Rutger Bregman, Dutch historian and author of Utopia For Realists recently spoke to some of the world’s wealthiest people at Davos, Switzerland in which he said, “I hear people talking the language of participation and justice and equality and transparency, but almost no one raises the real issue of tax avoidance and of the rich just not paying their fair share. I mean it feels like I’m at a firefighters conference and no one’s allowed to speak about water. We’ve got to be talking about taxes! That’s it. Taxes, taxes, taxes. All the rest is bullshit in my opinion.”
His speech went viral.
Following that event, he appeared on The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, where he was asked to address the current debate over socialism in the US. “To me, it seems a bewildering discussion,” he replied. “Because what we’re actually talking about are policies that are hugely popular among the vast majority of Americans. 67 percent want guaranteed paid maternity leave. 70 percent want Medicare for all. 81 percent is enthusiastic about the New Green Deal. 75 percent want higher taxes on the rich. These are hugely popular policies that work really well in the countries that tried them. So it has nothing to do with socialism or communism or whatever.”
“Actually, capitalism and the welfare state need each other. So something like a guaranteed basic income that I’ve been arguing for would actually be venture capital for the people. So that everyone can start a new company or move to a different job or a different city, which will make the economy much more dynamic. Now if we look at the history of innovation – take the Iphone, for example – every sliver of the fundamental technology of the Iphone was invented by researchers on the government payroll….all these breakthrough technologies are financed by the government. Capitalism and the government – they need each other.”
Asked how Democratic candidates should handle this in the campaign, he responded, “You’re just being a realist, right? Basically advocating the ideas that the majority of Americans want. We need a massive transformation of the economy when we talk about issues like climate change or inequality. It’s really the so-called moderates…the centrists…I think that’s the real radical fringe. It’s really a crazy radical idea of sticking to the status quo right now. The challenges are huge right now. We have to halt emissions on a global scale by 2050. So we need that huge transformation of the economy. So then if you say, ‘I’m a moderate, we should tinker around the edges’ that’s a pretty crazy proposition if you ask me.”