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Today my favorite #TED2017 learning was delivered by a 28 year old Dutch historian named Rutger Bregman. He
introduced what he called the radical idea of "basic income" which societies would implement through a "negative income tax." He made the empirical case for why poverty was not the lack of character as Margret Thatcher famously claimed, but rather a lack of cash. He shared well documented data on the failure of conventional anti-poverty programs. He showed instead that... what does work--radically-- is giving poor people enough money to pay for basic needs without conditions. In the few places that this was done in the modern West (mostly in small Canadian towns) it resulted in better health outcomes, lower drug use, lower domestic violence, and the only people who worked less where new mothers and students who stayed in school longer. He said for the US to bring every American out of poverty it would require 1% of the GDP. It would work through a "negative income tax". According to Wikipedia, a negative income tax (NIT) is a progressive income tax system where people earning below a certain amount receive supplemental pay from the government instead of paying taxes to the government.
I was holding back tears the whole time he was talking because this young idealist had independently discovered and was advocating for the time tested system of zakat. He said things like "basic income is not a favor, but the right of the poor." Hmmm. And I sat there reflecting on the true cost of Islamophobia. It deprives the world from considering solutions that could help alleviate seemingly intractable problems. It also often convinces Muslims that there is little of value in their tradition.
It struck me that in the US we could eliminate poverty by reallocating 1% of the GDP. Zakat is roughly 2.5% of assets and residual income but only for those who met the threshold of not themselves deserving zakat. With roughly 15% of Americans living in poverty and another 15% just above, 2.5% the wealth of those who could pay would not be far off from 1% of the GDP.
Edit: Here is a link to the same speaker giving a talk on the same topic: https://youtu.be/aIL_Y9g7Tg0