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Poverty-Not a Character Defect

Updated on May 31, 2017
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Threekeys is a freelance writer and poet who loves burning candles; drinking cafe lattes; and standing under Moreton Bay Fig Trees.

We NEED to focus on Freedom for all
We NEED to focus on Freedom for all | Source

“Poverty IS NOT a defect in character-It is a lack of Cash”

I would like to introduce you to Dutch born Rutger Bregman (born 1988) who has authored four books on history, philosophy and economics. He has written the book, Utopia for Realists, which has become a national bestseller and translated into sixteen languages. The Guardian has called Rutger Bregman “the Dutch wunderkind of new ideas”.

Bregman’s book, Utopia for Realists, offers these three big ideas: -

1. Basic income for all citizens

2. 15 hour working week

3. Open borders

Poverty is NOT a character failing-It is a lack of Cash
Poverty is NOT a character failing-It is a lack of Cash | Source

Poverty is not a character defect. Poverty is about having a lack of cash.

In Bregman’s above book he introduces research about poverty. In one research case, American psychologists from Princeton University, visited India to study poverty. These psychologists measured sugarcane farmers’ IQ’s before the sugarcane harvest and measured the sugarcane farmers’ IQ, post the sugarcane harvest. Now, know, the sugarcane farmer’s harvest is 60% of their annual income. What the psychologists found was that the sugarcane farmer’s IQ dropped 13 points prior to harvest (equivalent to a loss of one night’s sleep).

Researchists suggest being poor diminishes one’s cognitive function when all focus is taken up with coping with the immediate effects of having no or little money. The effect on cognition in scarcity mode can be any scarcity here. For example, it could be money, time, social ties, calories….Research showed that when poor people’s concerns were benign, they performed competently at a similar level to well-off people. However, unlike cashed up people, when you are poor you can’t say, “I’ve had enough, I am not going to be poor anymore”. These effects are more pronounced in low income people than in cashed up people.

Bregman was like the majority in that he, too, once blamed the poor for being poor. Bregman believed that the poor must have some kind of personal failing to become poor. Or, the poor lived in an environment that does not engender one to succeed. Now? Different findings. Researchists and Bregman are putting forward the idea that poverty is due to a lack of financial resources. And having an ongoing situation of lack of cash, can lead to impaired cognitive function. Researchists put forward the idea that when you have a scarcity mentality, you behave differently. Your focus narrows. Your long-term perspective/focus goes out the window.

Rutger Bregman says anti-poverty programs do not work. Poverty does not equal a lack of knowledge. Money management programs have no effect on alleviating poverty. It is plainly, a matter of a lack of money, as teaching money management skills to low income people is like “teaching someone to swim and then throwing them out into the stormy sea"


Poverty is a result

See results

500 years ago……“for if you suffer your people, will be ill-educated, and their manners to be corrupted from their infancy and then punish them for those crimes to which their first education disposed them, what else is to be concluded from this, but that you first make thieves and then punish them”….

— Thomas Moore's Utopia

It's Time Has Come...

Rutger Bregman says the left’s attitude is “why not hand out money to the poor to eradicate poverty?” 500 years ago, Thomas Moore, the English lawyer, social philosopher, author, Statesman and Renaissance humanist wrote “Utopia” (1516) which was about a political system for an imaginary ideal island nation.

One simple idea,Thomas Moore’s, Utopia, proposed was a guaranteed basic income to its people. That is, a monthly grant of money that was unconditional and with no stigma attached to it.

In the 1970’s, a poverty experiment was carried out under a Conservative government in a town called Manitoba (Canada) to assess the social impact of giving a guaranteed, unconditional annual income to low income households over a four-year period. The experiment had been a success. The low-income households became richer and smarter. Simultaneously, domestic violence and mental health issues dropped. Low income people didn’t quit jobs either, as people thought low income earners did.

Rutger Bregman says, the rich should stop preaching to know best.

The basic income idea? Its time has come, declares Bregman. The general trend now is that many people think their jobs hold little interest to them. Only 30% of American workers like their jobs. 37% of the British population think their jobs are meaningless. Rutger Bregman says, a lot of talent is being lost because people are forced to join the earning treadmill.

