Tag: Rutger Brenman

Review – Utopia for Realists

Posted September 20, 2020 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Utopia for Realists by Rutger BregmanUtopia for Realists, Rutger Brenman

Utopia for Realists set out the case for three major things which would build a better world, a utopia in which we not only have unprecedented prosperity but that prosperity is more evenly shared, and people do worthwhile work:

  • A shorter workweek
  • Universal basic income
  • Open borders

As far as I can tell, Brenman has his facts in order, citing studies and real-world circumstances which support the suggestions he makes. Giving homeless people free cash, no strings attached, seems to have a better result than any other intervention, according to the studies he cites; shorter work weeks were almost actually implemented before they slipped off the political agenda; the numbers suggest that immigration will boost economies…

There are a lot of studies mentioned and footnoted, and a lot of sources to check; I did a little digging, but not more than that. I feel like I know so little about economics that Brenman could be saying “we should dye all ducks green” in economics-ese and I would just be nodding along. He writes very convincingly (with a few slip-ups like calling people with disabilities “cripples” — hopefully something introduced by the book’s translator rather than baked into the original text) and often aligns with my own ideas and ideals, so it’s not surprising that I feel the urge to nod along.

I did have a couple of criticisms that even I noticed, though. One example was his claim that immigration doesn’t harm social cohesion… only to claim that open borders couldn’t be introduced immediately because of the impact on social cohesion. Yikes, dude. You literally just said there’s no effect, two pages before. He also explicitly mentions rejecting a study because of his own opinions on the subject, and never actually discusses the results of that study and why he would rationally put it aside. There are a couple of other bits and pieces like that — inconsistencies and eyebrow-raising moments.

He also exhorts people at the end to be idealists, after setting out his case that utopia is achievable. I see what he means — it is achievable, if his data and theories are correct, but it requires people willing to commit to it and believe it, and in the face of so much opposition that does take an idealist, not a realist. It’s still a bit of a contradition, though…

Rating: 3/5

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WWW Wednesday

Posted September 9, 2020 by Nicky in General / 0 Comments

It’s Wednesday again! So here’s the usual check-in. You can go to Taking On A World Of Words to chat with everyone else who has posted what they’re reading right now!

Cover of Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline CareyWhat are you currently reading?

I’ve started rereading Kushiel’s Dart, to join in with the Wyrd & Wonder readalong. I’ve just realised my careful planning out actually has me a week behind, so I need to rejig that. Argh. Anyway, I’m enjoying revisiting this world — the writing always takes me just a little bit to sink back into, given how flowery it is… but it always sucks me in eventually. Damn, Phèdre is a brat at first.

Other than that, I’m reading The Fifth Season (finally), also as a readalong with one of my fellow Beeminder workerbees. I’m ahead on this one, though. From everything I’ve heard about it, I wonder if I’m putting two and two together correctly… but I hate being wrong, so I’m not going to admit to what I guess!

Cover of The Grace of Kings by Ken LiuWhat have you recently finished reading?

I just finished reading Marie Brennan’s Driftwood last night, and still need to ponder how to review it. It’s still settling in my brain at the moment.

I also finally finished Ken Liu’s The Grace of Kings, and I’m just done settling my thoughts about that down. I don’t think I’m going to read the next book… unless it weighs on my mind, which it might. I just didn’t care enough, despite finding it compelling enough in and of itself.

What will you be reading next?

Probably I’ll return to Beneath the World, A Sea, by Chris Beckett, and try to finish it; I only got about 60 pages in, if I recall correctly, and I’m doing my best to go back to my half-read books and dig in.

I’m also curious about Utopia for Realists, by Rutger Brenman, and In Black and White, by Alexandra Wilson. So I’m not sure what will be next… and besides, I’m spending half my time beating my head against the basics of statistics and probability, because I let myself get complacent and I’ve forgotten half of what I ever drummed into my brain (with great difficulty). If anyone has good suggestions for books on the basics of biostatistics, let me know…

Anyway, being busy with that makes me inclined to read some fluffy fiction instead, but what I don’t know.

What’re you folks reading?

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