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Utopia for Realists: How We Can Build the Ideal World (2016)

por Rutger Bregman

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"A noted Dutch journalist and economist proposes an outline for a new worldwide Utopia, with central tenets including a shortened work week, a guaranteed basic income for all, wealth redistribution, and open borders everywhere"--
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I wish..✨ ( )
  personalbookreviews | Sep 19, 2023 |
In the past, Bregman argues, the problem was people were poor, ugly, sick and stupid. In the present, the problem was that people have lost their dreams. All of the dreams that were possible in the past have been realized, and nowhere is that more true than in the US, where the per capita income and life expectancy have skyrocketed in just the last two hundred years. Per capita income is up 50-fold and life-expectancy has doubled. But instead of settling, we need new dreams of an even brighter future.

Just that message alone is a refreshing antidote to the mounting concern that society is crumbling over the past month and a half. Bregman then pitches the book on providing evidence for three utopian ideas: a universal basic income (UBI), a 15 hour work week and open borders.

Like most probable readers, I was already pretty familiar with UBI (an idea that I thought I invented several years ago before finding out about the Manitoba mincome experiment) and I thought I knew pretty much the basic primer, but I didn't know about Nixon's failed UBI proposal. Bregman also provides the most optimistic statistical analysis of UBI and how its sustainable that I've ever seen (more on that later), making it sound like an actually feasible idea. This section, prima facie, really lives up to the "for realists" segment, focusing on studies supporting the financial sustainability of UBI, and I thought that this was the strongest (and bulkiest) section.

In contrast, the Open Border section is pretty short, basically: countries that accept immigrants make more money than those that don't; immigrants, and in particular refugees are less likely to be involved in crime, and any criminal activity is predicted by socioeconomic status and that immigrants are more likely to return to their home country in open borders (and that the more we've militarized the US-Mexico border, the higher percentage of undocumented immigrants that stay here, so that clearly fits well with the plan for a Wall.) It all makes sense, but is a pretty anemic chapter.

Finally, the fifteen hour work week is more fleshed out, and there's some good thought processes there (i.e. that working longer hours decreases productivity, especially in creative jobs and that there are fewer good jobs than there are people) but there's not a lot of hard data.

Honestly, I thought the book's best ideas weren't the ostensible main ideas but were things that came up in the interstitial pages:
1. Is GDP actually a good measure and what can we use instead that would be more congruent with cultural values? Let's get rid of productivity and efficiency as goals, and concentrate on creativity and innovation, which is less metric-able
2. So many people are doing "bullshit" jobs, where they move around money, but don't do any societal or personal good. 1/3 of Americans think their job is pointless and doesn't bring them satisfaction. Let's get rid of dumb jobs and use the money to subsidize actually important work, like teachers and social workers, paid for by taxes on the financial industry.
3. Social good can be measured, just like anything else, and can be optimized by using randomized controlled trials to try out new ideas and see how much good they bring.

And finally, as a balm to my anxiety about what the best way to respond to the growing decline of political liberalism, Bregman has a strategy: use Politics as a way to move the Overton window to the left: for too long, the Global Right has been moving more and more right, while the progressive parties talk about compromises and being reasonable. But each new rightwing extremist defines deviance down, so what we perceive as moderation shifts further and further right. Bregman encourages readers to use the statistics he presents to calmly and logically argue back in the other direction, and convince politicians to run on truly progressive agenda.

So the downsides? I've hinted at a couple of them: like many books that seem to have started as a collection of essays, I found Utopia for Realists a little disorganized, and at times disjointed. I found I had to read large chunks at a time, or I would get lost because Bergman will revisit ideas that he previously explored without noting that it was discussed in a prior chapter. I thought the three sections were a little artificial -- the topics relate to each other, and the information between the Big Ideas, I thought was as worthy of fleshing out, and perhaps one chapter per concept would have provided an internal structure that the book seemed to lack. Finally, and perhaps my biggest criticism is that Bergman told, rather than showed the statistics, and for a book that prides itself on being "for realists" and data-driven, I wanted to see the data. In at least three different spots, Bergman talks about data showing one thing, than being reanalyzed and showing another. That's normal for such highly charged, politicized topics, but as a reader with a strong mathematical background, I wanted more evidence about why I should believe the reanalysis over the original results: what was the statistical error? What other analyses have been done?

