The case for a universal basic income, open borders, and a 15-hour workweek


Universal basic income. A 15-hour workweek. Open borders. These ideas may strike you as wild, fantastical, maybe even utopian. But that’s exactly the point.

Imagining utopia, writes Dutch historian Rutger Bregman, “isn’t an attempt to predict the future. It’s an attempt to unlock the future. To fling open the windows of our minds.”

He’s right. Bregman is the author of the lovely book Utopia for Realists (as well as the star of the viral Davos speech and Tucker Carlson takedown). I had him on my podcast to discuss not just his vision of utopia, or my vision of utopia, but how to think like a utopian, and why doing so matter most when the days feel so dystopic.

You can listen to our full conversation by subscribing to The Ezra Klein Show wherever you get your podcasts, or streaming it below. A partial transcript, edited for length and clarity, follows.

Ezra Klein

In Utopia for Realists, you write, “in the past, everything was worse. For roughly 99 percent of the world’s history, 99 percent of humanity was poor, hungry, dirty, afraid, stupid, sick and ugly.”

This is a very Steven Pinker-ish argument, but where he uses that history to push us to value the system we have, you use it to argue for a radical departure of the system we have. So where do you and Pinker differ?

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