now, this was an experiment
with some homeless men.
To be exact, 13 homeless men
that lived on the streets of London.
They were “street veterans”:
Some of them had been living
on the cold tiles of “square mile”,
which is the financial district of London,
for more than 40 years.
And I have to mention,
their presence was far from cheap —
think of health care costs,
legal cost, policing costs —
they were costing
the British taxpayers
hundreds of thousands
of pounds every year.
So, everything had been
tried at that point
and it was time for something new.
In the spring of 2009,
a local charity decided:
Well, why not try free money instead?
So, each of the homeless men
received £3,000.
Cash.
No strings attached.
They were completely free to decide
whatever they wanted to do with the money.
The only question they had
to answer for themselves was:
What do you think is good for you?
Counseling services
were completely optional.
Now, of course, most of the aid workers,
they didn’t have high expectations:
they thought that, well,
the men are probably going
to spend the money
on alcohol or drugs or gambling
or something like that.
But then, something amazing happened.
What happened in the first place was
that the men turned out
to be extremely frugal
with the money they received.
At the end of the first year
only £800 had been spent on average.
And what did they spend it on?
A phone or a passport
or a dictionary,
each had his own idea
of what would be best for him.
Moreover, a year later
the impossible had happened;
7 out of 13 of the men
had a roof above their head.
Two more had applied for housing.
Some of the men took gardening classes;
another learned how to cook, for example.
They visited their children, again.
And all of the men
made plans for the future.
It sort of seemed as if
the cash had empowered them.
Now, I don’t know if there’s
a politician in the room,
but a politician would
probably ask at this point:
Well, this is a very interesting story,
but what did it cost?
What did the experiment cost?
Well, the answer is £50,000,
including the wages of the aid workers.
So, in addition to giving
at least seven individuals
another shot at life,
the project had saved money
by a factor of at least seven.
And this is a very
conservative estimate.
Even the liberal,
free market magazine,
The Economist,
concluded at that point:
The most effeicient way to spend
money on the homeless
might be just to give it to them.
(Laughter)
Experiments such as these, and
they’ve been done all around the world,
show us that we need to rethink
what poverty actually is.
Poverty is not a lack of character;
poverty is a lack of money!
Nothing more, nothing less.
So, it turns out that it’s a great idea
just to give money to the poor
if you want to resolve that problem.
Ladies and gentlemen,
we are living through a time and age
in which our societies and economies
are changing faster than ever.
It’s an age of automation;
the robots are coming for our jobs.
Now, this will bring, obviously,
great prosperity,
but it also means that
we will have to adjust.
If we do not adjust,
if we keep applying the
solutions of the 20th century
to the challenges of the 21st century,
then the middle class will crumble,
and inequality will soar.
And truly this is a dystopian future.
Nowadays, governments are obsessed
with pushing people into jobs,
even when there are no jobs.
It’s like the great inventor
Buckminster Fuller once said:
So we have inspectors of inspectors,
and people making instruments
for inspectors to inspect inspectors.
The true business of people
should be to go back to school
and think about whatever
it was they were doing
before somebody told them
they had to earn a living.
I believe that the basic income
is a better alternative
to our current welfare mess.
But I have to admit, throughout history,
there have always been
three arguments against it,
three formidable objections.
The first goes something like this:
Oh, it’s an interesting idea, but —
I’ve done some calculations
and it’s too expensive.
Sorry, can’t pay for it.
It’s not going to work.
Now, this might have been true
in the times of Thomas Payne,
200 years ago,
when almost everyone,
almost everywhere,
was sick, poor, hungry and ugly.
(Laughter)
But it’s not true anymore.
As a society, we are richer than ever!
I’d like to see the basic income
as a dividend of progress.
Because our forefathers worked so hard
