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Utopia for Realists: And How We Can Get There

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We live in a time of unprecedented upheaval, with questions about the future, society, work, happiness, family and money, and yet no political party of the right or left is providing us with answers. Rutger Bregman, a bestselling Dutch historian, explains that it needn't be this way.

Bregman shows that we can construct a society with visionary ideas that are, in fact, wholly implementable. Every milestone of civilization – from the end of slavery to the beginning of democracy – was once considered a utopian fantasy. New utopian ideas such as universal basic income and a 15-hour work week can become reality in our lifetime.

This guide to a revolutionary yet achievable utopia is supported by multiple studies, lively anecdotes and numerous success stories. From a Canadian city that once completely eradicated poverty, to Richard Nixon's near implementation of a basic income for millions of Americans, Bregman takes us on a journey through history, beyond the traditional left-right divides, as he introduces ideas whose time has come.

300 pages, Kindle Edition

First published September 14, 2014

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About the author

Rutger Bregman

11 books4,137 followers
Rutger Bregman is a Dutch historian, author and journalist. He studied at Utrecht University and the University of California, Los Angeles and is known for popularizing topics related to social and economic innovation measures and their history through, among others, universal basic income and shorter work weeks.

Rutger Bregman is a journalist at The Correspondent, and one of Europe's most prominent young thinkers. He has published four books on history, philosophy, and economics.


Rutger Bregman studeerde aan de universiteit van Utrecht en Los Angeles, en doceerde aan de Universiteit van Utrecht. Hij schrijft voor nrc.next, Het Parool, de Volkskrant, Trouw en De Groene Amsterdammer.

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Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 3 books248k followers
November 3, 2020
”A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing. And when Humanity lands there, it looks out, and, seeing a better country, sets sail. Progress is the realization of Utopias.”---Oscar Wilde.

Rutger Bregman, the Dutch historian, first came to my attention when recently he got into a tiff with Tucker Carlson. The footage and audio was leaked, and though I wasn’t surprised to hear Carlson get upset with a guest, I was shocked to listen to the vehemence and the frankly crazed level of his response.

I came away thinking, this Bregman really knows how to get under people’s skin. Of course, any time you even hint at a redistribution of wealth to a obscenely wealthy conservative, they get prickly and defensive. There never seems to be enough money for these type of people. They want it all. As prickly as they are about having to share their fortune with others, the stark truth is they took that wealth away from the rest of us in a variety of different ways. 62 people, at this very moment, are richer than 3.5 billion other people put together.

Now really, it is laughable to consider. Why would anyone need that much wealth? Isn’t it a burden just to decide what to do with all of it?

But I digress. The thing you will find as you read this book is that there will be frequent digressions. I ended up reading many parts of it out loud to my wife, and that led to looping, long discussions that really helped reshape some of our world views about what a real utopia would consist of.

Bregman discusses three main points that will make a lot of sphincters tighten, including my own. Universal basic income, fifteen-hour work week, and a world without borders.

Bregman is concerned about homelessness, as we all should be, but as I read about him talking about universal basic income, my first thought was for our overcrowded and expensive prison system. If those men have a basic income that will allow them to truly get on their feet, how much money will we save every year giving them the money directly instead of paying to keep them locked up? Now the first thought that most people will have is that something like this won’t work because why would people work? The studies that have been conducted on this concept show that people who don’t have to worry about where they are going to sleep or where their next meal is coming from start to think about educating themselves and finding worthwhile work. Of course, there are going to be failures, but as long as we are talking about the majority of participants showing a desire for achieving a better life, then we would be rehabilitating people instead of incarcerating them.

Studies also found that, if they gave the money directly to the disadvantaged people, instead of putting it through the welfare department with all the red tape and hoops to jump through, the positive results skyrocketed. I’m all for eliminating the need for social services.

You will hear people say that the disadvantaged are poor because they are lazy, and I think that those people really want to believe that, and no preponderance of evidence will change their minds, but for people with an open mind, this is pretty heady stuff to consider.

Anybody want a 15 hour work week? I’m going to quote our friend Oscar Wilde again. ”Work is the refuge of people who have nothing better to do.” I understand that there are people who really enjoy their jobs, and they should work as many hours at those jobs as they want to, but for most of us, our jobs are dehumanizing, boring, and meaningless. We have Henry Ford to thank for being an instigator of the 40 hour work week, or all us would still be working 60 or 70 hours or more. He discovered that workers are more efficient working fewer hours. He also understood that, if people have leisure time to go do things, they will buy... cars. They will go spend money on activities, which boosts the economy, which makes it easier for more people to afford...cars. So in other words, he discovered it was in his best interest to allow his workers to have a life beyond just working.

When you look at a company like Walmart who treats and pays their workers horribly, they obviously don’t understand that, the more money they pay their workers, the more money those workers are going to spend in their store. The really annoying thing about a company like Walmart is they pay so poorly that a large percentage of their workers are on food stamps or government assistance, so all of us are supporting Walmart to make billions in profit.

See what I mean about digressing?

When I was a kid and watching The Jetsons, like most other American kids, I really thought the future was going to be an amazing place with flying cars, underwater cities, and short work weeks. I thought we would be a world of scholars, painters, writers...creative people. It never occured to me that the advances in technology, like cell phones, a plentiful food supply, and robots, would actually lead to us working longer hours. Does that make any sense? Why do so few benefit from the natural resources of the planet or from the technological advancements? How did I get cut out of the pie?

One of the points that Bregman makes, that really hit home for me, is what he calls shifter jobs. These are careers devoted to moving money, but not actually creating wealth. The perfect example is a stockbroker or even a banker. They take money and shift it around. Bregman will convince you that we really don’t need any of these people. So why do those shifters make extraordinarily large salaries, and the real wealth creators, such as teachers, police officers, and nurses, get paid on the lower end of the scale?

Our society is upside down.

The other loss to all of society is that our best minds, instead of going into science, teaching, and medicine, become stock brokers, lawyers, advertising agents, and bankers. They become shifters instead of creators. We have seen how destructive those shifters have been to our financial markets throughout history, but also very recently in 2008. We can solve that. We can encourage those shifters to become contributors to society by raising taxes on those fabulously wealthy incentive packages they receive. I’ve known stock brokers. Some of them were actually great people caught in a vortex of greed; almost every one of them will tell you that they wished they were doing something more meaningful.

I wasn’t a stock broker, but I held down a very meaningless job for twenty years. One of those jobs that is hard to explain to my kids what exactly I do. It was lucrative. I made twice what my wife made as a teacher. The contribution that I was making to society paled to what my wife did on a daily basis. I’ve been asked hundreds of times by people, who are familiar with my voracious reading and philosophizing, why I wasn’t a teacher?

My reply: Because I couldn’t afford the pay cut?

Brainwashing cuts deeps.

The open borders question is an ongoing political battle in the United States. The way WE THE PEOPLE resolve this will have an influence all over the world. Whether it is a good idea or not, the U.S. still is a heavy influencer on the rest of the world. This applies to all things, not just border walls, so all the points that Bregman is discussing in this book is aimed at the U.S. for that very reason.

I thought this quote summarized the escalating wall issue very well. They will never go back.”This brings us to a fascinating paradox: Open borders promote immigrants’ return. Take the border between Mexico and the US. In the 1960s, seventy million Mexicans crossed it, but in time 85% returned home. Since the 1980s, and especially since 9/11, the US side of the border has been heavily militarized, with a 2,000 mile wall secured by cameras, sensors, drones, and 20,000 border patrol agents. Nowadays, only 7% of illegal Mexican immigrants ever go back.”

We want them to go back, but we trap them here. Who would want to deal with those border control agents? Who would trust any outcome with our court system that is so biased against Mexican immigration? I live in a city where 60% of the population is Hispanic. ICE is a frequent visitor to town, and it isn’t just the illegal aliens who disappear when they show up in town.

Bregman certainly gave me a lot to ponder. He has given me intelligent talking points that will help bolster my own arguments with conservatives about these progressive ideas that are actually based on conservative principles. Remember, Richard Nixon wanted to put through universal health care and a universal basic income. The Democrats actually killed both measures for different reasons (They wanted more money for the basic income, and Teddy Kennedy wanted health care passed under his presidential administration), but the fact that Nixon, of all people, put forth these concepts to me shows that, if we can smudge out the D and R behind politician’s names and really discuss these concepts, maybe progressive ideas actually can be seen as the most sane route to creating a better society.

History will prove us right.

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten
Profile Image for Mark.
21 reviews28 followers
February 4, 2017
What a painful book to read during the first week of Trump's administration. I swear every time I finished a chapter, a new policy would be announced that completely moved the needle of social progress in the other direction. Solving poverty with a universal basic income? Nope, here's a Secretary of Labor who thinks the minimum wage is already too high. Reform the banking system so it's not one of the largest drivers of the economy? Let me introduce you to the newest Goldman Sachs exec to run a department in Washington. Open our borders up to reduce both US and worldwide inequality? Don't even get me started on that one.

Note to self: After civilization inevitably collapses, come back and re-read this for ideas on how to rebuild society. While some of Bregman's ideas seemed not fully fleshed out and some are even contradictory to each other, I think that's part of the point. A utopian future is unknown, and open to experimentation and trial. He does a good job presenting some of these potential scenarios and backs his ideas up with solid historical examples and current data.
Profile Image for Mario the lone bookwolf.
805 reviews3,848 followers
March 1, 2020
If you like progressive, pro welfare state, social security, in a nutshell, the Nordic model praising nonfiction with hard facts and undeniable, logical argumentations, some of them the first time presented to a larger audience, this is your new favorite.

