Once a week.
Subscribe to our weekly newsletter.
Rutger Bregman's 'Utopia for Realists' Shows Us Why We Deserve Universal Basic Income
If you're looking for the blueprint for a better tomorrow, you'll find it in Rutger Bregman's Utopia for Realists. Its premise is simple: we should adopt a universal basic income plan for all citizens, work less, and open up our borders.
If you're looking for the blueprint for a better tomorrow, you'll find it in Rutger Bregman's Utopia for Realists. Its premise is simple: we should adopt a universal basic income plan for all citizens, work less, and open up our borders. Crazy, right?
Why Everyone Should Get Free Money
The concept of free money for everyone, no strings attached, isn't new. Researchers have been testing this idea for decades. But no country has come closer to actually implementing a basic income program than the United States did under President Richard Nixon. His bill, which would have allowed every citizen the right to a basic yearly income passed the House twice, but was stalled in the Senate by the Democrats, because they felt the payment was too low.
I was wholly unaware of this history and of the many studies that have been conducted to prove a basic income does not turn its recipients into lazy do-nothings. “For three years now I’ve been reading everything on basic income I could get my hands on,” Bregman said in an interview with Gawker. “Not once have I come across a basic income experiment that led to mass laziness.”
The most popular study on the effects of basic income took place in Manitoba between 1974 and 1979 where everyone received a “Mincome” (minimum income) of $9,000 a year (by today's standards) from the government, no strings attached. Evelyn Forget, an economist and professor at the University of Manitoba, who looked over the data from the study says there was a 9 percent reduction in working hours among two main groups of citizens. But the reasons why give insight into how basic income can dramatically change the course of someone's life.
Married women were using their additional income to extend their maternity leaves and spend more time with their infants, and teenage boys were using that income to stay in school.
“When we interviewed people, we discovered that prior to the experiment, a lot of people from low-income families, a lot of boys in particular, were under a fair amount of family pressure to become self-supporting when they turned 16 and leave school. When Mincome came along, those families decided that they could afford to keep their sons in high school just a little bit longer,” Forget told PRI in an interview.
What this study and others like it have found is free money empowers people with the ability of choice, the choice to make a different life for yourself. “Poverty is fundamentally about a lock of cash. It's not about stupidity,” economist Joseph Hanlon said. “You can't pull yourself up by your bootstraps if you have no boots.”
Watch Rutger Bregman explain what happened when 13 homeless men on the streets of London were given £3,000 cash, no strings attached. What they spent it on my surprise you.
People aren't stupid, poverty makes people stupid. In psychology it's known as the “scarcity mentality” and when people don't have enough, it causes them to behave differently. When someone is in a constant state of worry about where their next meal is coming from, mental bandwidth becomes compromised, causing people to make unwise decisions.
Rutger Bregman engages readers in a mix of stories and evidence-based studies, showing us this utopia is within our grasp. Its a lesson in psychology, history, and economics, which all point to why basic income would eliminate poverty and save us money. After all, isn't it the goal to live better than our parents and grandparents did? To make sure the next generation can live better than us? Basic income may indeed the answer. But first we have to willing to accept it. This book has made me a believer.
The 15-hour Work Week
Rutger Bregman's second big crazy idea is the 15-hour work week, a concept most of us would be able to get behind. He brings up the concept of “bullshit jobs,” occupations that really have no value. Anthropologist David Graeber describes them as jobs that, if they were to disappear, would throw the country in chaos.
I work one of these “bullshit jobs,” a social media analyst provides no real need in the world—I'm not developing a cure for cancer—but it helps pay the bills, so in my spare time I can volunteer or write more investigative in-depth stories. But if we reduce the work week, we could share in the necessary jobs (e.g. teachers, nurses, engineers, and garbage collectors) and even increase efficiency. He also proposes a tax reform which incentives more meaningful work, encouraging our best and brightest to go into teaching rather than a career on Wall Street.
His third big idea may be considered more radical than basic income to many in America: open borders. This issue is more a question of morality, though, it does come with the incentive of economic growth.
