Martin Luther King purportedly told his future wife, Coretta, that "making all the money you can and ignoring people's needs, is wrong."
By this, he meant there is a bigger picture in life than taking care only of yourself and your family. He wanted to help, first blacks, and then all people, to achieve social justice and to have opportunities to succeed. He devoted his life to the cause of helping others, not to enriching himself. He gave up his life for this cause.
At the end of his life, King increasingly turned his attention to economic justice for all Americans. He envisioned a "Poor People's campaign" that would bring blacks and whites together to fight poverty.
In his final book, written in 1967, called Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?, King advocated for a basic universal income. He thought that government attempts to provide poor people with better food, housing, and education were too piecemeal. We need, he wrote, "full employment or we must create incomes." Money needed to put directly into people's hands, he said, so they could consume.
King also wrote:
The contemporary tendency in our society is to base our distribution on scarcity, which has vanished, and to compress our abundance into the overfed mouths of the middle and upper classes until they gag with superfluity. If democracy is to have breadth of meaning, it is necessary to adjust this inequity. It is not only moral, but it is also intelligent.
King felt we would not have a truly free society until everyone had enough money.
In recent years, inequality in wealth and income has grown. The situation is much worse than it was in 1967. The handful of very richest people in this country have as much wealth as the bottom fifty percent of all Americans combined. The idea of a guaranteed basic income has again grown more popular, showing that King's ideas remain relevant. He would argue, too, that beyond meeting people's economic needs, a more equitable distribution of wealth is important to safeguard democracy, a concept that is also increasingly discussed today.