After having read Klein, Chomsky, and Ziegler, who are all primarily talking about the problems and showing some ways out of the dilemma, I find this new approach towards less ranting and more solutions very positive. What it differentiates from many left/right, conservative/progressive, capitalist/socialist, etc. writings is that it´s really trying to be neutral, although the author is pro social democracy and Keynesian economics.

I´ve read many, mostly left, thinkers, and do you know what happens all the time? Instead of talking about how to find a compromise, solutions, built a better future together, there is mostly bashing of the opponent, no matter who is right or wrong and yes, there are cases where leftist politics can´t immediately be implemented and other solutions have to be found. There is so much faith, belief, conditioning, coincidences who conditions and indoctrinates one to be on one side, that an open discussion gets more and more impossible, but building a brighter future is only possible together with the economy, companies, and conservative parties because, well, they have the cash.

One of the most important messages of this book is to leave the comfort zone of the own ideology and try to find interdisciplinary approaches to solve some of the inevitable problems, some of the essential already screaming from the cover. I am really trying to see the immense positive effects on general wealth capitalism brought, before neoliberalism turned it in the creepiest and most destructive creature man ever made, and, older and wiser as I am, see that fixing and optimizing societies to create a more human, sustainable, and fair economic system can only be made possible by cooperation, respect, and willingness to change, not by insults and hate. I mean, look at the world, your country, each comment section on Amazon and Goodreads, that´s are no productive contentions, that´s just hate trolling and sh**storming by people who read nonfiction books. Does one get the irony, reading to get knowledge and behaving like that in comment sections of books one doesn´t like?

Back to the topic: Bregman is, as said, pro-human and pro-environment and he has the intention to help the opponents to find a way out of the current dilemmas without losing their reputation and too much money money. You know, breakdown of civilization, pitchforks, and torches, military, and police deserting, all pretty bad for shareholder values, quotations, and stock indexes, possibly even the mansion could get damaged. Bergman uses history and very much data and sources to prove his theses.

Some main points:

Universal basic income instead of the prison system and mass incarceration. People have secure basic needs satisfied, don´t turn to crime, can have a free education, all the money for prison industry can be used to build the welfare state, less police is needed for that reasons and can fight organized crime and white-collar crime instead, cities are better places to live, ghettos and hoods disappear, no single parent mothers in poverty with kids growing up without fathers,…

Social inequality has to be reduced

Best minds get lost, as they go into banking, managing, become shifters of money in the financial sector, brokers,… earning very much, people doing real jobs with their hands or social work, get nothing. Instead the talented could work as doctors, engineers, scientists, etc., but don´t do it, because it would be stupid to go in jobs with more work and less cash.

Counterintuitive, but true, if the borders are open, the people go back to their home countries. Take the rich EU, US, etc. where people can freely move around for work, but return home. If, on the other hand, it´s dangerous to deadly to get across a secured border, hardly anyone goes back. If the wealth is isolated behind death strips and not fairly distributed, organized crime, black economy, political extremism, and terrorism have many unnecessary breeding grounds and again, the military and police have to invest money that could be used for the welfare state. Happy people don´t kill other happy people.

No bureaucratic disses and shenanigans to get social services, no stigmatization, no coercion to do precarious work to not get homeless or stay hungry.

If there are no taxpayers anymore, if there is no redistribution by higher wages, reducing working time, taxation of robots and capital, UBI, the system collapses. The most successful, biggest companies have fewer and fewer workers and will have to keep automating anything to stay global market leaders and everyone will copy their behavior. More and more people, fewer and fewer jobs, that´s a real-life exponential process, looking at you, economics.

Raising taxes for the very rich who are already getting immense, hidden amounts of money by public fundings and subsidies in the multi k billion dimension each year, tax reliefs, or just hiding the money in tax havens, while fighting against socialist leftist social politics. Taxes on financial speculation.

Richard Nixon was pro universal health and UBI and the democrats successfully fought against it.

What will lead to all of it is that robots don´t buy, algorithms don´t consume, and that the immense wealth will be destroyed if it´s not redistributed. Or back to the middle ages and feudalism, then it could be possible for you, honorable god emperors of mammon.

Does anyone know an anachronism? When there was slavery, the king said the empire and economy would collapse without them and forced labor. When there was the first talk about democracy, the elites said it would lead to barbary and destruction of the state. What does this say about the current discussion, when UBI, open borders, less working hours, welfare state.. are defined as not possible, mad, dangerous, bad for the kids, communistic, and would lead to the breakdown of society (yet again) and degeneration of humankind (mission already accomplished).

I am a layman, but let's say that for just one week all factories on earth would produce useful stuff instead of senseless consumer crap, and it´s equitably distributed to everyone, the basic needs of everyone could be provided, nobody had to suffer, and the 50 to 100 billionaires who own as much as 3,5 billion people possibly wouldn´t starve.

Some final pessimism, because I can´t get out of my skin.

The funny thing is that there is no hard evidence, just replication crisis
lies, and ultra soft economic and political, so called sciences, that are arguing pro destroying human lives and the planet for totally bonkers, not even real, reasons. Their arguments and attacks are a collection of propaganda methods, not a single thing that would be used in natural sciences, all just institutionalized madness that controls most of our lives. Do you know where else one old, white, not necessarily wise but demagogic, man tells a story and it gets viral and millions believe it and listen to everything and it escalates quickly? Yes, popular TV-talk shows with charismatic hosts.

What stunned me, once again, is how a short book can contain so much knowledge, solutions, and proofs that all sides of the spectrum together already had and could thus have intentions to reinvent social order in the 21 century, while all mass media is ignoring it and instead repeating mantras of endless exponential growth and fake pseudo statistics and extrapolations.

I´ll avoid those topics in the future, everything is said, probably I´ll edit, write, pimp, and post a few dozen reviews of books I´ve already read about the stuff, but read no new ones anymore. If one gets it, it´s fine, one more working for a better future, if not, I won´t feed the trolls and waste my time anymore with adults unable to self-reflection, introspection, and compromises. I see so many intelligent people wasting their time or even having wasted their lives that way, that could instead have used their knowledge and expertise to find connecting factors to moderate thinkers of the other side of the political spectrum for the sake of a consensus, instead of continuing the hardliner vs. hardliner squabble.

You know, communism and capitalism, it can both be stupid, just depending on fine-tuning. Capitalism degenerated to neoliberalism, destroying the environment and deferring human development, marxism degenerated to communism, killing more people than any authoritarian government style before.

A wiki walk can be as refreshing to the mind as a walk through nature in this completely overrated real life outside books:

I´ll set a good example by listing a bit of what is going wrong in the progressive, social democracy, green party, etc. spectrum and no, I am and will always be on the left side and know that this is the only way to realize utopias, by the way, proven by science and the numbers, but to know the weak spots is better than narcissism and megalomania.

Arrogance and condescension, doing as if one has all the solutions, looking down jovially at the other party, making it impossible for them to be willing to change. To deter the youth, making them hate politics even more. Being offended when NGOs are more popular and successful, not questioning why Fridays for future has achieved more within months than they did in their whole career? Might it be that all people, no matter if they are conservatives or teenagers, hate it to be treated that way and automatically are against one?

Pseudo intellectualism by playing around with unproven humanities, believing to have solutions by waving around theoretical concepts, bashing the other side for exactly the same behavior.

A country with a fair, sustainable trade policy will not survive against the other predator states. The state has to use his companies as the weapons of the only possible conflict left between western states, the trade war, and help them in any way possible. Humans are not naturally nice, they are greedy, unicorn icecream lollypop is unrealistic. We all here are profiteers of this system, privileged as we are and there are young economists, entrepreneurs, and businessmen who want to find a solution or have disruptive business ideas and without their expertise, good ideas will be doomed to fail. The opposition is not even trying to take their hand, just as with tech and the ideas of their own youth, they play allmighty super brainer instead.

Not investing in own education programs, without system propaganda, and enlightenment, the key element in the Nordic states, instead repeating the same political circle, not even daring to speak out the real problems, instead a bit of superficial environmental protection and pseudo reforms, instead just drops on the hot stone.

Still hierarchical, no flat hierarchies, no open conversation, discussion, absolutely no difference to faith and ideology, unable to change opinion, revise, reflect, be open to new ideas.

Doing as if all rich and all companies were evil, no differentiating between a Bill Gates with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (yes, he saves a lot of taxes, I know, but he does something) and a Rupert Murdoch with Foxnews. By the way, there is not much difference between Tucker Carlsons´ reaction to Bregman and how many leftists are reacting to conservatives.

Not building a free, own press, as the right wingers and conservatives are doing it, although the internet would allow it for free without much money money.

Technophobia: Giving nothing on the use of modern technology, not using direct democracy with all the internet options, fighting against genetic engineering and delaying one of the most important key technologies for the sake of humanity and against world hunger.

Being unable to cooperate with and get funding by progressive companies that are interested in a change, because they have sustainable business models that are blocked by the current political system.

I could tell much more, but it gets boring and yes, I am a true agnostic nihilist and meanwhile at the point where I despise all politicians the same, all part of the problem, not the solution, no matter what party. I, by the way, have a decade long history of activism, interest in politics, and talking to many people and that´s the result, don´t want to waste my time anymore.

