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Utopia for Realists: The Case for a Universal Basic Income, Open Borders, and a 15-hour Workweek Paperback – April 15, 2016
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"Both a fun read and a breath of fresh air to anyone who lived through the ghastly experience of last year's presidential election season . . . Utopia for Realists argues, with humor and sympathy, that we've all suffered from forgetting how to dream of a better world....What's so interesting about modern America is our hostility to the mere idea of trying to create an easier and happier life. We're a country that was once rich with social experimentation . . . Now we don't really even try, and mostly just scream at each other on the Internet. That doesn't seem like it will get us there. Maybe free money and a three-hour workday won't, either, but it sure seems like it would be more fun to try."
―Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone
"Convincing . . . Entertaining and reasoned . . . Bregman's book makes for enjoyable reading, and it is packed with colorful factual asides . . . Utopia for Realists should make for good conversation at the next dinner party."―Benjamin Cunningham, Los Angeles Review of Books
"Provocative and ambitious...The book is lively, well-researched, and full of unlikely pieces of history."―Tim Harford, Financial Times
"Utopia for Realists is fantastic. A quick glance turned into hours of riveting reading. Very seldom does a book change the way you think about some of most intractable problems of society, and of life. This one did. Read this book."―Sydney Finkelstein, director of the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College and author of Superbosses: How Exceptional Leaders Master the Flow of Talent
"If you're bored with hackneyed debates and decades-old right-wing and left-wing clichés, you may enjoy the bold thinking, fresh ideas, lively prose, and evidence-based arguments in Utopia for Realists."
―Steven Pinker, New York Times bestselling author of The Blank Slate and The Better Angels of Our Nature
"Bregman speaks with impressive authority . . . His solutions are quite simple and staunchly set against current trends . . . He has assembled a wealth of empirical evidence to make his case. Better than that, though, Utopia for Realists is not a dry, statistical analysis-although he doesn't shy from solid data-but a book written with verve, wit, and imagination. The effect is charmingly persuasive, even when you can't quite believe what you're reading . . . Listen out for Rutger Bregman. He has a big future shaping the future."―Andrew Anthony, The Guardian UK
"Rutger Bregman is part of a new generation of thinkers who are suggesting exciting alternatives to the orthodoxies of the last forty years. In this surprising, accessible, and often counterintuitive book, Bregman explores some brilliant but simple ideas for making a better world."―Brian Eno
"A spirited and practical manifesto for improving the odds of making a heaven on Earth."
"[Bregman] engagingly examines basic income schemes... entertaining and intriguing.... These are appealing notions, presented here in a breezy, TED talk-like style."
"This book is brilliant. Everyone should read it. Bregman shows us we've been looking at the world inside out. Turned right way out, we suddenly see fundamentally new ways forward. If we can get enough people to read this book, the world will start to become a better place."
―Richard Wilkinson, author of The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
About the Author
Rutger Bregman is one of Europe’s most prominent young thinkers. The 27-year-old historian and author has published four books on history, philosophy, and economics. His History of Progress was awarded the Belgian Liberales prize for best nonfiction book of 2013. The Dutch edition of Utopia for Realists became a national bestseller and sparked a basic income movement that soon made international headlines. Bregman has twice been nominated for the prestigious European Press Prize for his journalism work at The Correspondent. His work has been featured in The Washington Post and on the BBC.
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To appreciate and enjoy Utopia For Realists, you must buy into the initial premise that our problem is we can’t come up with anything better than the way things are now. We have run out of goals. We have run out of ideas. We are all about cutting back, servicing less, and ignoring various elephants in the room, like automation overloading us with leisure time. Western society is so wealthy in historic terms that we don’t realize we have reached Utopia. Even at our worst, we are infinitely better off than our forebears. What we need now is a new Utopia to aim for.
Guaranteed income sounds impossibly expensive, but everywhere it has been tried – dozens of places - it has worked spectacularly. For one thing, every dollar spent saves three in less supervision of beneficiaries (eg. Police and court services, pointless workshops, training sessions and reports on everyone all the time). For another, the poor don’t drink away the income; they hang onto it dearly, measuring it out only as needed for the biggest impact. Poverty is not an attitude; it is a shortage of cash.
Two hundred years ago, we worked 70 hour weeks with no days off. And we were miserable. Today, we can be miserable with 40 hour weeks, two days off and 2-5 weeks’ vacation. Soon, we must face the reality of 15 hour weeks, because artificial intelligence will pick up where automated looms, assembly lines and robots have left off. We can massage it into a Utopia, or let it destroy our fabric. Our choice, but we need to start acting now.
Borders prevent development and trade. Mexicans used to return from the USA at the rate of 85%. Now they have to stay put. Finding new markets or even just work is enlarged with a larger territory. Artificially compartmentalizing everyone is stultifying. Economically, politically, and socially. Passports and visas – a totally artificial construct recently invented, benefitting no one.
Bregman doesn’t get into the self-imposed need for growth, though he does criticize the concepts of GNP/GDP. He says governing by numbers is the last resort of a country that no longer knows what it wants, a country with no vision of utopia.
He ends with sound advice for the Left: stop caving to right wing dogma. You have access to dramatic facts. Use them. There are gigantic, proven solutions waiting to be implemented if only someone would sponsor them. He points out that the accepted issues of the day, like voting by women, same sex marriage and abolition of slavery were outrageously radical and completely unacceptable just a few years ago. So be impossible and have a thick skin.