cover image Utopias for Realists

Utopias for Realists

Rutger Bregman. Little, Brown, $27 (272p) ISBN 978-0-316-47189-3

A universal basic income, a shrunken work week, and global open borders get endorsements from Bregman, a Dutch journalist and historian. He engagingly examines basic income schemes in 18th- and 19th- century England, in Manitoba in the early 1970s, and among the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians in North Carolina. His summary of how close the United States came to passing a basic income law under President Nixon is entertaining and intriguing. “For the first time in history we are rich enough to finance a sizable basic income,” Bregman proclaims. The other legs of his triangle are explored with a little less focus and heft, with references to futurists’ estimates that the typical work week will be 15 hours by 2030 and that increased movement in the global labor market would have dramatic effects on world economic output. For readers on the left, these are appealing notions, presented here in a breezy, TED talk–like style. Bregman isn’t being glib when he says those who want to change the world need to be as “unrealistic, unreasonable, and impossible” as abolitionists, suffragists, and marriage equality activists once seemed to be. A more practical handbook, however, is required to make these far-reaching proposals seem achievable. Agent: Emma Parry, Janklow & Nesbit. (Mar.)