Try it yourself, it´s refreshing. And depressing. As said, I´m out, the ones in politics who are pretending to fight for these important ideals are incompetent wiseacres that aren´t able to read the 50 to 75 books that would be necessary to be visionary, realistic, and have an open mind although it would be essential for both their job and their so-called bigot hypocritical ideology to educate themselves. Or learn to open the mouth without insulting or belittling anyone and inhibiting a consensus this way.

They are even worse than the opponents, because they occupy the important opposition that should normally speak out what´s the problem, a simulated educational political discussion in a classroom is doing more and finding more solutions, making it unable for the young ones to change something, even politicians like Trump are doing more for a positive change, because they mobilize a huge opposition by satirizing themselves and the system. Oh, yes, of course, those pseudo progressive wannabe Marxists are also unable to laugh about themselves.

Thank the flying spaghetti monster this trash is finally out of my system. Engage in NGOs, politics is, at the moment, a waste of time and lifeblood, the ones who could change something are mostly anachronistic, anti paradigm shift dinosaurs that reached their position with nodding and following the wise path of the three monkeys of their own ideology, completely ignoring the world around them.

For each party:
right-wing: without words
conservatives: backlashes
social democrats: without prospects, no real support for the Nordic model
green/liberal/alternative: see above

You didn´t expect I would rant against my own ideology, did you?

I´ve added some extra information gossip about how I became so deeply cynical in the comments as message Nr. 7, titled BECAUSE THE REVIEW WAS TOO LONG AND I COULDN´T ADD IT:
Profile Image for Adam  McPhee.
1,273 reviews206 followers
February 20, 2019
Capitalist or communist, it all boils down to a pointless distinction between two types of poor, and to a major misconception that we almost managed to dispel some 40 years ago – the fallacy that a life without poverty is a privilege you have to work for, rather than a right we all deserve.

A breezy read with ideas that are backed up by genuinely interesting statistics and anecdotes.

Argues that we can better society and move towards utopia by implementing three ideas: a 15 hour workweek, a universal basic income (UBI) and open borders.

The problem isn't the programs he's advocating, it's the neoliberal lens he's viewing them from (he grotesquely spends the last chapter blowing Hayek and Friedman).

The 15 hour workweek, for example, sounds fantastic the way he lays it out – more time to play, to dedicate to art, to spend with family and enjoy life – but there's already plenty of people in the retail sector working a 15 hour workweek. Their lives aren't idyllic, they're struggling against poverty. It's called precarity and politicians can't come up with any way to soften its sting. Of course, a genuine labour movement along the lines of the one that brought us the forty hour workweek could go a long way to making the 15 hour week desirable. But the author doesn't even acknowledge it's a problem.

The UBI is the same thing. It's easy to imagine how it would improve my own life, and very tempting to see it as a solves-all for poverty. But if a heartless ghoul like Dick Cheney and his neolizard pal Rumsfeld advocated for it, then it's just not that simple. I don't think a UBI can work unless we have a universal right to education, healthcare and housing. Those are the three things that everyone in our society needs but no one can realistically be expected to pay for them upfront. What good is a UBI if we're all bogged down in student loads, health insurance bills and rent payments? Of course, that's exactly why conservatives are tripping all over their dicks for a ubi, so they can gut and privatize everything else and bring us all back to feudalism.

His case for open borders is so vague I don't know what to make of it. If he just means accepting more immigrants, sure, I'm all for it. My own country, Canada, needs them. Immigrants contribute to society and to the economy in countless ways. Refugees, too. If nothing else there was a boost of civic morale when we started taking in large numbers of Syrian refugees (though I suspect that's going to bite Trudeau in the ass now that's he trying to backpedal away from it all). But what Bregman is advocating seems to go beyond even the current Eurozone, which really does seem like a disaster. I mean, it ended the beggar-thy-neighbour trade policies that used to result in war, but it also created a new caste of democratically unaccountable elites who are uninterested in a proletariat that gets to choose between a life on welfare benefits or immigration away from home just to make a basic living. He points out that in Africa, more money is lost to tax evasion than is received in aid, but I don't see how open, checkpoint-free borders are going to change that. Africa doesn't need any Luxembourgs.

There's nothing wrong with the mechanisms he's proposing. They can all work to make our lives better. It's the "ideology-free" ideology of neoliberalism that's at issue. With the managerial mindset, it's hard to see how life could improve. It'd be a brand new world at implementation and then back to managed decline. On the other hand, if these were road markers of a truly progressive, leftist campaign, backed up by a collective will for a better world – well then maybe they're ideas worth investigating after all.


Like KSR and Sanders he advocates for a tax on socially useless financial speculation to pay for social programs, which I'd be all for:

Somehow I actually don't own a cellphone:

I agree with this 100%, but it's the only time he mentions it and he glosses over what such a politics would look like:

His case for a ubi:

On inequality:

Obviously we need massive redistribution of wealth, but how is that ever going to happen? Bregman remains mum.

He doesn't have a solution for what to replace GDP with, but I can't fault him for that. Inevitably you end up in the Tony Blair trap of measuring everything, and getting nothing done, like in that Adam Curtis doc:

On how to change people's minds and promote new ideas:

There's also a great history of Nixon's UBI plan and how the misunderstanding of the Speenhamland case 150 years prior coupled with Ayn Rand to kill it.
Profile Image for Yemi Adesanya.
Author 2 books25 followers
October 1, 2016
Radical ideas, at first glance, but all put forward in this book aren't unreasonable, neither are they unrealistic. They are logically presented and supported with facts and tons of research and history.

It is an enlightening read, and I wish politicians and policy makers would read books like this. If only to widen their imagination and deepen thoughts and debates on possible courses of action on the problem plaguing the world.

Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Maziyar Yf.
530 reviews279 followers
October 14, 2019
آرمان شهری برای واقع گراها اثری ایست که باورهای ذهنی خواننده را به چالش می کشد ، نویسنده سه موضوع اصلی را بیان میکند : درآمد همگانی ، هفته کاری 15 ساعته و مهاجرت ومرزهای باز
کتاب با پاره ای از شناخته شده ترین نظریات اقتصادی مخالفت می کند از آن جمله به جای دادن خدمات به طبقات فقیر ، خواستار پرداخت پول مستقیم به آنان می شود ، با این استدلال که آنان بهتر مشکلات زندگی خود را می دانند ودر این راه مثالهایی برای خواننده از این طرح بیان می کند ، البته باید توجه داشت که منظور نویسنده از پول انجام این طرح ، پول تمیز مالیات داده شده است ، اینجا صحبت از دولتی مقروض و بدون بودجه نیست که برای تامین بودجه دست در جیب بانک مرکزی آن کشور کند و یا بدون پشتوانه ، اقدام به چاپ اسکناس کند . پس پرداخت این پول نمی تواند تورم زا باشد ، این طرح در زمان نیکسون می توانست در آمریکا اجرا شود که با مخالفت سنا روبرو شد .
کتاب هم چنین در یک نمودار شگفت انگیز به ما نشان می دهد که ثروتمندترین کشور پیشرفته ( آمریکا ) با فقیرترین کشور پیشرفته جهان ( پرتغال ) در یک مورد با هم اشتراک دارند : نا برابری و شکاف بین طبقات اجتماعی . در حقیقت فاصله طبقات جامعه در آمریکا بسیار زیاد است و چیزی فراتر از یک شکاف بلکه به مانند گسل است . نکته بسیار منفی که این تبعیض می تواند برای جامعه به همراه بیاورد احساس نا امنی ایست . ( مثلا این حس که افراد پولدار در برابر قانون مصونیت پیدا می کنند چون می توانند وکیل های بسیار بهتری را استخدام کنند . از بیمارستان های بهتری قطعا استفاده می کنند و ماشین های با کیفیت تری می رانند و...) در مقابل کشورهایی اسکاندیناوی و ژاپن از کمترین تبعیض و شکاف اجتماعی بهره مند هستند و ظاهرا این مشکل تبعیض را از پایه حل کرده اند .