to achieve our current
level of prosperity,
we can now afford to give everyone
a share of their accomplishments.
And remember,
eradicating poverty
is actually an investment.
An economist calculated
that it would cost about $175b
to eradicate poverty in United States.
That’s quite a lot of money, right?
$175b each year —
But it’s only a quarter
of the country’s military budget.
So this is entirely possible,
it’s entirely doable.
And after ten, or maybe twenty years,
it wll turn out that the investment
has paid for itself.
Because the government will save billions
in lower health care costs,
there will be less crime,
and there will be lots more
productive citizens
who will be able
to fulfill their dreams.
So, let’s move onto
the second objection,
maybe that one’s better.
The second objection is:
Ah, this is an interesting idea,
we might be able to pay for it,
but um —
when you give people free money,
they will stop working!
You know, it’s human nature,
people are lazy,
nothing can be done about that.
The interesting thing, here, is that
if I asked each one of you, in this room:
Would you stop working when I’ll give you,
you know, about 1000 € each month?
About 99% of you would say:
Of course not. I’ve got dreams,
I’ve got ambitions,
I’m not going to sit on the couch, no.
But if I asked
each and everyone of you,
What would other people do,
when they receive
1000 € each month?
I think about 99% of you would say:
Yeah, other people,
they’ll probably stop working!
(Laughter)
You know, it’s human nature,
they’re lazy —
If that’s what you’re thinking,
I’ve got some news for you.
The experiments that were
conducted all over the world,
and also common sense, actually tell us
that most people want
to contribute to society.
Most people want to make
something of their lives!
In fact some of the
experiments have shown
that poor people, especially poor people,
actually work more,
when you give them a free grant.
Because it gives them the opportunity
to invest in their lives,
or in their business, for example.
The third objection,
ladies and gentlemen,
might be the most difficult to overcome.
I hear people sometimes say:
“Well, this is a great idea.
We might be able to pay for it
and I won’t stop working,
and maybe they won’t too —
— but er — this is too big!
You know, politicians nowadays
they’re too busy with themselves.
And it’s never going to happen,
they’re always shortsighted,
and this is just too big an idea.
I don’t think it’s going to happen.”
Well, if that’s what you’re thinking,
I want to introduce you to this man.
You know him, right?
This is Richard Nixon.
The conservative president,
the corrupt president, from
the Watergate scandal?
Yes! It was this man
who almost implemented
a modest basic income
at the beginning of the 70s
in the United States.
It almost happened!
His proposal got through
the House of Representatives
and it hit the Senate floor
where doubts returned
because some more
progressive senators said:
Oh, this is a great idea,
but we want a larger basic income,
so we’re going to reject this proposal,
and —
well, we never heard of it again.
It’s an almost forgotten episode
in the history of United States.
But it shows us
that of course it’s possible.
Remember, once again:
Utopias have a tendency of coming true.
The end of slavery,
equal rights for men and women, democracy,
they were all regarded as
impossible Utopian ideals once.
But in history, there is
something called progress,
however slow and erratic it might be.
All we need is a little
more patience, sometimes.
All we need is a lot
more collective ambition.
Now, I understand that a short TED talk
is probably not enough to convince you
that free money for everyone
is going to be
the biggest idea of the 21st century.
So, I encourage you
to read more about it,
to look at the evidence for yourself,
and think: Isn’t it time
to update my worldview?
As I said, our ideas often
lag behind the speed
at which our societies
and economies are changing.
The basic income may not be implemented
in the next 3 or 4 years,
but it may be implemented
in the next 30 or 40 years.
Ideas can and do change the world.
In fact, history is ruled by little else.
It’s like the famous Irish poet,
Oscar Wilde, once said:
“Stronger than a thousand armies
is an idea whose time has come.”
And I believe that in this century
the time has come
for free money for everyone.
Thank you very much.
(Applause)

