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Book Review: Utopia for Realists

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Humans have been dreaming and designing Utopias for a long time. It has stirred whole communities into action and wars have been fought over it. In this book, the author proposes a Utopia; the idea of a society where every individual is guaranteed a minimum basic income. No strings attached. I'm generally positive about such redistribution schemes, especially in light of the near future (AI, automation etc) but how do we pay for it? The author points out that we already spend an enormous amount in the war on poverty and social assistance programs. Eliminating this bureaucracy and red tape could save us a tremendous amount and make things more efficient at the same time. However, it won't be enough. A better way to think about this is to see it as an investment in humans. When humans can meet their basic needs, they can be more selective about which jobs they will sell their time and bodies to. They can take time off and invest in themselves. In a nutshell, we can eliminate poverty, redistribute wealth, and give people more agency in their lives. Well, what's the evidence that this can actually work? The author points out the example of Dauphin, a Canadian city where a minimum basic income experiment (the no strings attached kind) was tried out for 4 years and resulted in a drastic reduction in poverty and reduced hospitalisation rates. Honestly, I'd like more such experiments but the fact is that they're expensive and the results often take years to become visible. All in all, a perspective changing book.