Utopia for Realists by Rutger Bregman (Book Summary)


Today, the majority of us are fortunate enough to live in what, by recorded benchmarks, are states of extraordinary riches. For the majority of history, individuals would have viewed our ways of life as utopian. What is our utopia anyway? What do we see when we envision a superior life, a superior society?

The issue is that we have quit envisioning out and out. Truth be told, we aren’t in any event, thinking about some fundamental inquiries: Why are we working increasingly hard, even though we are more extravagant than any time in recent memory? For what reason are millions as yet living in destitution, when we have the aggregate riches to end neediness? 


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It’s a great opportunity to re-grasp enormous reasoning. It’s an ideal opportunity to envision another utopia, not as an unworkable pipe dream yet as a lot of proof-based, totally deliverable thoughts for how to reshape society and the economy with the goal that the majority of our lives are fundamentally better. 


1 – The present world ought to be a heaven, yet it’s leaving us unusually disappointed.


For a large portion of mankind’s history, life was, as the popular logician Thomas Hobbes expressed, “poor, dreadful, brutish, and short.” For hundreds of years, the human experience changed pretty much nothing and was extreme. 

As per gauges by students of history, the normal Italian earned around $1,600 in the year 1300. After six centuries, after a section of time that saw Galileo, Newton, the Enlightenment, the creation of printing, the steam motor, and black powder, what amount was that normal Italian gaining? Still $1,600. 

Yet, as of late, financial advancement has happened at an amazing pace. Today, the normal Italian is multiple times as rich as in 1880. The worldwide economy is multiple times the size it was before the Industrial Revolution. Things are currently moving so quick that the cost of a solitary watt of sun based power has dropped by 99 percent since 1980. 

Subsequently, in simply the only remaining century, billions of people have arrived at a degree of strength and solace that would have appeared to be utopian to our partners from the beginning of time. 

After hundreds of years in which craving was a principal part of most people’s lives, today, there are a larger number of individuals experiencing corpulence than from starvation. 

We’re additionally more secure – the homicide rate in Western Europe, for instance, is an entire multiple times lower than in the Middle Ages, smallpox has been killed, and today, in light of the fact that less infection implies less early passings, the normal future on the African landmass is developing at a pace of four days consistently. 



Also, our grip of innovation is to such an extent that, to a guest from the Middle Ages, it may appear as though scriptural predictions are becoming animated: Consider the Argus II, a mind embed that reestablishes some sight to individuals with hereditary visual deficiency. Or then again the Rewalk – mechanical legs that are enabling paraplegic individuals to walk once more! 

Secure, solid and rich by any authentic standard, we are living in heaven. So for what reason does that vibe so disheartening, and for what reason are such huge numbers of individuals still disappointed with their part? 

Possibly it’s that with so much riches, we’ve overlooked how to think beyond practical boundaries. Blinded by our customer solaces, we’re never again considering making life better. The minute has come to consider again what progress and carrying on with a decent life in a period of material riches truly implies. 


2 – Giving free cash to individuals is a surprisingly successful method for improving their lives.


Life was extreme for Bernard Omondi. Working in a stone quarry in ruined western Kenya, he was gaining $2 every day – scarcely enough to get by. Be that as it may, life improved when the philanthropy GiveDirectly gave him and others in his town an irregular installment of $500, without any hidden obligations.

Bernard utilized his bonus to buy a cruiser. Months after the fact, he was acquiring $6 to $9 per day as a motorbike cabbie. The cash had changed Bernard’s life. 

GiveDirectly pursues a straightforward guideline: Cash-destitute individuals know superior to any other person what they need. In this way, the most ideal approach to help them is to give them cash. Chilly, unequivocal, no hidden obligations money that they can use as they see fit. 

That is an uncommon methodology since governments and NGOs more often than not accept they recognize what ruined individuals need superior to anything the individuals themselves do. Such intuition prompts programs in which towns get cows, schools or sunlight based boards. 

While it’s smarter to have one cow than no cow by any means, one investigation in Rwanda found that giving solitary pregnant dairy animals and giving a draining workshop cost $3,000! That is what could be compared to five entire long periods of salary for the normal Rwandan – a transformative sum. 