100 thoughts on “Why we should give everyone a basic income | Rutger Bregman | TEDxMaastricht”

  1. Poverty is not lack of character, it is just lack of money – amazing insight !! May there be prosperity in every life 💐

  2. How many immigrants will swamp the first European country to introduce this? And the US will need more than a wall along its border with Mexico. In principle though, it is a great idea.

  3. What a joke. He cites all the benefits, including higher economic growth ,yet incredibly, no major country has implemented the policy. I guess they are all against higher growth rates which brings in more tax revenues and prosperity. The only truth I heard was that he wants to give people the benefits of the hard work of previous generations.

  4. Does it cover every man woman and child in the family? Or will someone have to be 18 to receive it? Will basic income keep changing with inflation?

  5. basic income can be a very dangerous tool for capitalism to destroy state social welfare which will always be the expression of the care we have for each others – what about democratic money creation instead of leaving that right to the 1%

  6. But how long until it is turned into a reason to phase out social programs by a neoliberal administration? I don't want a guaranteed private income, I want a common good befitting our common condition: environmental protections, health, education, these are responsibilities as well as rights, and more important than individual private wealth.

  7. @12:31 the presenter ask a question, and his answer to the question why people wouldn't stop working is because people have dreams, have ambitions. Is that right? People in that room would more than likely to earn more than basic income, they accustom to certain lifestyles. Why would they trade down? Of course they will keep working. I'm not so sure why you would compare it like this. Additionally, I want to know more about the people in this experiment, their backgrounds. That including the unsuccessful ones. The result is presented is not so comprehensive.

  8. The US gives Billions if dollars to other countries each year, while it sits back and watches it's own people suffer. We the people have to pay for everything with taxes on everything. The minimum wage goes up and the landlord raises the rent! What's the point? Can never get ahead!

  9. Where does he get 175 billion from
    Because the cost of 12,000 dollars per person in America would be over 3.9 trillion dollars not including the cost of distribution of the money

  10. We never in history bin so much dominated by clock and money, and followd by camera`s and microphones. Look china, if we develop more and do world wide basic income, , who leads the basic income, the nwo? We have to go back, more green, more freedom, more respect, and lissen to wise elders, instad of hyped tv/youtube people. Rutger says a lott of good things, but he is giving big platforms, and i wonder why.

  11. This is not freedom its Socialism….it makes you depended, lazy and insecure ….A basic income is a fairly tale and how many people are running from the countries he speaks of to find work!! Freedom is the right to succeed or fail by your hard work and self initiative to earn your goals. When you hand people an easy ride ambition, creativity, self reliance and the self esteem that comes from these are lost.

  12. It is immoral to force people to pay for other people’s things.
    He says the basic income should be considered a dividend of progress. What he fails to realise is that that “dividend” is coming from other people’s progress.

  13. Lots of people want to live beyond their means. To me that is the real source of poverty. People can live with less than they think.

  14. Rutger is a smug globalist wanting open borders and the myth of distributed income for all. Lots of theory, poor in practice. Right out of Marx's playbook. A socialist wolf in democratic sheep's clothing. As a historian, you'd think he'd realize the turmoil when open border meant marauding warlords taking what they want. As an economist, his economics are severely lacking.

  15. I really enjoyed this. Frothism supports Universal Basic Income. I never knew Tricky D almost passed UBI! That's awesome. I want to know how much he was going to give to the American people.

  16. Rutger Bregman is Dutch. Do more Dutch people migrate to the U.S. each year, or do more Americans migrate to the Netherlands each year? If Socialism were really such a “huge success” in Europe, then millions of Americans would migrate to Europe each year.

  17. This is how you compose an argument. Every premise is well supported, and supports the next one very well.

    He addresses the potential criticisms and the most prevalent opposing views by accurately representing the views. He doesn’t Straw Man his opponents.

    Brilliant. Let’s do it, but let’s start with a small/soft UBI and go from there.

    Edit: Prepare for Fox viewers to scream about Venezuela.

  18. If the richest 1% have most of the currency let's just make up another one and not use the one they have.. lol I'm 100% for a basic income.

  19. Gracefully take a drunken walk of a Short Pier….
    Mentally and Physically fix yourself Bregman…. For some reason you are talking out your colon again ….and it stinks…. sir……..

  20. This video just popped up on my youtube feed.. Andrew Yang is proposing this and he's running for president. I hope he wins!!!!!!