Consider this: The biggest determining factor in a persons health, wealth, and life expectancy is where they're born. America's poorest citizens are still quite rich when compared to the world's poorest. The problem with this idea is acceptance. There are several faulty arguments used against the adoption of open borders: “They'll take our jobs,” “Cheap immigrants will force our wages down,” “They're too lazy to work,” and “They'll never go back.” Bregman address each argument, citing experts and giving data that shows us none of these is the case.
Open our borders is a far-away dream. However, Rutger Bregman makes it seem like some of these utopian policies are well-within our grasp.
If your looking for what kind of future we should be striving for, you'll find it in Rutger Bregman's Utopia for Realists. It was a national bestseller when it was first released in Dutch in the Netherlands, and helped start a conversation which led to municipalities experimenting with basic income. Here's hoping this book will help America reignite an old conversation Nixon started back in the 70s. Utopia for Realists: The Case for a Universal Basic Income, Open Borders, and a 15-Hour Workweek is available now.
Photo Credit: Maand van de Geschiedenis/ Flickr
Natalie has been writing professionally for about 6 years. After graduating from Ithaca College with a degree in Feature Writing, she snagged a job at PCMag.com where she had the opportunity to review all the latest consumer gadgets. Since then she has become a writer for hire, freelancing for various websites. In her spare time, you may find her riding her motorcycle, reading YA novels, hiking, or playing video games. Follow her on Twitter: @nat_schumaker
How would the ability to genetically customize children change society? Sci-fi author Eugene Clark explores the future on our horizon in Volume I of the "Genetic Pressure" series.
- A new sci-fi book series called "Genetic Pressure" explores the scientific and moral implications of a world with a burgeoning designer baby industry.
- It's currently illegal to implant genetically edited human embryos in most nations, but designer babies may someday become widespread.
- While gene-editing technology could help humans eliminate genetic diseases, some in the scientific community fear it may also usher in a new era of eugenics.
Tribalism and discrimination<p>One question the "Genetic Pressure" series explores: What would tribalism and discrimination look like in a world with designer babies? As designer babies grow up, they could be noticeably different from other people, potentially being smarter, more attractive and healthier. This could breed resentment between the groups—as it does in the series.</p><p>"[Designer babies] slowly find that 'everyone else,' and even their own parents, becomes less and less tolerable," author Eugene Clark told Big Think. "Meanwhile, everyone else slowly feels threatened by the designer babies."</p><p>For example, one character in the series who was born a designer baby faces discrimination and harassment from "normal people"—they call her "soulless" and say she was "made in a factory," a "consumer product." </p><p>Would such divisions emerge in the real world? The answer may depend on who's able to afford designer baby services. If it's only the ultra-wealthy, then it's easy to imagine how being a designer baby could be seen by society as a kind of hyper-privilege, which designer babies would have to reckon with. </p><p>Even if people from all socioeconomic backgrounds can someday afford designer babies, people born designer babies may struggle with tough existential questions: Can they ever take full credit for things they achieve, or were they born with an unfair advantage? To what extent should they spend their lives helping the less fortunate? </p>
Sexuality dilemmas<p>Sexuality presents another set of thorny questions. If a designer baby industry someday allows people to optimize humans for attractiveness, designer babies could grow up to find themselves surrounded by ultra-attractive people. That may not sound like a big problem.</p><p>But consider that, if designer babies someday become the standard way to have children, there'd necessarily be a years-long gap in which only some people are having designer babies. Meanwhile, the rest of society would be having children the old-fashioned way. So, in terms of attractiveness, society could see increasingly apparent disparities in physical appearances between the two groups. "Normal people" could begin to seem increasingly ugly.</p><p>But ultra-attractive people who were born designer babies could face problems, too. One could be the loss of body image. </p><p>When designer babies grow up in the "Genetic Pressure" series, men look like all the other men, and women look like all the other women. This homogeneity of physical appearance occurs because parents of designer babies start following trends, all choosing similar traits for their children: tall, athletic build, olive skin, etc. </p><p>Sure, facial traits remain relatively unique, but everyone's more or less equally attractive. And this causes strange changes to sexual preferences.</p><p>"In a society of sexual equals, they start looking for other differentiators," he said, noting that violet-colored eyes become a rare trait that genetically engineered humans find especially attractive in the series.</p><p>But what about sexual relationships between genetically engineered humans and "normal" people? In the "Genetic Pressure" series, many "normal" people want to have kids with (or at least have sex with) genetically engineered humans. But a minority of engineered humans oppose breeding with "normal" people, and this leads to an ideology that considers engineered humans to be racially supreme. </p>
