As promised in my previous review this book was next on my list after reading Bregman’s other book, Humankind.
Utopia for Realists puts forward the idea of a universal basic income, for everyone. Yes, free money. Yes, everyone. It sounds outlandish but did you know that it’s already been successfully trialed in Canada? And that it was very nearly public policy in the USA?
This is not just a thought experiment set in fantasy land. It is backed up by logical arguments, research, and real success stories. Starting off with a discussion of what utopia is (and, importantly, what it is not), the book sets the reader up to start thinking differently about the world we are living in today and what it might become. The foundations of what we today call civilization were laid long ago by dreamers who marched to the beat of their own drummers.
This is followed by some hard data, for example, from experiments showing that giving free ‘no strings attached’ money to people experiencing homelessness was less expensive than just policing them off the streets.
We are then reminded of ‘the forgotten dream’ that was supposed to have been here by now – vast amounts of leisure time in a Jetsons-like ultra-modern existence. Why are we all working more, when we were practically promised a life so full of free time it had early 2oth century thinkers worried about what we would do with all of it?
Finishing up with an examination of how ideas can change the world, the book leaves the reader with a sense of possibility that we can be better than we are (just like Humankind did). Whether you agree with the premise or not, there is no arguing that ideas such as this are at least worth public discussion. And Bregman gives us some great pointers for how to start one.