Sunday, 7 May 2017

utopia for realists and how we can get there. [rutger bregman]

Bregman’s book has a central thesis which is that everyone should be entitled to a universal basic income, anywhere in the world. He also believes in the eradication of borders and the implementation of a shorter working week. It’s an accesible read, which deliberately ensures the theories it proposes are readily comprehensible. The author is transparent in acknowledging that some people might find these ideas like something out of cloud cuckoo land, but then points out that radical ideas frequently seem entirely sensible in retrospect (abolition of slavey; women’s suffrage etc). The book has the advantage of being well researched, as Bregman investigates social experiments regarding a universal wage across the ages, looking at the relevant documentation. In the process he discloses a fascinating forgotten putative policy of Nixon to implement a universal income in the US, a policy which in the end, as we know, was never instigated. The book makes a strong economic case for the reforms he proposes, above and beyond any ethical imperative. It’s a down-to-earth, sensible investigation of what we mean when we refer to an economic good. For example: every book you ever read, unless you’re being paid for it, has, supposedly no measurable benefit. Or blog, for that matter. That time might as well have been spent, according to economic theory, lying in bed staring at the ceiling. Yet, surely, there is a benefit to be accrued? The fact that it can’t be measured is a fault of the system, not the action. Bregman is very good on these kind of paradoxes, exposing the inherent conceptual flaws in a capitalist system which he is also happy to defend. In these weird times, when no-one seems to know how politics is supposed to impact on economics and personal well-being, (it’s just agreed that it isn’t doing what it’s supposed to do), Bregman’s book is great thought-provoker and antidote to the bleating fools of both right and left.

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