ایده جالب دیگری که آقای برگمن بیان می کند و البته کمتر چالش بر انگیز است ، کم کردن ساعات کاری با هدف بالا بردن بهره وری ایست . که کشور خود نویسنده یعنی هلند کمترین ساعات کار در اروپا را دارد و کشورهایی بسیار پیشرفته ای مانند آلمان و نروژ و سویس هم از الگوی کم کردن ساعات کاری پیروی کرده اند . ( حتی در آلمان پیشنهاد داده شده که کارکنان ، ایمیل خود را در منزل چک نکنند تا ذهن آنها درگیر مسائل کاری در زمان فراغت نشود ) . کتاب همین گونه بجث بسیار جالبی در مورد تولید ناخالص داخلی دارد و توضیح می دهد که چقدر این معیار ناقص است ، برای مثال فقط ارزش شیر مادر در بازار آمریکا برابر با 110 میلیارد دلار – برابر با بودجه نظامی چین است ، در حالی که این موضوع درتولید ناخالص داخلی محاسبه نشده .
پادکست بسیار عالی بی پلاس که راهنمای من در خرید این کتاب بود عملا تمام نکات مهم و کلیدی کتاب را بیان کرده ، با این حال کتاب به علاقه مندان اقتصاد کلان دید کاملا متفاوتی می دهد
Profile Image for jade.
489 reviews309 followers
February 25, 2021
“poverty is fundamentally about a lack of cash. it’s not about stupidity.”

a short and concise argument for a modern utopia.

pop historian and journalist bregman lays it all out for the reader: in this day and age, basically everyone in the world is better off than we were for 99% of the time that humans have existed. even the most downtrodden of us have it better than some lowly peasant from the 1500s; we’ve already gone beyond the horizons of what people could’ve possibly imagined in the past.

and thus, bregman challenges us to do even better than that. we should be using our surplus cash and kick our lazy governments into gear to create a new way of living that’s beneficial to everyone, and which will take away the last dregs of poverty.

sounds good, no?

the three cornerstones of this new utopia are universal basic income (UBI), a short work week (15 hours to be precise), and open borders all across the world.

i think this is a great starting point for people who are just starting to dip their toes into these three topics.

bregman focuses primarily on trying to incite a new way of looking at the world. he tackles common criticisms and wrong assumptions, and he brings you the research and stats to back it all up -- the latter of which i personally considered the most useful. philosophically and economically, he likes to bring in albert hirschman and milton friedman as well as the keynesian perspective.

there’s also a casual stroll throughout history during which bregman provides numerous examples of the economic right and left agreeing on these types of policies -- as well as arguing why they should be united on these fronts. these examples include some unexpected shows of support for UBI, such as nixon’s family assistance plan.

there are some sharp observations here regarding individualism (how we believe illness or unemployment is always due to the individual rather than society), development aid (“why should we send expensive white people in SUVs if we could just directly transfer the money?”), how it’s not economic growth that’s the main predictor of welfare but rather equality once you reach a certain level, and how profits and capitalism stunt innovation.
“borders are the single biggest cause of discrimination in all of world history. inequality gaps between people living in the same country are nothing in comparison to those between separated global citizenries.”
like i said: it’s a great introduction to these types of progressive ideas. it pretty much reads like a short essay that sets up the framework in an accessible way.

however, it is also somewhat shallow; bregman doesn’t dive too deeply into the actual actions and redistributions of wealth that are necessary to have his ideas come to fruition. there’s also some undiscussed assumptions baked into the text that only strengthen this feeling further.

for example, for UBI to be as effective as bregman claims it to be, i’m pretty sure we’d also need a complete social healthcare system as well as affordable housing. i’d be willing to forgive bregman for writing this from a dutch perspective (as we do have social healthcare), but considering how horrendous our housing market is, that argument doesn’t fully fly.

and though he covers a lot of ground regarding research and supportive statistics, there are also some omissions that i found odd; such as no in-depth discussion of finland’s big experiment with UBI at all.

in the final stretch of the book, bregman also goes on a bit of a rant regarding leftist politics. he talks primarily about how the ‘loser socialist’ is no longer pushing innovative ideas and is only concerned with being ‘anti-everything’ (racism, establishment, homophobia, etc.) and identifying with the ‘losers’ of society (the poor, the disabled, the discriminated, immigrants, etc.).

he accuses the ‘loser socialist’ of having forgotten that they’re supposed to tell a story of hope and progress, not of losing or being anti-something.

and though i can sort of see where he’s coming from, there’s a couple of reasons why i found this so profoundly annoying. firstly, bregman is already trying to come at everything from a neutral / centrist position, so i found it unnecessary and irrelevant to suddenly start shitting on the left.

it also very obviously comes from a place of privilege, because there are plenty of leftist ‘loser socialists’ who ARE poor or disabled or immigrants or queer. plus, it only serves to underline how bregman is NOT being a ‘loser socialist’; after all, he’s the one pushing progressive ideals and telling you a story of hope! [1]

it doesn’t help that his tone throughout the book is already a little self-righteous and smarmy; rants like these don’t do him any favors.

so: would i recommend this?

yes, but only if you are new to the scene. though i found the supporting research for bregman’s arguments enlightening and interesting, the bare bones of this book aren’t super informative for the experienced loser socialist progressive liberal.

younger me would’ve found this very eye-opening though; and you might, too.

3.5 stars.

[1] bregman is explicitly known as the guy who wrote an entire book about how humans are inherently good rather than evil, and he actively markets himself as such. the book in question is Humankind: A Hopeful History.
Profile Image for Peter.
30 reviews5 followers
August 8, 2016
Really wanted to like this. I'm a big fan of The Correspondent's journalism, and believe that basic income is an important idea whose time might have come. It was certainly interesting to learn more about the history, and the few studies that have been undertaken. Also fascinating to learn more about the history and failings of GDP as a measure.

However the attempts to persuade seemed full of holes and contradictions. One minute the author is complaining about how technological progress has slowed to "slightly improved iterations of the same phone we bought a couple of years ago". The next he is championing how "the average African with a cell phone has access to more information than President Clinton did in the 1990s" and this fails to be reflected in GDP. On one page he's railing against "bullshit jobs" like HR managers (!*), then just a few pages later he's advocating a reformation of the education system to create more jobs for artists and philosophers. It's frustrating, especially when he's trying to sell such big and worthy ideas.

* Maybe I would have agreed with him on this at one point, but if the past year or so has taught me anything it's that HR people are fucking important.
Profile Image for Katia N.
585 reviews705 followers
December 13, 2017
I was probably misguided as I thought this book would deal predominantly with the idea of a basic income. Specifically, i was intrested in the arguments pro and against it and, preferably, an analysis how it is possible to implement, the impact of automation and which steps might be taken right now. But this book is much broader in scope, and at the same time, pretty shallow. The book is more about the current state of the world with inequality, too much work for some and no for the others, the climate change etc.. It states that we need to have some new ideology to tackle these challenges. But it does not go far enough to define this ideology. It proposes 3 broad areas which hypothetically might improve the current state of the world:

- basic income;

- shorter work hours;

- open borders;

I am very sympathetic with all three of them. That was partly the reason why I’ve picked up this book. But though it provides the reader with some historic anecdotes, it does not go far enough to specify where are we specifically in terms of those 3 areas; and what has to be done to get us where we want to be. There are some interesting observations and facts. For example, there is a story how president Nixon was on the verge of introducing the basic income in the US but was stopped by another story of the nineteenth-century English Speenhamland plan. There is also information about the experiments in the 70s Canada and Seattle. But what about more current situation - not much! The main illustration is 13 homeless people in London in 2009. 9 of them apparently has reformed their ways (not sure what happened with another 6). There is no information about Swiss referendum on basic income (overwhelming rejected with 77% against) or the Finland experiment which is currently underway. They’ve just briefly mentioned at the end of the book. These discussions would be much more useful going forward than Nixon’s fiasco. It is not even totally clear whether the author proposes to replace all welfare state wth a regular lump sum payment (quite radical libertarian view) or he wants to give people money on the top of everything else.

On the shorter work hours, quite a bit of a narrative is focused on criticising “bullshit jobs” (bankers of course, but also the lawyers (hopefully only the corporate ones), consultants, marketers etc - journalists as well?). vs very useful jobs of the NY cleaners. I am sure NY cleaners’ job satisfaction is great and they are all happy as ever. But would this very useful and fantastic job satisfy a bright young person on the basis of bringing the huge public value? I know that the bright kids should all start doing research how to solve the global problems instead of doing “bullshit jobs”. But the main question is “how” and “who would pay for it”? I did not find the answer in the book.

The question of open borders is very close to my heart as i seriously believe in it. He is a bit more constructive. He defines 7 perceptive myths about the emigrants. And this discussion is a bit more concrete. But unfortunately, I did not find all of his debunking arguments very convincing. And in this case i cannot see how he can convince someone who is really against this idea. For example, he “debunks” the misconception that all immigrants are criminals. Specially, he talks about the youth crime of the second generation Maroccans in the Netherlands. Apparently, there is no correlation between the ethnicity and the levels of the criminal activity. But that was not the question! The question was is there a correlation between the status (second generation immigrant) and the criminal activity. It is not the same is it? I hope the answer is “no” as well. But such confusion undermines the whole credibility of the debate.

And after all “debunking”, he is appeared to be not really very ambitions at all:

“Opening our borders is not something we can do overnight, of course - not should it be. Unchecked migration would certainly corrode social cohesion in the Land of Plenty.” (That is after a few pages ago he debunked the misconception that the immigrants are undermining the social cohesion!”) So he is thinking just “making a crack in the door” - increase it on 3% (annually?) or something like that.

I do not want to continue listing what i found unsatisfying about this book - you’ve got the picture. There are a lot of pathos and good rhetorics, but that is about it. Apart from a few interesting anecdotes and observations, it was useless for me. It definitely would not make you any wiser if you are interested to find out more about the current theory and practice in the area of basic income. And there are much better books on the state of the world. Even the latest Friedman’s endeavour is better Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist's Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations.

Profile Image for ·Karen·.
617 reviews767 followers
March 30, 2020
Something I hear not infrequently at the moment is a prediction that this crisis is going to really, really make a difference. The world will never be the same again. At that point in the conversation - and there are damned few conversations to be had right now, but nevertheless, at that point I tend to go a bit quiet. Because what I'm thinking is 'BULLSHIT'. (Which I'm too polite to say). 'Cos what I'm thinking is, actually, people have really, really short memories and those who haven't been left unemployed and homeless by the projected economic downturn will go back to Life As They Knew It, and in fact we'll have a sudden surge as everyone tries to catch up with all the holidays they missed and the stuff they didn't buy... Only this morning on German TV there was an idea that the car industry would need a government boost after the corona crisis (Really?!) Subsidies to encourage people to buy cars, and not, as was the case pre-pandemic, to encourage people to buy electric cars, no! The government proposes to use taxpayers' money to pay people to buy ANY kind of car.