Regulating designer babies<p>On a policy level, there are many open questions about how governments might legislate a world with designer babies. But it's not totally new territory, considering the West's dark history of eugenics experiments.</p><p>In the 20th century, the U.S. conducted multiple eugenics programs, including immigration restrictions based on genetic inferiority and forced sterilizations. In 1927, for example, the Supreme Court ruled that forcibly sterilizing the mentally handicapped didn't violate the Constitution. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes wrote, "… three generations of imbeciles are enough." </p><p>After the Holocaust, eugenics programs became increasingly taboo and regulated in the U.S. (though some states continued forced sterilizations <a href="https://www.uvm.edu/~lkaelber/eugenics/" target="_blank">into the 1970s</a>). In recent years, some policymakers and scientists have expressed concerns about how gene-editing technologies could reanimate the eugenics nightmares of the 20th century. </p><p>Currently, the U.S. doesn't explicitly ban human germline genetic editing on the federal level, but a combination of laws effectively render it <a href="https://academic.oup.com/jlb/advance-article/doi/10.1093/jlb/lsaa006/5841599#204481018" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">illegal to implant a genetically modified embryo</a>. Part of the reason is that scientists still aren't sure of the unintended consequences of new gene-editing technologies. </p><p>But there are also concerns that these technologies could usher in a new era of eugenics. After all, the function of a designer baby industry, like the one in the "Genetic Pressure" series, wouldn't necessarily be limited to eliminating genetic diseases; it could also work to increase the occurrence of "desirable" traits. </p><p>If the industry did that, it'd effectively signal that the <em>opposites of those traits are undesirable. </em>As the International Bioethics Committee <a href="https://academic.oup.com/jlb/advance-article/doi/10.1093/jlb/lsaa006/5841599#204481018" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">wrote</a>, this would "jeopardize the inherent and therefore equal dignity of all human beings and renew eugenics, disguised as the fulfillment of the wish for a better, improved life."</p><p><em>"Genetic Pressure Volume I: Baby Steps"</em><em> by Eugene Clark is <a href="http://bigth.ink/38VhJn3" target="_blank">available now.</a></em></p>
A leading British space scientist thinks there is life under the ice sheets of Europa.
- A British scientist named Professor Monica Grady recently came out in support of extraterrestrial life on Europa.
- Europa, the sixth largest moon in the solar system, may have favorable conditions for life under its miles of ice.
- The moon is one of Jupiter's 79.
Neil deGrasse Tyson wants to go ice fishing on Europa<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="GLGsRX7e" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="f4790eb8f0515e036b24c4195299df28"> <div id="botr_GLGsRX7e_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/GLGsRX7e-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/GLGsRX7e-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/GLGsRX7e-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
Water Vapor Above Europa’s Surface Deteced for First Time<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9c4abc8473e1b89170cc8941beeb1f2d"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/WQ-E1lnSOzc?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Scientists discover burrows of giant predator worms that lived on the seafloor 20 million years ago.
- Scientists in Taiwan find the lair of giant predator worms that inhabited the seafloor 20 million years ago.
- The worm is possibly related to the modern bobbit worm (Eunice aphroditois).
- The creatures can reach several meters in length and famously ambush their pray.
A three-dimensional model of the feeding behavior of Bobbit worms and the proposed formation of Pennichnus formosae.
Credit: Scientific Reports
Beware the Bobbit Worm!<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1f9918e77851242c91382369581d3aac"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/_As1pHhyDHY?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Answering the question of who you are is not an easy task. Let's unpack what culture, philosophy, and neuroscience have to say.
- Who am I? It's a question that humans have grappled with since the dawn of time, and most of us are no closer to an answer.
- Trying to pin down what makes you you depends on which school of thought you prescribe to. Some argue that the self is an illusion, while others believe that finding one's "true self" is about sincerity and authenticity.
- In this video, author Gish Jen, Harvard professor Michael Puett, psychotherapist Mark Epstein, and neuroscientist Sam Harris discuss three layers of the self, looking through the lens of culture, philosophy, and neuroscience.