There’s a lot of proof that giving money works. At the point when poor Ugandan ladies were given $150, their earnings thusly rose by very nearly 100 percent. An MIT investigation of GiveDirectly’s money awards found that they drive an enduring 38 percent expansion in earnings and lift home and domesticated animal possession by 58 percent. Projects the world over back up this methodology. 

One explanation that associations are impervious to giving out free cash is dug in the conviction that gifts will breed sluggishness and bad habit. The proof, in any case, doesn’t bolster this. 



A significant World Bank concentrate found that in 82 percent of looked into cases crosswise over Latin America, Asia, and Africa, liquor and tobacco utilization declined among beneficiaries of the money. 

One trial study in Liberia saw heavy drinkers, known lawbreakers and grouped different addicts given $200, sans condition. Three years on, the men had utilized their sudden bonuses to put resources into nourishment and prescription and to begin private ventures. 

Things being what they are, destitution isn’t about ineptitude, apathy or terrible choices. It’s about an absence of cash. What’s more, as we’ll find in the following squint, this doesn’t just apply in the creating scene yet additionally in the Western world. How about we investigate. 


3 – The minute for actualizing a Universal Basic Income has come.


Universal Basic Income, or UBI, is an array where everybody gets simply enough cash to live on. It’s assessment supported, given unequivocally, and doesn’t require the beneficiary to work. It is anything but another thought – something particularly likes it was nearly presented in the United States by a far-fetched supporter. 

Before his disrespect, President Richard Nixon anticipated giving each family $1,600 every year, or $10,000 in the present cash. It would be, he contended, the most huge social enactment in US history. At last, confronting political restriction in Congress, Nixon deserted the thought. It appeared to be thinkable at that point, yet UBI is positively conceivable at this point. 

UBI adversaries from both the Nixon period and today, make two center contentions against it. 

The first is that it’s essentially exorbitant. Which country can subsidize presents for everybody? All things considered, as indicated by an examination by the British research organization, Demos, destroying all neediness in the United States would cost just $175 billion. 

Certainly, that seems like a great deal, however, it adds up to under 1 percent of US GDP. A Harvard concentrate found that triumphant the war against neediness would be a ton less expensive than the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which between them cost $4-6 trillion. 

The subsequent contention made against UBI is that it would be hazardous. Give everybody free pay, and we will see a blast in sluggishness. Why work, when you can get free money? 

At the point when President Nixon was pushing the thought, numerous preliminaries were directed over the United States to test this very question. Their discoveries? By and large, paid work was diminished by only 9 percent – a figure which was later changed down when specialists found a methodological oddity. 



Additionally, the individuals who represented that 9 percent were for the most part moms of little youngsters who cut back on their working time, and youngsters who sought after further instruction. It was additionally revealed that even secondary school graduation rose by a third among beneficiaries. 

It appears that UBI is bound to help individuals use sound judgment. Similarly as Bernard in western Kenya utilized the free cash to propel himself, beneficiaries of a UBI in the United States had the option to settle on reasonable choices, such as putting resources into training, instead of choices controlled by financial situation and need. 

With globalization and innovation undermining our occupations, an opportunity to present UBI has never been riper. We should simply be daring enough to ponder how our economy should function. 


4 – Gross domestic product is an unreasonable and obsolete method for estimating progress; it needs supplanting.


To tune in to lawmakers or financial pundits, you’d believe that gross domestic product, or GDP, was an entirely dependable proportion of a country’s prosperity. Truly, however, GDP should never again be trusted as a measuring stick for a country’s advancement. 

What is GDP? Indeed, it’s the entirety of products and enterprises created in a nation, balanced for things like occasional varieties and expansion. Everything looks OK. Be that as it may, there are a couple of basic issues with it. 

Right off the bat, GDP makes an awful showing of estimating innovative advances. That is incomplete because items that are free or modest can transformatively affect business or society however in any case hurt GDP. The vast majority of us would respect the free calling administration Skype, for instance, as speaking to advance. In any case, it cost the telecom mammoths a fortune, and along these lines gouged GDP. 

Also, GDP profits by human torment. While the 2011 seismic tremor and tidal wave that left 20,000 dead in Japan harmed GDP that year, the ensuing recuperation endeavors helped the economy. Subsequently, GDP developed to 1 percent in 2012, rising still in 2013. Things being what they are, are tidal waves useful for the economy? The improving GDP would propose so. 