  21. Wow, this idea is so absurd….completely eliminates any incentive to be able to purchase that new car, phone, house. Sounds like everyone will be chilling in the backyard at a bbq and not have any commitment to help out….WHAT KIND OF A POTLUCK do you really think it will be like if YOU TELL EVERYONE THEY DON'T HAVE TO BRING ANYTHING….SOCIALISM doesn't work, you eventually run out of other people's money. LIBERALISM ….smh….I'm beginning to think it really is a disease

  22. Please check out Andrew yang. He is running for president 2020. UBI is his campaign platform. He can make this happen if he becomes president.

  23. think about the household with 4+ people! They probably won't work if they put there money together! But I"m all for it Zang Gang!!

  24. what he is proposing is a segment of society will need to not only be productive enough to provide for themselves, but they will need to provide a surplus of productivity to also provide for the Bregman's of the world.

  25. 11:30 he said it will cost $175B each year to eliminate poverty in the US. Welfare, SS and Medicare cost $2T – $3T a year. Forget the 1/4 military budget. Just convert all these social programs over to this distributed wealth idea and regulate healthcare costs down to reasonable and you’ll have so much $ you won’t know what to do with it. That’s “if” that $175B figure is accurate… 🤨

  26. Free money for everyone is the stupidest idea the Libs has come up with yet. Money is just a way to store the work you’ve done. Make money “free” and work has no value, and neither will your money. Quit being a dependent. If you don’t want to work, then figure out a way to feed yourself.

  27. Andrew Yang also attributes Friedman’s support for UBI but if you actually follow Friedman, you would know that he advocates only for a negative income tax and it being a better program than the current welfare system (and the one from his time), but not his preferred plan. Good thing I took your advice and did my research

  28. I have a more darker and pessimist vision of why its gonna be hard to implement, at least in most of the countries. Its actually a combination of the tree arguments the speaker pointed out. Its because most people who are excited about this are those who need it. And they are not in the decision taking positions.

  29. ANDREW YANG will make it happen!!! Let's do this everyone. Vote for Andrew Yang for the next president of the United state!

  30. And where the money would come from? From the people who worked for it, who produced something of value for living.

  31. Dafuq is wrong with this guy? Explain the process and how it works! the US is much larger than 13 men and you didn't even put in an abusive variable! God I know people who were offered a job, but once they got a house and car they quit the job and ended up going back to poverty to avoid working and obligations. Poverty is the state of being poor. You get poor by not handling your money well.

    Here's an experiment go to a park and give a man a 100 dollars. Ask him what he'll do with it. 5 out of 10 times he'll spend it on cigarettes or beer. The other 5 will spend it on clothing or sustainable travel like a bike or new shoes. The poor stay poor because of their own choices. And capitalism has reduced poverty by huge amounts. Something this guy never researched.

  32. "Imagine imagine imagine" Dude. Look at the results. There's a reason why every country wants a free trade market.

  33. Let's not forget people this is a theory. People have done these "theories" back in Rome and Persia with SLAVES.

  34. Owe I don’t need to think about it. It’s a good idea I’m 55 seems a long way to 62 this is the worst time it’s ever been . This just look around. Andrew Yang needs to win in 2020. Trickle up Economics!!

  35. All the people against this are narcissist who exploit people they enjoy other people’s suffering. Predators who feel they deserve free money but you don’t. Example would be President Trump.

  36. Say it with me. "No More Old Guys". We need a person like Andrew Yang, who will help Americans help America.

  37. NOTHING of value is free. Money has value because someone worked for it. Give everyone $10,000 and prices go up $10,000. These basic unconditional free money idiots are starting to wear on me. And it CERTAINLY IS NOT A RIGHT!!

  38. It's amazing how many bottom feeders are on this comment section wanting to endorse another form of welfare . . . .. if you want income try getting a job . !!!

  39. If you want to end the injustice of poverty then a basic living wage is excellent idea. The greater the spending power the higher the GDP.

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