Where Do We Go From Here?

Where Do We Go From Here? January 18, 2016

MLK Basic Income

We must develop a program that will drive the nation to a guaranteed annual income.

The quote comes from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech “Where Do We Go From Here?”  That King was a social liberal is well known. That he was a theological liberal is less widely known. But having highlighted both those points in years past on Martin Luther King Day, I thought that today I would highlight his economic liberalism, which became increasingly radical until, towards the end of his life, he supported the adoption of a universal basic income. This was a focus in his final book, which had the same title as the speech from which the quote above comes: Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?

It would be great if today, as we commemorate King’s legacy, we were to discuss not only his social vision, and not only his theological vision, but his economic vision as well.


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  • Phil Ledgerwood

    Most people are only familiar with King via snippets of the I Have a Dream speech. Thanks for opening up a very important dimension of his thought, which included not only reparations but redistribution of property. And frankly, he has very good points about all that.

    I have wondered if the U.S. were truly serious about racial reconciliation, why we don’t start with some form of reparations. I think the answer is probably because by “reconciliation,” we primarily mean we want everybody to forget about everything and get on with our lives.

    • Michael Wilson

      I think the Native Americans would get first dibs on reparations. I’m not sure what would be left over.

      • Phil Ledgerwood

        Absolutely.

  • Michael Wilson

    Reading through the links provided on guaranteed universal income, it seems to largely be in place. The difference is a lot comes in the form of targeted funds like housing and food stamp programs as opposed to a cash distribution, like the earned income tax credit. Is that a mission accomplished for King?

    • I don’t think King would consider his mission accomplished as long as there are still people living in poverty, and especially as long as that poverty continues to be more prevalent in particular communities that were previously victims of enslavement, then segregation, and then discrimination.

      • Michael Wilson

        I was talking about guaranteed annual income, as described in the links, not Dr. Kings total hopes.

        • So you don’t think he was referring to something like the Universal Basic Income model?

          • Michael Wilson

            I’m not sure what he had in mind, but after reading the link on universal basic income it seems that that is what is in place, King was active before a lot of anti-poverty measures and Ford’s EITC seems to be one of the suggestions from UBI advocates. Others that I have heard from and in the article suggest replacing the various housing, food, etc programs for the poor with a cash income, so it seems that the food and other programs are something like income in kind. Some think a cash payment will teach the poor to be more self reliant in managing money, for instance to determine for them selves whether to put money to food or fixing a car, whatever. Others are afraid that if SNAP were replaced with cash the money wouldn’t get to where its needed. I’m open to ideas on this.