Cary Neeper's Reviews > Utopia for Realists: How We Can Build the Ideal World

Utopia for Realists by Rutger Bregman
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it was amazing

Utopia For Realists by Rutgar Bergman makes “a compelling case for Universal Basic Income,” which has been a long-running debate in the Netherlands (tried in 20 cities), and has been tried in Finland and Canada.

Bergman lists a few statistics that indicate progress: Many were in extreme poverty in 1820. Now less than 10% of Americans are in that category. Between 1974 and 2014, internet usage rose from 0.4% to 40.4%.
People who had less than 2000 calories/day fropped from 51% in 1965 to 3% in 2005. IQ has increased 3 to 5 point every 10 years. War casualties have gone down 90% since 1946.

However, millions still live in poverty, while “we are rich enough to put an end to it.” Health care in the U.S. costs more than anywhere else, but our life expectancy is going down.

Bergman then reports on various experiments to study the economic impact of providing a basic income to various limited populations:
1) Liberia gave alcoholics, addicts and petty criminals the equivalent of $200 per time period. Three years later, those people had spent it on food, clothes, meds and small business.

2) War on Poverty 1964—President Nixon saw his basic income bill as a “marriage of conservative and progressive policies.” 8500 people in 7 states were given a basic income. None worked less. More stayed in high school. The program was not too expensive, and the jobless were required to register. It failed in part because of “His (Nixon’s) rhetoric, saying that fighting laziness among the poor and unemployed would turn the country against basic income…[calling it a] welfare state.” The “myth of the lazy poor” held strong, in spite of studies to the contrary.

In 1968, five economists (Galbraith) wrote to Congress, stating that the country’s responsibility is to assure that everyone in the nation has an income no less than the definition of poverty. 1200 other economists signed it and Congress nearly passed a basic income, arguing how much it should be. However, it was defeated in 1978 when a study in Seattle providing basic income to more than a 1000 peopled indicated that their divorce rate had gone up 50%.

With basic income support, bureaucratic help becomes unnecessary--security and a sense of belonging means people feel empowered to find work, start businesses and stay off alcohol and drugs. Red tape only produces more dependence. Social workers, police and courts cost $16,670 per year for each street drifter. The Netherlands had similar results.

Utah in 2005 provided free apartments to the homeless for $11,000 per year each, and saw homelessness decline 74%. At the same time, without aid to the homeless, Wyoming’s homeless numbers increased 213 %.

Once again, the security provided by enough money to feed and house one’s family gave people the drive to enhance their lives. Financial stress is known to increase cognitive impairment, so that people in despair take to drugs and alcohol, and they lose jobs.

If basic income is distributed as a universal “right” to all, so it is provided equally to everyone, it does not drive a wedge between the poor and the rest of society. It is now recognized (Bergman says in 2014) that eradicating poverty would cost 175 billion/year, equal to ¼ of military expenditures. Afghanistan and Iraq have cost us 4-6 trillion! We need to challenge our priorities.
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Finished Reading
March 26, 2018 – Shelved

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