But then maybe the idea people are expressing is not so much a prediction as a fervent wish.

And that is not bullshit, not at all, in fact it's reasonable and sensible, because, as Bregman points out in this dazzling work, a sudden shock CAN be a powerful instrument of change. The thing is though that the ideas for change have to already be flying around, like the famous roast chickens in Cockaigne, ready to be plucked from the air. I suppose the radical New Thinking that was gaining currency just before Covid 19 was Climate Change. And now we can all see that life still goes on with all planes grounded and minimal road traffic and a reduction in industrial manufacturing, and surprise! We get a reduction in CO2. Who'd have thought. But a total lockdown is not a viable model for the long term future, I imagine.

So here are some ideas (nothing to do with the climate) to get us started in time for the NEXT crisis:

1. Guaranteed universal basic income.
2. Shorter working hours
3. Open borders

If you live in Germany you can make a start here:

Profile Image for Kevin.
289 reviews917 followers
August 12, 2023
How far can a Western Social Democrat go? This book reaches (runs into?) its limits…

The Good:
--Top marks for accessibility; engaging writing-style especially for Western audiences, like that of Yanis Varoufakis, David Graeber, Matt Taibbi, etc.
--Dutch historian Bregman joins Development economist Ha-Joon Chang as leading Social Democrats. For an overview of Chang:
-Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism
-Economics: The User's Guide
-23 Things They Don't Tell You about Capitalism

Highlights from this book:

1) UBI, automation, reducing work, and bullshit jobs:
--The core of the book, with engaging historical narrative and case studies. Also, useful chapter breaking down GDP (origins in war production capacity). Speaking of jobs, Green New Deal is missing here (we cannot just omit the material reality of the climate/ecological crises when we dream of utopias)... For something better:
-Less is More: How Degrowth Will Save the World
-Another Now: Dispatches from an Alternative Present
-Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist
-A People’s Green New Deal
-Bullshit Jobs: A Theory

2) Open borders:
--This was the brightest highlight for me, as imperialism is my top critique of Western Social Democrats.
--Bregman had me convinced he would spiral down the imperialist path by starting the chapter with “foreign aid”. Yes, within the framework of foreign aid, the process of using randomized controlled trials instead of intuition that Bregman details is compelling in a liberal technocratic manner.
...But anyone who takes a step back and considers the big picture/magnitude of the world’s political economy, who considers imperialism (a word omitted by Social Democrats), understands that “foreign aid” is a trickle that barely keeps up with the compound interest of predatory debts. Yes, I am saying “foreign aid” circulates back into Western banks.
-The Divide: A Brief Guide to Global Inequality and its Solutions
-The Bubble and Beyond
--Some Social Dems engage with unequal exchange (like Ha-Joon Chang: Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism) but still have myths regarding liberal enlightenment. Furthermore, challenges to unequal exchange are frequently met with starvation (economic sanctions) and bloodshed (funding terrorism, military interventions). Imperialist "foreign aid" has no place in a book on utopia.
--Thus, Bregman suddenly changing gears by saying "foreign aid" is actually low on the economic food chain and supporting “open borders” was most unexpected. I wish he used the entire chapter to fully unpack “open borders”, particularly its economic myths. Still, Bregman tops my Social Dems list for this.

3) How do ideas change the world? Learn from the bad guys:
--Bregman uses the example of neoliberal think-tank Mont Pelerin Society (Hayek, Friedman) first setting the ideological groundwork, then the OPEC stagflation crisis allowing Thatcher/Reagan regimes to implement these ideas; slick way to tie this book together. No more “underdog socialism”, utopia is about dreaming big and winning.
-A Brief History of Neoliberalism

The Bad/Missing:
--Social Democrats cannot resolve the contradiction of democracy (one-person-one-vote) and capitalism (one-dollar-one-vote). How does someone pushing utopia still cling onto "capitalism" so fervently? Regulation must contend with power structures when it is at a later stage (ex. redistribution) compared with radical changes to property rights (ex. predistrubtion) to prevent economic rent-seeking in the first place!
...By "rent-seeking", I'm talking about accumulation from property rights (dividends, capital gains, etc.) instead of work (wage income). Income from financial property rights is the holy grail, the "passive income" which is the basis of being rich today and which every wannabe in the "middle-class" pouring over drivel like The 4-Hour Workweek dreams...
--Here, I will try an alternate approach to the Marxist surplus value exploitation argument: let us break down several key components of the economy, and you tell me how much "capitalism" belongs in utopia:

1) Banking:
--Capitalism begins with credit/debt, where bankers take anticipated productivity from the future and bringing it to the present for capitalists to use (Talking to My Daughter About the Economy: or, How Capitalism Works—and How It Fails).
--With this magical power, why:
a) wait for Industrial Capitalism's profits: set up factories, acquire raw materials, hire workers, produce commodities, sell commodities, and finally (hopefully) make a profit to pay back the debt (with interest)? I.e. Marx's M-C-M': Money invested for Commodity production to make more Money.
b) when bankers could take their conjured money (credit) and speculate with it in Ponzi schemes, i.e. M-M': Money to make more Money.
...Bregman lambastes bankers as parasitic on numerous occasions, but only offers "regulations" in response. But we had such regulations before, so why/how were they dismantled?
-The Global Minotaur: America, the True Origins of the Financial Crisis and the Future of the World Economy
--Bregman's regulations requires States powerful enough and willing to side with the public over private bankers. How does he not bring up public banking?! Why is credit-money not treated as a public utility? Why do we continue to give a cartel of private bankers the privilege to create money out of nothing (credit), lend feverishly not to long-term community investments but to short-term speculative bubbles (esp. "investment banks"), and get bailed out by taxpayers? People already distrust bankers; you do not need to shatter the heroic private profit-seeker fantasy with them. To explore:
-Another Now: Dispatches from an Alternative Present
-deep dive: The Bubble and Beyond
-The Public Bank Solution: From Austerity to Prosperity
-Where Does Money Come From?: A Guide To The Uk Monetary And Banking System

2) Monopolies/cartels:
--For natural monopolies like natural resources/utilities and many large-scale industries, these are already centrally-planned; they should be made public and operated democratically (worker cooperatives + social dividend).
--If machines become so vital to the society, why continue to keep them in so few private hands (while the working masses get the blunt of creative destruction and structural unemployment) and rely on States powerful enough to regulate this? Worker co-ops further participatory democracy into the workplace, a step towards economic democracy/participatory economics, instead of restricting democracy to political theater spectatorship (vote...).
-once again, see Another Now
-The Bubble and Beyond (on private monopolies being rent-seeking vs. public monopolies run at cost to prevent rent-seeking).
-Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism

--If we stop here, the economy can no longer be described with the single word “capitalism”. Debate small businesses elsewhere; the productivity of the modern economy is built on banks and cartels of multinational corporations.

--Overall avoidance of power relations/imperialism/class analysis leads to illusory reliance on State redistribution of private accumulation/expropriation. Similarly, war is described as extremely costly and wasteful. But, as Michael Parenti reminds us to ask, cui bono?! (https://youtu.be/O8k0yO-deoA?t=26) ...These wars preserve capitalist profits from the perspective of myopic special interests. Once again the proposed solution is State regulation, in this case taxing harmful externalities. Keep chasing the tail, keep faith in the gospel of private innovation... even Social Dems can point out innovation from public sector R&D: Ha-Joon Chang, Mariana Mazzucato (Mission Economy: A Moonshot Guide to Changing Capitalism). Social production for private accumulation has no place in utopia.