Overall, though, I thought Utopia for Realists was a fresh take on the topic of how to make the world a better place. I liked that Bergman focused on some concrete ideas, and looked to bring in evidence for each, within the context of a philosophical idea to dream bigger. Often with books like this, I wonder who the intended audience is, but I think with the stated goal of encouraging liberals to use data to shift the Overton window, Bergman answers that question and it's a good answer: this book isn't intended to change the minds of people who are opposed to UBI or a 15 hour workweek or open borders (or housing first, or direct cash assistance, or randomized controlled trials of social justice), but to change the minds of people who are in favor of all of those things, but afraid to look impractical. I'm still not totally convinced, but I feel better than I did before reading it. ( )
  settingshadow | Aug 19, 2023 |
Went through 3 of the books main points (universal basic income, 15-hour workweek, and open borders) and how all of these things would contribute to overall growth for people worldwide (and not just economic growth) and the elimination of extreme poverty. ( )
  booksonbooksonbooks | Jul 24, 2023 |
Went through 3 of the books main points (universal basic income, 15-hour workweek, and open borders) and how all of these things would contribute to overall growth for people worldwide (and not just economic growth) and the elimination of extreme poverty. ( )
  booksonbooksonbooks | Jul 24, 2023 |
I krátká knížka dovede vyprovokovat k přemýšlení, a hned zkraje můžu potvrdit, že Bregmanova Utopie pro realisty takovou knihou je. Bregman se v ní nezabývá utopií obecně, neřeší jak by takový utopický svět měl vypadat, zaměřuje se vcelku střídmě na tři kroky, které by podle něj ze současný svět k utopii přiblížili. Jeho představa vlastně překvapivě zrcadlí to, co je již dnes běžné například pro ty, kteří dnes mají dost peněz na to, aby mohli žít jen z jejich úročení: hodně volného času, bezpracný výdělek a volný pohyb po celém světě.

Nejpřesvědčivější je Bregman v oblasti nepodmíněného příjmu. Je to ostatně oblast, ve které ze všech tří zkoumaných témat proběhlo nejvíce výzkumů, z nichž autor úspěšně těží. Ačkoli je myšlenka nepodmíněného příjmu na první pohled spíše socialistická, je pro mě jakožto pro zastánce minimálního státu paradoxně nejlákavější. Spleť zákonů a pravidel určujících, kdo a za jakých podmínek si zaslouží státní příspěvky a ve kterých případech vzniká nárok na úlevu z daní, nabízí nahradit jedním plošným příspěvkem. Vyměnit stovky stran zákonů, tisíce stran vyhlášek a miliony hodin práce státních a obecních zaměstatnců za něco, co lze v principu shrnout do jedné věty, je prostě krásná představa a velice doufám, že někdy dospěje i do našich končin světa.

Ve zbylých dvou tématech je Bregmanova argumentace poněkud slabší. Zatímco s principem otevřených hranic v zásadě souhlasím, nevidím cestu k realizaci už jen proto, že nikdy nebude ve světě existovat dost dobré vůle. Patnáctihodinový pracovní týden je pak podobně lákavý, jeho cesta však jistě musí vést přes řadu mezikroků a dnes si jen těžko dovedu představit, že bychom se v dohledné době dostali alespoň ke třiceti hodinám. Zůstává navíc otázkou, o co bychom byli jako lidstvo ochuzeno, pokud by se patnáctihodinovou pracovní dobou řídil opravdu každý, včetně těch mohykánů průmyslu, kteří se právě neúnavnou prací dostali na míle před své konkurenty a posunuli lidské poznání a možnosti o krok dál. Jejich budoucí zaměstnanci by však kratší pracovní dobu jistě ocenili a nejen proto tak zůstává Bregman argumentačně silný i v této části knihy.

Pokud mi tedy na Utopii pro realisty něco chybí, je to snad jen trochu praktičnosti. Bregman o svých cílech píše přesvědčivě, jenže již neradí, kudy k nim vede cesta. Jak přimět populistické politky k otevření hranic? Jak provést tak radikální změnu státních sociálních systémů, která by je připravila na nepodmíněný příjem? Chápu, asi chci od útlé knížky moc, jenže dokud se ti, kteří ve skutečnosti činí rozhodnutí (ať již politici či jejich prostřednictvím voliči) sami od sebe nezačnou rozhodovat čistě racionálně, zůstává Bregmanova Utopie pro realisty utopií pro snílky. ( )
  zajus | Jul 13, 2023 |
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Nome do autorPapelTipo de autorObra?Estado
Rutger Bregmanautor principaltodas as ediçõescalculado
Manton, ElizabethTradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Noble, PeterNarradorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
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