Basic Income
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Basic Income

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Why Martin Luther King Jr. Supported a Guaranteed Income | 5 Reasons

At the end of his life Martin Luther King Jr. was campaigning to ensure that not just blacks but all Americans had a dignified standard of living with what is now referred to as a Universal Basic Income.

A guaranteed annual income, a guaranteed minimum income, for all people and all families in our country.

Here’s 5 Reasons MLK Supported a Guaranteed Income.


The problems which are developing as a result of automation and cybernation

As far back as 1961, MLK saw a new “economic [trend of] automation dissolving jobs”. He called it a “catastrophe” and said “black and white, we will all be harmed unless something grand and imaginative is done.” In his last book he advocated for a guaranteed income.

MLK: A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look at thousands of working people displaced from their jobs with reduced incomes as a result of automation while the profits of the employers remain intact, and say: “This is not just.

MLK: If a work program is impractical we are demanding a guaranteed income that sustains life and decent circumstance.


Poor black and white are still perishing on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.

MLK wrote he was convinced a guaranteed income was “the most effective” solution to poverty. He argued past anti-poverty programs failed because they were “sluggish”, “entangled in bureaucratic stalling”, and “indirect”.

We are likely to find that the problem of housing and education, instead of preceding the elimination of poverty, will themselves be effected if poverty is first abolished. The poor transformed into purchases will do a great deal on their own to alter housing decay.


Many people are worried that if we had a guaranteed income people would no longer work. But MLK disagreed.

The fact is that the work which improves the condition of mankind, the work which extends knowledge and increases power and enriches literature, and elevates thought, is not done to secure a living. It is not the work of slaves, driven to their task either by the lash of a master or by animal necessities.

In a nutshell, MLK argued even if people didn’t need a paycheck, they would still perform valuable work. Like working to raise the next generation, working to improve oneself, or working to improve situations and solve problems that effect us all.

In a state of society where want is abolished, work of this sort could be enormously increased.


America can afford a guaranteed income.

The wealth and resources of the United States make the elimination of poverty absolutely practical.

A guaranteed income for every American today would cost an enormous amount of money. But King argued we could afford that if we stopped spending enormous amounts of money on war.

A guaranteed income could be done for about $20 billion a year, and if our nation can spend $35 billion a year to fight an unjust war in Vietnam, and $20 billion to put a man on the moon, it can spend billions of dollars to put God’s children on their own two feet right here on Earth.

Since the Vietnam War, American has continued to spend trillions of dollars on war, including trillions more that the Pentagon can’t even account for, while approximately 40 million Americans are currently living in poverty.

We are arrogant in professing to be concerned about the freedom of foreign nations while not setting our own house in order.


America is celebrated as the “land of liberty”. But MLK argued if you have no income, you have no liberty.

We read one day, “We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. But if a man doesn’t have a job or an income, he has neither life, nor liberty, nor the possibility for the pursuit of happiness. He merely exists.”

Hi I’m Matt Orfalea, thanks for watching/reading. If you enjoyed this video please help me make more by supporting me on Patreon.

I believe we ought to do all we can and seek to lift ourselves up by our own bootstraps. But it’s a cruel jest to tell a bootless man to lift himself up by his own bootstraps.

Matt Orfalea makes videos on Youtube. You can also follow him here onMedium, Twitter, and Facebook. To help others see this post, please click the green heart below & support the author on Patreon!





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