Clearly, at that point, the opportunity has arrived for another and increasingly adjusted methodology that reflects what sums to advance and welfare in a cutting edge country. 



A few endeavors at this have been made. The King of Bhutan broadly did a change to a gross national bliss measure that joined a more extensive appraisal of society’s wellbeing, similar to the learning of conventional melodies and moves. It did, notwithstanding, unobtrusively disregard any disappointment with his oppressive guideline. 

A dashboard that evaluated the soundness of a country by various measures would work superior to anything any single figure would. These measures wouldn’t simply incorporate development and money related ventures, however, track the condition of employments, network administration, ecological wellbeing, and social attachment. 

Some may protest that such a dashboard would never be objective. In any case, GDP isn’t either – it’s an emotional accumulation of decisions. A dashboard may, unexpectedly, enable us to improve evaluation of what Simon Kuznets, GDP’s maker, thought was significant: Not simply the amount, however the nature of development. 

One other factor that our dashboard could quantify is recreation time. Since, as we’ll currently observe, time is additionally something to be esteemed. 


5 – We should grasp the bunch advantages of a 15-hour working week.


In summer 1930, the market analyst John Maynard Keynes made a striking forecast while giving a talk in Madrid: by 2030, immense financial development would mean a 15-hour week’s worth of work. All things considered, Keynes was directly about soaring financial development, yet for what reason would he say he was off-base about us working fewer hours? 

Financial development in the nineteenth and twentieth century led to certain decreases in working hours. The industrialist to-his-bones vehicle producer, Henry Ford, found that shortening his representatives’ week’s worth of work expanded their efficiency. 

He joyfully told writers that more relaxation was a “cool business truth,” offering successful, rested specialists who likewise had enough recreation time to purchase and utilize his vehicles. What’s more, Ford wasn’t the only one. By the 1960s, the Rand Corporation think-tank anticipated a future economy in which only 2 percent of individuals expected to work to address the majority of society’s issues. 

However, by the 1980s, decreases in working hours halted. Development didn’t liken to more recreation however to more utilization. In nations like the United Kingdom, Austria, and Spain, the week’s worth of work remained the equivalent, though in the United States it developed in spite of the way that financial development could empower Keynes’ vision. 



The MIT biologist Erik Rauch has demonstrated that, by 2050, we could work 15 hours or less while winning equivalent to we did in 2000, which was not a time of hardship. 

The opportunity has arrived to reconsider placing in fewer hours at work. Doing so offers a wide assortment of advantages. For a beginning, individuals need to work less. At the point when analysts in the United States asked individuals whether they would prefer to have an additional two weeks’ compensation or an additional two weeks off, twice the same number of picked the leisure time. 

What’s more, working less has horde benefits, from lessening mishaps in the working environment to cutting feelings of anxiety, to freeing ladies. Nations with the most limited work filled weeks top sex equity rankings. Why? All things considered, when men work less, they get a greater amount of unpaid work at home that has customarily been left to ladies. 

A short working week would give all of us the data transfer capacity we have to carry on with a superior life. Regardless of whether that implies investing more energy with the children, figuring out how to play the piano, concentrating a language or getting fit. Shortening our week needs to turn into a political need. Be that as it may, as we’ll see, our general public doesn’t generally get it’s needs right. 


6 – How we organize which employments are lofty or generously compensated is all off-base.


In February 1968, 7,000 irate sanitation laborers assembled in New York in light of bombed pay exchanges. As one junk jockey stated, they were tired of individuals treating them like soil. They were picketing. 

In Ireland, the nation’s bank workers took to the streets following long yet ineffective compensation exchanges in May 1970. 

Two strikes by two altogether different occupations. What was the deal? All things considered, two days after New York’s sanitation workforce took to the streets, the city was knee-somewhere down in smelling reject. Just because since a 1931 polio flare-up, the city announced a highly sensitive situation. It turns out you truly need trash collectors; shouldn’t something be said about brokers? 

Over in Ireland, the banks shut medium-term. Intellectuals anticipated financial fate. Be that as it may, at that point something odd occurred: very little by any means. Bars and shops, well-incorporated into their networks, filled the void and got the money for checks. All things considered, the bar and shop directors had a sharp feeling of their clients’ dependability. 