We need to find our talents. The doorway is through our Imagination.
We need to find our talents. The doorway is through our Imagination. | Source


We have to shift our focus to be FOR SOMETHING not just focus or know what we are against.

The value of work needs to be equated with how much happinessit brings into one’s life, not just what your pay check surmounts to.

Poverty is NOT about having a lack of character or having a defect in character-poverty is about a lack of money!


There is the thought that having a basic income, a 15-hour working week, will make everyone become lazy. Poverty is a huge expense to the economy. For example-there is a 500 billion cost for child poverty in the USA. Yet it is said to cost only 178 billion to eradicate poverty by this Bregman’s method.

From a rich man’s point of view, a garbage man’s job is a useless job. However, in New York in 1968, the garbage men striked for one week and you know what happened? The State declared a state emergency. So, a garbage man’s job is very useful.

…”we have to stop buying things to impress people we do not like”…

— Anonymous

…”we have to start really caring’….

— Anonymous

When Above the Poverty line, You think Better....

When you place anyone in a low income’s way of life, their mind also becomes tunnel visioned-that is, can only think on a day to day basis. When you shift a low-income person to above the poverty line, they “think better”.

The Left hate the word “care”. The Left are about statistics and facts. Rutger Bregman said we need to take on a nationalistic stance. Why not feel patriotic about new ideas?

Bregman reminds us to be mindful of what happened in the 1930’s as things are shaping up to something similar. The only difference being at the moment is that we currently are not used to violence. In the 1930’s and prior, people were used to violence. Bregman says, be afraid, if we begin to get used to violence.

We need to base our life model on NEEDS not PROFITS. Technically, Bregman says we can do this. Politically? Is another matter. However, there is a tremor of belief and hope amongst the people of Britain. Angela Rayner, Shadow Education Secretary, says voters felt powerless in recent years but “things have changed” and the people are realizing that they have the ability to transform Britain. Angela Rayner says the Labour Government is the force to do it in Britain. “labour gave me the chance to be where I am today” says Angela Rayner.

Never say Never.....

Angela Rayner says, never say never as who would have thought that Trump would have become the President of the USA? And, who would have thought Britain would have left the European Union?

How do we move beyond poverty?

How do we move beyond violence?

Why not subscribe to Gandhi’s stance of “commit to nonviolence”

Remember attack of violence on our children is an attack on our future and our future leaders who are going to make us either survive and thrive, or, perish through destructive and a vengeful stance. We need to now be FOR SECURITY, FREEDOM and LOVE. Non-violence is a conscious, political choice. Being poor is a form of abuse, a form of violence. Let’s look for solutions. Let’s be a solution from here on in.

How do we get there? With our imaginations. Ruther Bergman’s book, Utopia for Realists, has sparked off 20 municipalities in the Netherlands that are putting the basic income idea into action.

Rutger Bregman reminds us that the natural state of humans up until 200 years ago was that 99% of us were dirty, afraid, hungry and sick. It wasn’t until the Industrial revolution 200 years ago that we started to present as “nice and above the rest”.

Us humans badly NEED to HAVE a VISION. If we watch the news, we are pounded with a bleak view of human nature. The news, remember, is about the exceptions. What you learn through the media news is how the world is NOT working. Bregman says most people are nice!

Rutger Bregman’s book, Utopia for Realists”, offers these 3 big ideas: -

1. Having a basic income for all citizens

2. 15 hour working week

3. Having worldwide open borders

The open borders idea stems from his findings, that about 60% of your income is dependent on where you are born. If you remove the given borders, it then would allow people to easily move and this would fight poverty. Research from the World Bank says, if the richer countries allowed 3% more migrants in, this would do more than 3 times as much as all development aid combined.

Bergman’s three big ideas are offered to be employed in an incremental way.

The basic income idea would serve to unleash an explosion of creativity and new ideas we desperately need to move forward.


© 2017 Threekeys

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    • Debangee Mandal profile image

      DEBANGEE MANDAL 6 months ago from India

      Very true .. Poverty is not a character defect, it is lack of cash. It is their bad luck, they are unfortunate. Hence they should not be treated differently . One should not look down upon them.

      Very good concept. Well written.