Social Justice

Utopian realist Rutger Bregman capsizes our preconceptions on poverty

The Dutchman blasted the idea that poverty is down to a person making poor choices and reveals his own beliefs in this week's The Big Issue

Hot-ticket author Rutger Bregman isn’t afraid to voice his thoughts on raising taxes for the rich, even when it means standing up to the billionaires of the world.

Speaking to The Big Issue in this week’s magazine, the Utopia For Realists writer took widespread financial attitudes to task. ‘There is an entrenched idea on the right and left that poverty is just a personality defect,” he said. “As Margaret Thatcher once put it – a lack of character.

“And what I am trying to prove with this book is that it’s actually just about a lack of money.”

He cited an “extraordinary amount of research” backing up his findings. Explaining his position, he said: “The left usually says, ‘We’ve got to help these people – we’ve got to give them the right advice’. While the right says, ‘No, we simply have to teach them some responsibility'”. But, he said, society needs to move away from the false idea that those living in poverty have simply made poor decisions – instead, we must understand that it could happen to any one of us.

Bregman continues: ‘The assumption there is the same – they both assume that there is something wrong with the poor themselves. There is now some really exciting new evidence that shows poverty is really just about the context.

“Yes, it’s true that if you’re poor you are more likely to make poor decisions – you smoke more, drink more, raise your kids worse, take out more loans you can’t afford. But the evidence shows that we would all make the same decisions if we were living without money. If you lift people out of poverty then they start making much smarter decisions.”

Read the full interview in this week’s Big Issue.

Read the full article in this week's Big Issue.
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