A useful money related framework developed, and by November 1970, £5 billion in natively constructed cash had been printed and utilized. It worked out that some type of money related framework was required, yet investors themselves? Not really. 

Certain employments bring riches and renown, such as being a broker, a superstar legal counselor or an online networking strategist. Others, such as being a junk jockey or a common teacher, are seriously paid and bring either no glory or by and large scorn. Be that as it may, actually, numerous as far as anyone knows superstar employments make little riches. 



Take legal counselors. Without a doubt, the standard of law is significant. In any case, the United States has 17 fold the number of legal counselors per individual as Japan. Is America’s legitimate framework multiple times better? No. Envision that the 100,000 lobbyists working in Washington, or the world’s telemarketers protested. On the off chance that anything, we’d all be in an ideal situation. 

Society would profit by refocusing on what makes riches and worth. Tax collection is a decent spot to begin. One Harvard study demonstrated that tax reductions under President Reagan provoked a significant switch in professions among the country’s scholastic tip top. In 1970, twice the same number of Harvard graduates were picking research than banking. After twenty years, following Reagan’s tax reductions, the numbers had flipped. 


The end was clear: personal duty steers individuals from high-paid however not socially advantageous occupations like banking toward jobs with a progressively constructive effect on society. 

On the off chance that we need builds as opposed to speculative stock investment supervisors, educators rather than financiers, at that point higher charges would be a decent spot to begin. 


7 – Our economy is in a general sense changing, and innovation represents a more prominent risk to occupations than at any other time.


English processing plant proprietor William Cartwright presented another kind of loom in the mid-nineteenth century. Each machine supplanted the employments of four gifted weavers. In the next months, jobless laborers shaped an extreme group plan on wrecking hardware. Machines said one revolutionary named William Leadbetter, “will be the devastation of the universe.” The gathering considered themselves the Luddites. 

Since the beginning, individuals have cautioned on the effect of machines on occupations. In any case, today, a great many people would state that the Luddites and other dread mongers failed to understand the situation. All things considered, we aren’t all jobless. Regardless, there are motivations to be more stressed than any other time in recent memory about the effect of innovation on employment. 

All through the twentieth century, work development and financial profitability ran one next to the other. As we got increasingly profitable, we additionally made more occupations. Yet, around the beginning of the twenty-first century, a change happened. 

Two MIT business analysts, Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, consider it the extraordinary decoupling. Efficiency continued rising, driven by advancement. And yet, work creation eased back, and middle livelihoods fell. Why? 

One explanation is the sheer pace of innovative change. Think about Moore’s law, which expresses that the quantity of transistors on every PC chip pairs year on year, thus does processing power as an outcome. When Gordon Moore, an IBM prime supporter, found this development design during the 1960s, there were only 30 transistors to a chip. 



Indeed, when the Xbox One was propelled in 2013, it had five billion transistors. Moore’s law isn’t giving any indications of backing off, and a few pundits expect amazing advances in PC innovation soon. 

A second motivation behind why our economy is on a very basic level changing is that mechanical development and globalization imply that minor gatherings of individuals would now be able to fabricate immeasurably fruitful organizations. In the late 1980s, Kodak utilized 145,000 individuals. It declared financial insolvency in 2012, that year that Instagram was offered to Facebook for $1 billion. Instagram’s workforce? Thirteen individuals. 

In the nineteenth century, advancement in steam-fueled innovation supplanted human muscle-control – in plants, mines, and other modern locales. Today, advancement in registering force is prepared to supplant our intellectual prowess at a lot quicker rate. Thus, most employments are presently in danger. 

How about we investigate the outcomes, and how we may handle them. 


8 – We can either utilize the duty to redistribute the abundance of the coming machine age or slide into ever-more prominent disparity.


It appears to be conceivable that the Luddites’ enemy of innovation fears wasn’t right, however maybe only somewhat untimely; perhaps we truly are bound to be beaten in our race against the machine. All things considered, we might be going to arrive at a tipping point in which advancements in figuring power and man-made reasoning drastically make a huge difference. 

Futurologist Ray Kurzweil enthusiastically accepts that PCs will be as savvy as individuals by 2029 and that by 2045 they might be a billion times more insightful than every single human cerebrum together. 

