Summary of Poverty Isn’t a Lack of Character; It’s a Lack of Cash

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Poverty Isn’t a Lack of Character; It’s a Lack of Cash summary
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  • Controversial


Historian Rutger Bregman makes a stirring argument for a guaranteed basic income – a seemingly radical idea rooted in history. Bregman traces its ideological origins back hundreds of years and presents evidence of a quietly successful 1970s socioeconomic experiment. While always politically neutral, getAbstract recommends this intriguing, at times oversimplified, addition to the conversation about how to address poverty.

About the Speaker

Historian Rutger Bregman is the author of Utopia for Realists.



Data show that the poor tend to make bad health and financial decisions. Thus, former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher interpreted poverty as a “personality defect.” Yet the belief that impoverished people are flawed is wrong. A psychological study of sugarcane farmers in India explains why. These farmers collect about 60% of their yearly income in one postharvest paycheck, instantly transforming them from poor to relatively affluent. IQ tests before and after the payday showed that while they were poor, they had significantly lower IQs, comparable to the effects of ...

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