--Lingering tone of Eurocentric history, “progress” (a Dutch historian, can you believe it). Please...
-poetic fire: Discourse on Colonialism
-deep dive: Perilous Passage: Mankind and the Global Ascendancy of Capital
Profile Image for Dragos Pătraru.
51 reviews2,733 followers
May 17, 2020
Încerc să recomand lecturi care se potrivesc acestor timpuri, pentru că e clar că trebuie să regândim totul. Iar pandemia asta nenorocită s-ar putea să ne ajute, după ce ne va mai încurca o perioadă.
Omenirea se află într-un moment important, iar noi îl trăim. Totul trebuie redefinit. De fapt, autorul spune că noi trăim acum ceea ce chiar acum zeci de ani ar fi fost considerat o utopie. Ei bine, înainte de a ”consuma” toată planeta, poate că ar fi bine să facem ca o altă utopie să devină realitate. De ce muncim din ce în ce mai mult, chiar dacă suntem mai bogați ca oricând? De ce 7 milioane de oameni mor anual de sărăcie, când bogăția colectivă ne-ar putea permite să eradicăm pentru totdeauna sărăcia în lume? (Ca să înțelegem, Coronavirusul a luat până acum puțin peste 10.000 de oameni, jumătate din cât a luat SARS acum zece ani)
Autorul crede că e timpul pentru o nouă utopie, în această lume care ar trebui să fie un paradis, dar ne lasă zilnic un gust amar. Din această utopie face parte venitul minim universal (lui Câțu i-a explodat ficatul în momentul ăsta), de pildă. Iar exemplul amuzant dat de Bergman este cu venitul mediu din Italia, care azi e la același nivel ca acum peste 700 de ani, potrivit estimărilor istoricilor.
Și în ciuda opiniei neoliberale, care a modelat economiile actuale, Bergman susține cu argumente că a le da bani oamenilor este o modalitate foarte eficientă de a le îmbunătăți viețile.
Chiar, v-ați întrebat vreodată de ce lucrăm 40 de ore pe săptămână? De ce trebuie să facem asta? De ce nu 15 ore, de pildă? De ce nu lucrăm cu toții de acasă, cum am văzut zilele astea că se poate, făcând economie de resurse, limitând poluarea, relaxând traficul și având timp de stat cu familia? Sunt întrebări interesante la care trebuie să răspundem cu toții. Noi, la Starea nației, am schimbat deja modul de lucru, iar eu fac deja documentare serioasă pentru a implementa în lunile următoare o strategie de lucru care va aduce economii importante, ce se vor vedea în salariile noastre. Vă țin la curent. Cum spunea Oscar Wilde, ”munca este refugiul oamenilor care nu au nimic mai bun de făcut”.
Profile Image for Pamela.
591 reviews29 followers
March 3, 2017
I respond to utopian thinking the way any other moderately-informed liberal does: "Well, wouldn't that be nice o_O" But the more I read of Bregman's book, the more my resistance melted away. Why aren't we setting our sights higher than adding a dollar to the minimum wage and opposing Trump's wall? Hell, you wanna address unemployment as a result of automation? Why not support a universal basic income and a shorter work week! You'd also take a couple of steps towards gender equality to boot! By the time I finished Bregman's rousing epilogue about moving the Overton window, I turned to my husband and whispered, "I think I'm a socialist now."
Profile Image for Anniebananie.
552 reviews398 followers
February 10, 2021
Letzten Monat habe ich bereits das andere Buch des Autors gelesen ("Im Grunde gut"), welches mich total fasziniert und abgeholt hat. Also her mit diesem Buch.
Ich fand es ein klein wenig schwächer, allein weil es wegen mir gerne ein paar Seiten mehr hätte vertragen können. So werden die meisten Gedankengänge des Autors recht kurz und prägnant gehalten, obwohl ich an mancher Stelle gerne noch etwas mehr Hintergrund & Wissenschaft gehabt hätte. Auch die Strukturierung fand ich noch verbesserungswürdig, da mir thematisch etwas viel hin und her gesprungen wurde.
Ansonsten hat mich aber auch dieses Buch wieder total abholen können und die Utopien, die Bregman hier schildert, sind durchaus als realistisch zu betrachten. Er untermauert seine Hypothesen stets mit genug Geschichte/Studien/Wissenschaft. Dabei schafft er es, dass man sich als Leser aber keineswegs dumm fühlt, da er es in der genau richtigen Sprache und Erzählweise rüberbringt.
Auch dieses Buch hat mich wieder viel zum Nachdenken angeregt und ich hoffe noch auf mehr Bücher des Autors in naher Zukunft, da ich seine Art zu Denken und zu Schreiben wirklich mag und wertschätze!
Profile Image for Gabrielle.
1,016 reviews1,182 followers
August 20, 2020
My father once told me that he felt I was very pessimistic, to which I replied that I was too much of a realist to be an optimist. Don’t get me wrong, when stuff is good, I am more than happy to celebrate it, but I’m also not the type to pretend everything is great when things are objectively terrible. The title “Utopia for Realists” grabbed me right away, because I’m pretty sure that if you ask any so-called realist, you’ll find they want nothing more than to believe the world could be a better place; they just can’t quite see how that might – realistically – happen.

Rutger Bregman’s thesis of how to make the world a better place in a very concrete way is threefold: installing a basic universal income, putting the average working week at about 15 hours, and opening the borders. If you are the type that sees the Scandinavian model in a good light, you won’t need much convincing to hop on his bandwagon, but he’ll nevertheless illustrate his points with solid facts, detailed research and very convincing arguments. Considering that I am one of those weirdos who thinks everyone deserves to be healthy, well-fed, decently housed and properly educated, I found so many things in this book interesting and inspiring.

Near the end of “Bullshit Jobs, A Theory” (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...), David Graeber mentions the idea of universal basic income as one way to solve this economic and existential crisis that is the BS job conundrum. Bregman explores the concept to demonstrate that when people’s basic needs are met without them having to worry about how to pay the bills, they are happier, healthier and more productive members of their society – which stimulates their local economy much better that letting them live hand to mouth and burden the healthcare system because all they can afford is terrible food. The money from such programs is most often used to go to school, fix residences in need of repair, support a family member’s parental leave and start small businesses. One his of key points in addressing the various ways we can reduce and even eliminate poverty is that when you take care of people, either by giving them cash or putting a roof over their heads, the state saves money and wealth is created. Ergo, all of society stands to benefit (side note: with the pandemic, I think the need for that kind of universal basic income is more obvious than ever because no one should put their or their family’s health and lives at risk to pay the bills).

Bregman also sides with Graeber (he actually refers to his work in this section) on the topic of working fewer hours for greater productivity and a heathier amount of leisure – and thus time to do things that make life more enjoyable and meaningful. He addresses the “crisis” of automation, the disparity between what I’ll call useful jobs and somewhat less useful jobs.

I learned a lot in his section about opening up the borders. I recently read a book that mentions the absolutely terrible practice of human trafficking, and how a lot of border and economic regulations make such a practice almost unavoidable (see “McMafia” https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...). Bregman looks at all the usual opposition to open borders, and why the overwhelming majority of them make no sense.

By the time the book wrapped up, I could see how his three suggestions were the most logical and sane ways to eliminate poverty and generally fix a lot of systemic problems that trickle down into all of our lives. Following his recommendation would not lead to a perfect world, but it would certainly improve it significantly, and more importantly, communally.

I appreciate that Bregman didn’t waste time or ink bashing his ideological opponents. Most books about making the world a better place tend to fill many pages describing why the conservatives are wrong and how terrible they are and offer very little in the way of concrete ideas, and this book is the refreshing opposite to that. I doubt that anyone picking it up needs to be convinced that people who think the poor are lazy are wrong, anyway. His tone is conversational, easy to follow and understand even if you don’t have a degree in economics – and he’s often quite funny. And sure, some elements are depressing to read about (like the story of how Nixon’s basic income bill was shot down by Randians using falsified science…), but those are things we need to talk about and think about if anything is going to change. The hardest thing, as he points out, is changing the way we think about certain problems. Cognitive dissonance is one of the biggest hurdle to overcome if the world is to change for the best.

One has to be fair and acknowledge Bregman’s euro-centric bias; he clearly thinks that the USA is a failed experiment (and this book was published 4 years ago, so heaven knows his opinion can’t possibly have improved). It doesn’t really matter that I agree with him, but it has to be kept in mind while reading this book. He also clearly hates bankers – another sentiment I can understand, but that nevertheless colors parts of his analysis.

Overall, a very interesting, easy to read and understand, engaging and ultimately hopeful book about the world we could have. Mario’s review is much more detailed than mine: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...
Profile Image for Bianca.
1,081 reviews918 followers
April 3, 2019
The modern creed – or worse, the belief that there’s nothing left to believe in – makes us blind to the shortsightedness and injustice that still surround us every day. To give a few examples: Why have we been working harder and harder since the 1980s despite being richer than ever? Why are millions of people still living in poverty when we are more than rich enough to put an end to it once and for all? And why is more than 60% of your income depends on the country where you just happen to have been born?24 Utopias offer no ready-made answers, let alone solutions. But they do ask the right questions.

I’ve had this on my TBR since 2017. Upon watching the viral video of Bregman at Davos berating the billionaires for not paying their fair share of taxes, I felt I had to read his book. For those of you who haven’t seen that short speech here it is https://www.theguardian.com/business/... .

As you can tell from my rating, I’m very happy I read this book. It was riveting, informative, and most importantly, it challenged and changed some of my ideas. I love when this happens.

Bregman is starting to be known as the “universal basic income guy”. I don’t know about you, in the past year or so I’ve come across some articles about this notion, half dismissing it as undoable. Upon reading this book, I’ve changed my mind. It sounds like a far-fetched idea until you read more about it.

In the past, the economists and other people in the know were predicting the working week will be around 15 hrs by 2030. Obviously, it didn’t happen, and it’s unlikely to, if anything, the opposite is true, especially for certain countries in the developed world, especially the USA, Japan, South Korea etc. But many of the more enlightened European countries are moving towards shorter and shorter weekly hours, the Netherlands is at the top with an average of 27.5 hrs/week followed very closely by Germany.

Another thing that Bregman discusses in depth is poverty, homelessness and foreign aid to poor countries. I’m a proud and loud lefty, and even I have, better said, had, some misconceptions about poor people and poverty, and I was far from being one of those people who go on and on about “why don’t they just get a job and why do they keep having so many kids (well, I still think that about everyone – because of overpopulation) and they should stop drinking and smoking (I dislike drinking and smoking in everyone) etc.

The big reason poor people are poor is because they don’t have enough money,” notes economist Charles Kenny, “and it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that giving them money is a great way to reduce that problem.

Those more sceptical will probably huff and puff at all these utopian ideals, but guess what, most good things we take for granted today, such as democracy, women’s right to vote, birth control, you name it, they were all considered “undoable”, “unnecessary” in the beginning. Somebody, usually on the fringes, had an idea, a vision.