Presently, Kurzweil is referred to for his ferocity as much as his virtuoso. In any case, we ought to be careful about rejecting his forecasts, similarly as we would have been off-base to expel Gordon Moore’s examination of registering movement, thinking back to the 1960s. 

What’s more, if Kurzweil’s correct, we’ll see major monetary change. What will the results be? One is a quickly developing disparity. A little gathering of ultra-rich will appreciate spectacular ways of life, while any individual who hasn’t educated expertise that machines can’t ace will be left to the side. Our general public is ending up progressively isolated. 

Accepting we would prefer not to live in a world with wild imbalance, what should be possible? Customarily the response to the risk of machines has been to call for instruction. 



This has worked before, yet then it was quite easy to help, for instance, ranchers manufacture their acquiring limit by adapting some fundamental abilities. Helping our youngsters get ready to contend with machines and man-made consciousness may be somewhat trickier. 

The appropriate response lies in dismissing a focal fundamental of present-day life: the possibility that we should all work professionally. At last, the appropriate response is enormous redistribution. 

In a world described by Instagrams, not Kodaks, on the off chance that we need everybody in the public eye to profit by innovation-driven success, we have to think about radical redistribution. That implies tax assessment of the immense riches collected by an ever-littler gathering of individuals. 

The French financial specialist Thomas Piketty created a scene when he proposed a worldwide, dynamic expense on riches as the answer for developing an imbalance between those who are well off and the less wealthy. Piketty himself portrays his thought as idealistic, however a “valuable perfect world.” But the decision is there for us to take. Acknowledge expanding disparity or transform this perfect world into a reality. 


9 – On the off chance that we truly need to utilize our riches to assemble a utopia, we have to open up the world’s fringes.


Envision there was a solitary measure that wouldn’t simply enhance destitution yet kill it? What’s more, envision that measure would make us all more extravagant, too? Without a doubt we’d take it, isn’t that so? 

All things considered, shockingly, we presumably wouldn’t. Not at this moment. Since that measure is to open all outskirts. 

Market analysts’ perspectives on this are reliable. As per a Center for Global Development paper, four significant investigations anticipated worldwide financial development of somewhere in the range of 67 and 147 percent if outskirts were opened. 

It’s entirely expected to hear financial specialists asking the expulsion of exchange and capital hindrances to advance development; the IMF assesses that lifting limitations on capital development would free up $65 billion – an amount. Yet, Harvard financial analyst Lant Pritchett has assessed that opening outskirts to individuals would have one thousand times the effect: producing $65 trillion over the world. 

Our momentum center around help and exchange appears to be a little senseless when open outskirts could lift the salary of, for instance, the normal Nigerian individual by $22,000 every year, as per John Kennan from the National Bureau of Economic Research. 



So for what reason don’t we open up? Indeed, national outskirts appear to twist our reasoning. We are ethically irate to discover that white Americans procure more than dark Americans, however we don’t flutter an eyelid at the information that an American will, for a similar work, acquire multiple times in excess of a Bolivian of a similar age and capacities, and eight and a half times more than the proportional Nigerian. 

Today, the genuine elite arent those naturally introduced to the correct family or the correct social class. They are those conceived in the correct nation. Today, an individual on the destitution line in the United States is in the most extravagant 14 percent of the worldwide populace. 

Also, somebody procuring a middle pay in the United States is in the most extravagant 4 percent. That is in the wake of changing for the average cost for basic items. Today, the worldwide elite are scarcely mindful of its karma. 

In any case, the state of affairs doesn’t need to be acknowledged. The quality of the present national outskirts is a verifiable abnormality. Before World War One, outskirts existed generally as lines on maps. Nations that gave international IDs, similar to Russia, were viewed as graceless for doing as such. 

So perhaps we can envision something else and better. One thing is sure. If you need to improve the world a spot, you have to make it a progressively open spot.


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Utopia for Realists: How We Can Build the Ideal World by Rutger Bregman Book Review


We have the riches and the capacity to improve our reality fundamentally. Pushing toward a general fundamental salary, a far shorter week’s worth of work, better markers of cultural advancement and opening outskirts would have a transformative, positive effect on our lives. We simply do not have the creative mind to have faith in this reachable utopia.


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