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

  1. Nirmalya Misra says:

    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?

  2. Diego says:

    lol, sure, give everyone money for doing nothing… and guess what will they keep doing?

  3. Robbie Nohra says:

    This talk should be called "the cost of poverty".

  4. Jean-Marc Lami says:

    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%

  5. Igor Sartoni says:

    In Italy has been almost implemented in a slightly different way, they control how you use The money.

  6. Dr Teeth says:

    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. John N says:

    You seriously have to be slow to believe this

  8. John N says:

    the comments below make me think mass lobotomies are happening

  9. Lam Ho says:

    @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.

  10. Mark Bartholomew says:

    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!

  11. Loops my brother says:

    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

  12. shmemes shmuto says:

    He never did really say where we get the money from. I have concerns on this point.

  13. I. K. says:

    Andrew Yang 2020👍👍

  14. Willem Groen says:

    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.

  15. Wadih EL Khatib says:

    if money is valued by labor where does the free money come from??

  16. Red says:

    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.

  17. The Bearded Axe Guy says:

    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.

  18. NoneTaken says:

    I bet 90% of the "for" comments are paid shills and 100% of the "against" comments are real people.

  19. Richard Wyant says:

    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.

  20. Fortune and glory. says:

    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.

  21. Preacher Steward 26K Lar says:

    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.

  22. Alice Wilde says:

    Bravo. Do you think we could hurry up with the implementation of this?

  23. Rae S says:

    Let's do experiment, all of California.

  24. vanostran8 says:

    I like money!

  25. Scorch1028 says:

    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.

  26. Jacob Serrano says:

    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.

  27. Joseph Richardson says:

    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.

  28. ProoGenji says:

    Andrew Yang#2020

  29. Williy From Philly Rev. of Truth says:

    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……..

  30. Siddhesh Patwardhan says:

    Andrew Yang 2020

  31. fxc2 says:

    PewDiePie makes some good points.

  32. Lambo Llama says:

    Let’s give everyone a basic income who provides basic work or value.

    Fair compromise.

  33. Daniel Embree says:

    Homeless people are CRIMINALS

  34. Jonathan Allen says:

    Give the money to the homeless and they give it to the drug dealer

  35. CC says:

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

  36. Robert Ault says:

    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

  37. Jiabin Wang says:


  38. Wouter Drucker says:

    200 billion in a country with 300 million is less than a thousand dollar per person per year.

  39. Wouter Drucker says:

    We'd better set up ubi for third world countries.

  40. brazilfootball says:

    Please cite these "studies"!

  41. Anthony Strom says:

    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.

  42. Jonah ware says:

    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!!

  43. Jim R says:

    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.

  44. Benjamin Carrasco says:


  45. treasurecompanion says:

    Agree with this totally.

  46. James Rountree says:

    Very prescriptive but lacks descriptive points

  47. Ancient Kid says:

    ANDREW YANG 2020

  48. Ernest Yeap says:

    When will it ever happen. There would be almost zero crime by then..

  49. Brain of Brian says:

    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… 🤨

  50. Blackdogsmatter says:

    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.

  51. Warcrazer says:

    This guy reminds me of pewdie pie.

  52. Andrew Gonzalez says:

    UBI is the future…🔺🔺🔺

  53. TheReactor8 says:

    Poverty of adults is a lack of character in the West.

  54. Chad Smith says:

    Well its 2019? Not a mention of it in media

  55. Dori Tos says:

    Not going to work. Period. A utopian idea but not realistic in our current social exchange system.

  56. Jesse Day says:

    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

  57. Devils Baby girl says:

    Would people have to not borrow money from each other?

  58. Constantine says:

    Unfortunately its difficult to change the minds of those who can`t look forward.

  59. Constantine says:

    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.

  60. TheTTstudio says:

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

  61. Masterchi says:


  62. Ammon _ says:

    Andrew Yang 2020

  63. CartoonMan! says:

    ANDREW YANG in the US is the only candidate for this!

  64. Jesse Munnings says:

    Robin Hood: Men in Tights?

  65. Elliot Kim says:

    Anyone else here because of Andrew Yang?

  66. mike martin says:

    Andrew yang for president 2020 🇺🇸

  67. leadguitarlegend says:

    How do we solve the problem of inflation?

  68. Hannah Flermoen says:

    Will you allow others what’s enough y

  69. Asa Trenchard says:

    We already have this – it's called Welfare.

  70. dylan hunt says:

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

  71. Remedy4theheart says:

    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.

  72. Remedy4theheart says:

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

  73. Remedy4theheart says:

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

  74. ginger elvira says:

    Those in 3rd world countries are in route to America for there free income.

  75. ucheucheuche says:

    Is the audience thinking, just give that free 💰 to me?

  76. Anthony Walker says:

    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!!

  77. Donald Killian says:

    People are so brain washed with negativity!

  78. Ella Baptist says:


  79. Fish Kungfu says:

    There's no such thing as "Free Money". Social Security is NOT a Government handout.

  80. Juan Rodriguez says:

    That’s why Yang2020 is so important.💰🇺🇸🦅

  81. Anthony Walker says:

    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.

  82. Jerry Williams says:

    The government does not have the right to tax me (take my freedom/labor) and give to someone else.

  83. BlogSmith says:

    Money = Time and Free TIme to spend with friends and family sounds great.

  84. Prior of the Ori says:

    Don't be a wang, vote for Yang!

  85. Yessi Burton says:

    Not left. Not right. Forward. Vote for Andrew Yang in 2020.

  86. Robert McDougle says:

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

  87. g bat says:

    Yang Gang 2020!!!

  88. Tengu Bear says:

    Once Everyone gets free money, the price of things ALWAYS stays the same, they hoped…

  89. Val Sarff says:

    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!!

  90. BuffaloMafia716 says:



    Sounds inevitable to me….. mtw culver city CA USA

  92. Fred Wilkerson says:

    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 . !!!

  93. Mike Flood says:

    Yang. Not left. Not right. Forward.

  94. retractedwan says:

    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.

  95. Eli the NiNjA says:

    Everyone gets 1 bitcoin per year

  96. CIA says:

    We yang gang we yang gang we yang gang we yang gang

  97. james clark says:

    When was democracy regarded as utopian? When did America become a democracy?

  98. Galimah says:

    i would only support this idea if it was world-wide. a person in south sudan would have the same basic income as someone in the western world

  99. jay moore says:

    Yang gang anyone?

  100. Legion James says:

    Worried how many people think this is actually a good idea. Incentivising idle and lazy behaviour will lead to shortages of everything we want and need. There is NO such thing as FREE money. Your taking someone elses money to give to another. Milton friendman is rolling over in his grave and being mentioned with this INSANITY. A very terrible idea indeed.

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