Sunday, 26 February 2017

Cut the working week by a third

Rutger Bregman is a 28-year-old Dutchman whose book, Utopia for Realists, has taken Holland by storm and could yet revitalise progressive thought around the globe, The Guardian reports. 

He says we should institute a universal basic income for everyone that covers minimum living expenses – say around £12,000 a year; the working week should be shortened to 15 hours; borders should be opened and migrants allowed to move wherever they choose.

Instead of attacking capitalism and post-enlightenment liberalism, Bregman celebrates its achievements. He also credits globalisation with lifting 700 million Chinese out of extreme poverty – hugely more than communism ever achieved.

“I’ve heard for three years that many of my ideas are unrealistic and unreasonable and that we can’t afford them,” Bregman says, by way of preamble to a more comprehensive reply. “And the simple answer is ‘Oh, you want to stick to the status quo? How’s that been working out?’”

He acknowledges that a genuinely universal system would involve a massive overhaul of our tax system and that it would require an enormous amount of public and political support. But you’ve got to start somewhere, is his outlook, and the best place to start is in redefining what we mean by work.

“There was a poll in the UK that showed that 37% of British workers think that their job doesn’t need to exist. Well, it’s not the bin men, and the care workers and the teachers that say that. We’re talking about consultants, bankers, accountants, lawyers etc. The implications of that are radical. We could cut the working week by a third and be just as rich. Probably richer!”

“One of the basic lessons of history,” says Bregman, “is that things can be different. The way we’ve structured our economy, our system of welfare, it’s not natural. It could be different.”


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