Look, I can go on and on about this book. It’s by no means perfect, but it gave me food for thought and it whetted my appetite to read more books/articles on such important issues. If you have any suggestions/links do let me know.

Highly recommended
Profile Image for NAT.orious reads ☾.
871 reviews360 followers
December 20, 2020
⫸3.25 STARS
This book is for you if… you like great visions more than substantial ideas on how to get there.

Phew. This is an interesting read for sure. If anything, Rutger gives some interesting scientific proof to things I've until now only found morally right, such as a basic income, stop underpaying essential jobs, less working, more recreation, etc. Basically, Rutger describes the Utopia I'm interested in. It's unbelievable how wealthy the bigger part of the society is in this day and age and how little worth is still ascribes to essential jobs and human life in general.

... on the other hand, Rutger only delivers 50% of what this title promises; the "And How We Can Get There" part. While he throws around whild, utopist and amazing ideas I can mostly get on board with, there are few suggestion of how to actually make said utopia happening.

He's also using a lot of ableist language, which I found extremely off-putting. Together with the aimless throwing around of numbers, those two sorta put me off in the beginning.

I think I found myself another love-hate-book.

‘A single opposing voice can make all the difference. When just one other person in the group stuck to the truth, the test subjects were more likely to trust the evidence of their own senses. Let this be an encouragement to all those who feel like a lone voice crying out in the wilderness: Keep on building those castles in the sky. Your time will come.’

The book is structured as follows.
1 The Return to Utopia
2 Why We Should Give Free Money to Everyone
3 The End of Poverty
4 The Bizarre Tale of President Nixon and His Basic Income Bill
5 New Figures for a New Era
6 A Fifteen-Hour Workweek
7 Why It Doesn't Pay to Be a Banker
8 Race Against the Machine
9 Beyond the Gates of the Land of Plenty
10 How Ideas Change the world


4 STARS. Would stay up beyond my typical hours to finish it. I found some minor details I didn't like, agree with or lacked in some kind but overall, this was enjoyable and extraordinary.

3 STARS. Decent read that I have neither strongly positive nor negative feelings about. Some things irked me and thus it does not qualify as exceptional.
Profile Image for David.
4 reviews8 followers
September 20, 2017
A poorly argued book about ideas that I agree with. Light on analysis and critical thinking, heavy on speculation, storytelling and context-free statistics.

Could have been an infographic.
269 reviews12 followers
January 20, 2018
Loved it.

I'm going to share some of the excerpts I liked.

1. Whether you look at the incidents of depression, burnout, drug abuse, high dropout rates, obesity, unhappy childhoods, low election turnout or social and political distrusts, the evidence points to the same culprit every time - inequality. But hold on -- what should it matter if some people are filthy rich if even those who are very poor are better off than the kings of centuries ago? A lot. Because it’s all about relative poverty. However wealthy a country gets, inequality always rains on the parade. Being poor in a rich country is a whole different story to being poor a couple centuries ago, when almost everybody, everywhere was a pauper.
Take bullying. Countries with big disparities in wealth also have more bullying behavior because there are bigger status differences. (...) the psychosocial consequences are such that people living in unequal societies spend more time worrying about how others see them. This undercuts the quality of relationships, manifested in a distrust of strangers and status anxiety, for example. The resulting stress, in turn, is a major determinant of illness and chronic health problems. But shouldn’t we be more concerned with equal opportunities than with equal wealth? The fact is that they both matter. These two forms of inequality are inextricable. Just look at the global rankings -- when inequality goes up, social mobility goes down.
There’s almost no country on earth where the American dream is less likely than come true than in the US of A. Anybody eager to work their way out from rags to riches is better off trying their luck in Sweden, where people born into poverty can still hold out hope of a brighter future.

2. Imagine this: A welfare mother has her income cut because she hasn’t developed sufficient job skills. The government saves a couple thousand bucks but the hidden costs of children who will consequently grow up poor, eat poor food, get poor grades at school, and be more likely to have a run-in with the law are many times greater.
In fact, conservative criticism of the old nanny state hits the nail on the head. The current tangle of red tape keeps people trapped in poverty, it actually produces dependence.
Whereas employees are expected to demonstrate their strengths, social services expect claimants to prove over and over that an illness is sufficiently debilitating and that chances at getting higher are sufficiently slim.

3. Only Denmark has ever tried to quantify the value of breastfeeding in its GDP. In the US, the production of breastmilk has been estimated at an incredible 110 billion/year (!). About the size of China’s military budget. The GDP also does a poor job of calculating advances in knowledge. (...) If you were the GDP, your ideal citizen would be a drug addict who has cancer, goes through a divorce and pops fistfuls of Prozac and goes bezerk on Black Friday. Mental illness, pollution, crime - in terms of the GDP - the more, the better. That’s also why one of the countries with the highest per capita GDPs, the United States, also leads in social problems. By the standard of the GDP, the worst families in America are those that actually function as families, that cook their own meals, take walks after dinner, and talk together, instead of just farming the kids out to the commercial culture.
We live in a world where the more vital your occupation - cleaning, nursing, teaching - the lower you rate in the GDP.

4. In overworked countries like Japan or the United States, people watch an absurd amount of television -- up to 5 hours a day in the US, WHICH ADDS UP TO 9 YEARS IN A LIFETIME. American children spend half more time in front of the TV as they do at school. True leisure, however, is neither a luxury nor a vice. It is as vital to our brains as vitamin C is to our bodies. There’s not a person in the world who on their deathbed thinks ‘had I only put in a few more hours at the office…’ or ‘sat in front of the Tube some more’.

5. Bullshit jobs. The economist John Maynard Keynes predicted that we’d all be working just 15 hours a week by 2030. That our prosperity would shoot through the roof and we’d exchange a sizeable chunk of our wealth for leisure time. In reality, that’s not at all what has happened. We’re plenty more prosperous, but we’re not exactly swimming in a sea of free time -- quite the reverse. We’re all working harder than ever.
In the previous chapter, I described how we sacrificed our free time on the altar of consumerism. Keynes certainly didn’t see that coming. But there’s still one puzzle piece that still doesn’t fit. Most people play no part in the production of iPhone cases, in their panoply of colors, exotic shampoos containing botanical extracts, or mocker cookie crumble frappuccinos. Our addiction to consumption is enabled mostly by robots and third-world wage slaves. And although agricultural and manufacturing production capacity have grown exponentially over the past decades, employment in these industries has dropped. So is it really true that our overworked lifestyle all comes down to out of control consumerism?
David Graeber wrote a fascinating piece that pinned the blame not on the stuff we buy but on the work we do. It’s titled aptly ‘on the phenomenon of bullshit jobs’. In Graber’s analysis, innumerable people spend their entire working life doing jobs they consider to be pointless. Jobs like telemarketer, HR manager, social media strategist, PR advisor, and a whole host of administrative positions at hospitals, universities and government offices. Bullshit jobs, Graeber calls them. They’re the jobs that even the people doing them admit are, in essence, superfluous.

6. A mere 62 people are richer than 3.5 billion people in the world. (!!!)
Profile Image for Adrian Hon.
Author 4 books69 followers
June 11, 2017
A reasonably good summary of the history of universal basic income and the drive to a shorter working week, although if you've read a few long essays on those topics it's unlikely you'll learn much.

Unfortunately the book is spoiled by a few things. Firstly, while I get that it has a point of view that it's conveying (one that I agree with!), I could've done with more opposing arguments, if only to arm myself in future.

Secondly, one of the arguments is for open borders, which the author suggests would have next to no ill effects - not even in the short term. True, he suggests phasing it them slowly, but it seems to be that there *would* be problems for some people, and to just say 'redistribution!' is not an answer.

Finally, he goes off on a bizarre rant at the end against identity politics and the left "wallowing in moral superiority" to which I say, FUCK THAT NOISE. Racism and sexism are no small things and it's good that people are upset about them. And why can't the left walk and chew gum at the same time? Striving towards utopia requires true equality and it's a real black eye that this book ends in such a childish manner.
Profile Image for Mehrsa.
2,234 reviews3,650 followers
January 20, 2018
Makes a solid case for universal basic income using some recent studies as well as some misunderstood older studies. I think I would recommend Graeber or even Doughnut economics for the theory behind some of the concepts in here, but this is a quick read and a great primer on why we have too many bullshit jobs and why poverty is not a moral failing. I'd say read the others first and then come here, but this is a nice start too. Others to read: Scarcity, David Graeber, Picketty, etc...
Profile Image for Laura Noggle.
682 reviews396 followers
August 10, 2020
Extremely interesting, and something I've been wondering about/reading up on for years.

Hopefully not just a pipe dream—but I have little faith in humanity at this point.
Profile Image for Ray.
Author 17 books314 followers
June 18, 2019
Is it hyperbolic to say that this book may change the world?

If you've already read about Universal Basic Income (UBI), or really anything by a good myth-busting economist which challenges our current era of capitalism, then Utopia for Realists may not teach you too much that you don't already know. Overall Rutger Bregman''s way is just to summarize some main big ideas into a readable paperback, and yet that is the whole point.

There are plenty of graphs which will convince the reader that income inequality is a leading social problem, and even some surprising historical examples of how realistic giving away free money to alleviate poverty would be. (The now famous Nixon example! And Speenhamland, what an unfortuante misinterpretation ... Bregman is primarily a historian after all.)

