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Home » Rutger Bregman: Poverty Isn’t a Lack of Character; It’s a Lack of Cash (Transcript)

Rutger Bregman: Poverty Isn’t a Lack of Character; It’s a Lack of Cash (Transcript)

Rutger Bregman

Here is the full transcript and summary of journalist Rutger Bregman’s TEDx Talk: Poverty Isn’t a Lack of Character; It’s a Lack of Cash at TED conference. 

Listen to the MP3 Audio:

TRANSCRIPT: 

I’d like to start with a simple question: Why do the poor make so many poor decisions? I know it’s a harsh question, but take a look at the data. The poor borrow more, save less, smoke more, exercise less, drink more and eat less healthfully.

Why? Well, the standard explanation was once summed up by the British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. And she called poverty “a personality defect”. A lack of character, basically.

Now, I’m sure not many of you would be so blunt. But the idea that there’s something wrong with the poor themselves is not restricted to Mrs Thatcher. Some of you may believe that the poor should be held responsible for their own mistakes. And others may argue that we should help them to make better decisions.

But the underlying assumption is the same: there’s something wrong with them. If we could just change them, if we could just teach them how to live their lives, if they would only listen.

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