Utopia for Realists and How We Can Get There
Utopia for Realists ends with its author professing admiration for Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman. Not necessarily admiration for many of their ideas, but for their dogged determination and for the weeks of travel undertaken by some of Hayek’s inaugural Mont Pèlerin Society to reach that small Swiss village in April 1947. There they began to plan for small government and, as it turns out, gross economic inequality.
Bregman repeats Friedman’s story that, when the 1973 oil crisis hit, it was only that quarter of a century of planning in Pèlerin that allowed his and Hayek’s ideas to become the new foundation of US and UK politics. Bregman complains that with Great Financial Crisis in 2008 ‘…there were no real alternatives to hand. No one had laid the groundwork.’ But nine years after that crash, how can he know?
In 1982, nine years after 1973, it was far from obvious that the shift to the right would last so long. Margaret Thatcher had labelled poverty a ‘personality defect’. Her government looked weak as unemployment soared over three million. Ronald Reagan (who also pathologised the poor) presided over unemployment exceeding nine million in the States that year, the worse since the 1930s depression.
The Hayek-Friedman-Thatcher-Reagan version of individualist selfish Utopia looked to be failing, but for a time they achieved it, with the eventual fallout of Brexit and Trump long after all their deaths. In 2017, nine years after the 2008 crash, or even early 2018, it is still too early to tell how, in the future, we will write the history of now and who is actually winning the long-term arguments rather than the short-term elections.
Bregman explains that bankers make money without creating anything of value. He explains that this is not easy, otherwise many more people would do it, but that just because it is difficult does not make it valuable. In saying this he is joining what is now a great choir of similar voices – a choir far too large to fit in Mont Pèlerin.
For the full book review see here. And to hear and audio recording of a conversation with the author click below: