Universal basic income. A 15-hour workweek. Open borders. Does it sound too good to be true? One of Europe's leading young thinkers shows how we can build an ideal world today.
"A more politically radical Malcolm Gladwell." --New York Times
After working all day at jobs we often dislike, we buy things we don't need. Rutger Bregman, a Dutch historian, reminds us it needn't be this way-and in some places it isn't.
Rutger Bregman's TED Talk about universal basic income seemed impossibly radical when he delivered it in 2014. A quarter of a million views later, the subject of that video is being seriously considered by leading economists and government leaders the world over. It's just one of the many utopian ideas that Bregman proves is possible today.
Utopia for Realists is one of those rare books that takes you by surprise and challenges what you think can happen. From a Canadian city that once completely eradicated poverty, to Richard Nixon's near implementation of a basic income for millions of Americans, Bregman takes us on a journey through history, and beyond the traditional left-right divides, as he champions ideas whose time have come.
Every progressive milestone of civilization-from the end of slavery to the beginning of democracy-was once considered a utopian fantasy. Bregman's book, both challenging and bracing, demonstrates that new utopian ideas, like the elimination of poverty and the creation of the fifteen-hour workweek, can become a reality in our lifetime. Being unrealistic and unreasonable can in fact make the impossible inevitable, and it is the only way to build the ideal world.
A universal basic income, a shrunken work week, and global open borders get endorsements from Bregman, a Dutch journalist and historian. He engagingly examines basic income schemes in 18th- and 19th- century England, in Manitoba in the early 1970s, and among the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians in North Carolina. His summary of how close the United States came to passing a basic income law under President Nixon is entertaining and intriguing. "For the first time in history we are rich enough to finance a sizable basic income," Bregman proclaims. The other legs of his triangle are explored with a little less focus and heft, with references to futurists' estimates that the typical work week will be 15 hours by 2030 and that increased movement in the global labor market would have dramatic effects on world economic output. For readers on the left, these are appealing notions, presented here in a breezy, TED talk like style. Bregman isn't being glib when he says those who want to change the world need to be as "unrealistic, unreasonable, and impossible" as abolitionists, suffragists, and marriage equality activists once seemed to be. A more practical handbook, however, is required to make these far-reaching proposals seem achievable.