So read up to learn why value shouldn't actually be measured by a nation's GDP, and about how arbitrary it is that neoliberalism won out in the end because it could have gone so many other ways. Yet most of all, take this hopefully-important book as a manifesto. A call to stop accepting that the way it is now is the way it has to be, and instead embrace these valid possibilities for new utopias.

That is ultimately the point. The world has changed for the better before, and it can change for the better again. In bigger ways than we think. This in essence is what's being called for, to inspire leaders and citizens to have more ambition and actually improve everyone's lives.

Really, if we can't think harder about how to make life better then what's the point of civilization?

I truly hope this book fulfils such potential and does have that big an impact, I really do.

Therefore, of course, very recommended for everyone in the world to read.
Profile Image for Rozhan Sadeghi.
262 reviews356 followers
December 21, 2021
Utopia for realists is a book that's as click-baity as the title makes it look.

The author proposes some interesting ideas about subjects such as 15-hour work weeks, basic income, a word without borders and so on.
Although the ideas are very insightful and pick your interest at first glance, but unfortunately they cease to become anything more than just "ideas and theories".

This book does not propose a real solution and with being overly ambitious and expecting, it fails to be practical for realists.

The biggest problems aside from having no solutions is using old and dodgy references that from time to time felt like they have nothing of value in the new modern era.

More than that, I hate the writing and the supposedly "prose" of Rutger Bregman. His words and sentences were so BLAND that for almost the entirety of this book I felt like I was reading a heavy text book.

Non-fictions shouldn't feel like homework and solutions should be given to realists hoping for a Utopia!!!!
Profile Image for Nancy.
1,502 reviews349 followers
March 18, 2017
We have lost our vision, Rutger Bregman writes, mired in old paradigms and blind to the possibilities we should be imagining. We could be realizing the world predicted by 20th c thinkers.

Subtitled "How We Can Build The Ideal World," Utopia for Realists is an international best seller, first published in the Netherlands where it ignited a debate and inspired a movement.

Bregman begins by reminding us of how recently life was a "vale of tears," "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short," as philosophers wrote in the 16th c. With the explosion of new technology and prosperity over the last two hundred years, humanity has achieved a standard of living that Medieval folk would consider Utopia; indoor heat and cooling, flush toilets and clean water alone would make them marvel. So would obesity from an overabundance of easily obtained food, the magical ability to protect ourselves from smallpox and polio, and paved roads we travel at 70 mph--without fear of highwaymen robberies.

Have we reached Utopia? Or is there something we can do to make life even better? How can we solve the problems that remain: fearfulness, unemployment, quality of life, poverty.

The welfare state 'from a bygone era' doesn't work today. Globalization and the cost of higher education have impacted the stability of the Middle Class. Upward mobility for the poor no longer happens.

Bregman wants to "fling open the windows of our minds" to discover "a new lodestar." He presents studies and experiments about how we treat the homeless and the poor and challenges our traditional mindset that people are to be blamed for their own poverty--they just have to work hard and save. We have created welfare programs for those in need, which are costly and do not solve the basic problem. What happened to the expectation of the 15-hour workweek? Why are we spending more time working, impacting our health and our families?

Bregman wants us to dream new dreams and embrace ideas that can change the world for the better. Thinking outside the box has made a difference: abolition, universal voting rights, and same-sex marriage, he reminds, were all once considered impossible. All it takes is "a single opposing voice.

The basis of Bregman's new Utopia is a guaranteed basic income. He presents studies that demonstrate the success of such programs. In 1967 universal basic income was supported by 80% of Americans and President Nixon submitted a bill to eradicate poverty.

Other changes he offers include shorter work hours, proven to increase productivity, reconsidering the importance of the Gross Domestic Product as our economic standard of success, improving quality of life, open borders, taxing capital instead of labor, and adjusting salary to a job's societal value. At a time when productivity is a record levels, there are fewer jobs and lower salaries. "We have to devise a system to ensure that everybody benefits," he writes.

There is an old saying: Insanity is doing the same thing over and expecting different results. Instead of holding more tightly to the old ways we need to envision innovation. Perhaps books like this will spur discussions and reevaluations.

One can only hope.

I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.
Profile Image for Matt Quann.
652 reviews384 followers
November 1, 2019
Though its fairly rare for me to read nonfiction--you'll usually find me digesting these books in the audio versions--this book caught my eye during a Kindle sale. I've been trying my best to broaden my understanding of not only the problems facing the world, but reasonable solutions. Utopia for Realists proposes three concepts (universal basic income, a 15-hour work week, and open borders) that often come up during political debates for which I had little opinion prior to reading.

Fortunately, I caught a cool talk at a pediatric conference discussing the benefits of eradicating poverty on child health that seemed to agree with a lot of what Bregman is suggesting. It was refreshing to hear material I often find dull spun into a message which I could easily appreciate. Though the main impediment seems to be well-worth ruts of political thought, it's hopeful to read optimistic messages that others openly share. It was also great to read Bregman's well-written and mostly colloquial language for what can quickly become a jargon-filled info dump.

On a more personal level, this just isn't the type of thing that I live for. I mean, the concepts, sure, but it is not my favourite reading experience. Science writing, autobiography, and true crime tend to be my nonfiction niches and I found myself easily glazing over during extended reading. Though everything is well explained, I wasn't gripped by the historical fact the way some readers might be.

In summary: a short primer that is an occasional snooze.
Profile Image for Петър Стойков.
Author 2 books282 followers
March 22, 2022
Ако има нещо, което не харесвам, това са книги, които ме подвеждат като ме карат да ги прочета, защото се самоописват като "различни" и "нетрадиционни", а всъщност се оказват абсолютно клиширани и с нищо по-различни от стотиците подобни тем.

Утопичното мислене, както всички знаем, води до идеализъм - до незачитане на желанията и стремленията на хората и в края на краищата на самия им живот, по пътя на постигане на идеала или утопията. Всички човекоубийствени режими в модерния свят са резултат именно от стремеж към постигане на идеално общество.

"Утопия за реалисти" си поставя, според мен напълно реалистичната цел, да погледне накъде отива света и от къде идва и да направи преглед на това какво е възможно да направим, за да наклоним бъдещето си повече към утопично и по-малко към пост-апокалиптично. Както може би се досещате обаче, между цел и реалност има разлика и в тази книга те (може би съвсем логично) се разминават точно така, както в реализирането на утопиите.

Рутгер Бергман не се прави на излишно скромен, даже съвсем напротив - още с предговора започва да обяснява какво "човечеството трябва да направи" и продължава така до края. Вместо да изследва, да размишлява и да представя позиции и мнения, авторът е написал една "книга-рецепта" пълна с поучения.

Очевидно той няма нужда да обсъжда нищо - той много добре знае какво ТРЯБВА да се направи, за да стане светът едно утопично добро място. Точно както знаят всички утописти преди него - които постоянно цитира. Маркс, Кейнс и Пикети се появяват веднъж на поне няколко страници, а накрая се опитва да ги върже с Фридмън, което предизвиква смях сред всеки, който има под шапката нещо, освен гнездо на врабчета.

Свещените крави на Бергман са три и са отбелязани още в заглавието - универсален базов доход, 15-часова работна седмица и отворени граници. Макар тия теми да са интересни и определено да заслужават поотделно разискване и изследване, това, естествено, не се случва в Утопия за реалисти. Книгата е пълна с противоречия и авторът прибягва до какви ли не еквилибристики, за да ни убеди в тезите си, които нямат нищо общо една с друга, освен, разбира се, че повечето са утопични въздушни кули.

Докато в главата за универсалният базов доход Бергман ни обяснява, как хората искали да работят и не били мързеливи, че ако им даваме пари безусловно ще започват бизнеси и ще се развиват (в което има известна логика, още повече, че така ще се спести от раздутия "социален" апарат), в следващата глава той не се притеснява изобщо да ни каже, как хората не искали да работят много и 15 часа им било достатъчно.

Авторът непрекъснато дава примери от миналото и не знам как не се усеща, че всички те говорят по-скоро във вреда на неговите предложения, отколкото за тях. Преди десетилетия специалистите предричали до началото на 21 век работната седмица да е намаляла наполовина. Това не се е случило, но вервайте ми, отсега нататък вече ще се случи. Специалистите предричали, че механизацията и компютъризацията ще доведат до масова безработица, защото всичко ще се върши от машини и компютри - това не се е случило, но вервайте ми, от сега нататък вече ще се случи...

Особено забавна е последната глава, която агитира към отворени граници - особено във връзка с първата глава, която пък агитира да даваме на всички хора в държавата безусловен базисен доход. Разбира се, държавите, които правят това, ИЗОБЩО няма да се напълнят с боклука на света и емигранти от близо и далеч ни най малко няма да се запътят натам, за да получават пари за нищо. Това изобщо не се случва в Европа в момента, неееее...

Изобщо, книгата потвърждава старата истина, че ако нещо изглежда прекалено хубаво, за да е истина, това най-вероятно е точно така.
Profile Image for Martin Fixman.
3 reviews2 followers
March 24, 2018
Absolute garbage. The book doesn't show a single shred of actual research and has as much merit as a random Reddit comment rambling about flying cars in the future.
Profile Image for Mahdi.
298 reviews94 followers
January 10, 2021
کتاب خوبیه؛ ایده جذابی داره و از همه مهمتر، کاربردیه. تقریبا می‌تونم مدعی بشم که روی من تاثیر گذاشت و می‌خوام چنین وضعیتی رو برای خودم محقق کنم
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