The Sunday Magazine·The Sunday Edition

"We can handle the good life, if only we take the time."

Award-winning Dutch author Rutger Bregman makes the case for more leisure in his book, "Utopia for Realists: The Case for a Universal Basic Income, Open Borders, and a 15-Hour Work-week."
Why not give free money to everyone?

A Utopia may be a fantasy world where humanity and society have achieved a kind of perfection, but the word, utopia, has a pejorative ring to it. For one thing, it literally means no place, which suggests the unattainable. And only naivete, misguided idealism or wilful blindness could sustain a quest for the unattainable. 

Utopias also carry a whiff of the dangerous. Words and names like fascism, communism, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, le Corbusier, futurism and Jonestown come to mind. Fanatical devotion to ideas of how human society should be organized, breeding cults of personality and intolerance to dissent, often with tragic consequences.

And yet, many of the things we take for granted today — universal health care, public pensions, 5-day work weeks, easily accessible birth control and universal suffrage — would have been dismissed as the stuff of impractical utopian dreams not so very long ago. No less a utopian than Tommy Douglas, the father of Canadian medicare, implored us to dream no small dreams.

But the utopian fantasies of today — shorter work week, universal basic income, carbon-neutral energy systems, higher minimum wages — are routinely dismissed as impossible, impractical, and irresponsible.

Rutger Bregman, though, would argue that what's irresponsible and unnatural is not dreaming big.

Rutger Bregman has published four books on history, philosophy, and economics. The Dutch edition of Utopia for Realists became a national bestseller and sparked a basic income movement that soon made international headlines. (Stephan Vanfleteren)

Even while we fear for our own futures and particularly those of our children and grandchildren, Bregman notes with some dismay and puzzlement that we've become complacent in wealthy western democracies — content, or perhaps resigned, to find a marginally better world through more money, consumption and security instead of thinking of ways that could transform life for the better.

Bregman is the award-winning Dutch author of The History of Progress, and a new book that has a lot of people in Europe seriously talking about the things listed its title. It's called Utopia for Realists: The Case for a Universal Basic Income, Open Borders, and a 15-Hour Workweek. 

Click 'listen' above to hear the interview. 


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