Follow the Utopian Fantasy

This episode of CBC Radio’s Ideas, featuring clips from The Enright Files, explores some great ideas on how we can improve “our communities, our countries, and our quality of life”. It opens with an interview with Rutger Bregman, a Dutch historian and author, who discusses basic income and how wealthy western societies have become complacent. Because most major milestones of human civilization were once considered utopian fantasies, he believes it’s irresponsible and unnatural not to dream big.

Drawing on history, Bregman discusses how the average work week has gradually shrunk since the 1800s, leading many to believe this would continue into the present day. However, this progression halted in the 1980s. People now work more than ever, and even consider their long hours as a status symbol. While he suggests that consumerism is a major contributing factor, he believes our current vision of progress, centered on the economy, is to blame. Materially, we are living well, however, we are not exactly living our best lives. Bregman believes we should trade in our work time for leisure time and makes the argument for a 15-hour work week. With time away from the “office”, people could spend more time on essential, unpaid work, such as caring for our children and the elderly or even volunteering. This, he believes, will enhance social capital and social well being.

Why Basic Income? from Adam Brown on Vimeo 

But how can we afford to work less and dedicate more time to meaningful work or leisure time? Bregman's answer is guaranteed basic income. This once utopian dream is slowly becoming more and more tangible, at least in some countries. While basic income does not exactly provide wealth, it gives people enough to live on and positions everyone on an equal standing point. This is especially important as automation is vaporizing many jobs. This utopian dream may become a reality in Canada as the Ontario government recently launched a basic income pilot in Hamilton, Lindsay, and Thunder Bay. And the BC NDP and Green parties list a basic income pilot in their agreement (section 4). Furthermore, the Federal Government is exploring different poverty reduction strategies in Canada and has opened a public consultation portal that invites you to add your voice. Read all about it here and join the conversation here.

To learn more about basic income, check out the following articles and reports:

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