Going against the political tide

Book review: Utopia For Realists, And How We Can Get There This provocative book proposes abolishing border controls and introducing a universal basic income.


Most Western governments see reducing immigration and cutting public spending as priorities. So Dutch historian Rutger Bregman is going against the political tide with his two main proposals: a universal basic income that would be given to people whether they were in work or not, and an abolition of border controls.

Bregman argues that a basic income would cut bureaucracy, reduce poverty and give poor people greater autonomy. Contrary to what you might expect, experiments conducted in the US in the 1960s have suggested that a basic income would have little impact on people's work habits. What it would do is give workers, especially those who are unskilled or semi-skilled, more power in the labour market, at a time when automation and computing power threatens to reduce the number of jobs and erode wages.

Subscribe to MoneyWeek

Become a smarter, better informed investor with MoneyWeek.

On immigration, he points out that the difference in living standards between countries is far greater than the inequality within countries and even the current paltry levels of development aid are unpopular and often wasted. So it makes more sense to bring people to the West, rather than to try and raise productivity and incomes in developing countries. Again, he puts forward studies showing that many of the problems associated with immigration have been greatly exaggerated.

Bregman argues his case well, writing in an accessible, light-hearted style. However, he pushes his arguments too hard and ignores conflicting evidence. The result is a provocative book, but it's hardly the last word on the subject.




Six contrarian books for Christmas

Merryn Somerset Webb picks six of her favourite contrarian books to help you look clever and perhaps win a few arguments over the Christmas dinner tab…
9 Dec 2019

Coming to terms with Anna Sorokin

My Friend Anna: The true story of the fake heiress of New York CityWilliams is a solid writer who does a good job of explaining how she, and other int…
21 Aug 2019

Book in the news… the inside story of Spain’s tumultuous crisis

After the Fall Crisis, Recovery and the Making of a New SpainA book that goes beyond politics to offer a deeply sympathetic portrayal of a country.
21 Aug 2019

An offbeat take on economics

Review: This Giant Beast That is the Global EconomyA new TV series outfreaks Freakonomics.
20 Aug 2019

Most Popular


Money Minute Friday 17 January: UK weakness likely to continue

Today's Money Minute previews UK retail sales figures the UK, inflation data from Europe and industrial production from the US.
17 Jan 2020

Currency Corner: how high can the pound go against the euro in 2020?

In the month in which we should finally leave the European Union, Dominic Frisby takes a look at the pound vs the euro and asks just how high sterling…
13 Jan 2020
House prices

UK house prices may be heading for a Boris bounce

The latest survey of estate agents and surveyors from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors is "unambiguously positive" – suggesting house pric…
16 Jan 2020
Share tips

Class acts going cheap: buy into Europe’s best bargains

Value investing appears to be making a comeback, while shares on this side of the Atlantic are more appealing on metrics such as price/earnings ratios…
16 Jan 2020