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Rutger Bregman

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Rutger Bregman
Bregman in 2024
Rutger C. Bregman

(1988-04-26) 26 April 1988 (age 36)
Renesse, Netherlands[1]
Alma materUtrecht University
University of California, Los Angeles (MA)[1]
Occupation(s)Historian and author
Known forUniversal basic income, working hours and open borders
Notable workUtopia for Realists: How We Can Build the Ideal World
Humankind: A Hopeful History
SpouseMaartje ter Horst

Rutger C. Bregman (born 26 April 1988) is a Dutch popular historian and author. He has published four books on history, philosophy, and economics, including Utopia for Realists: How We Can Build the Ideal World, which has been translated into thirty-two languages. His work has been featured in The Washington Post, The Guardian and the BBC. He has been described by The Guardian as the "Dutch wunderkind of new ideas"[2] and by TED Talks as "one of Europe's most prominent young thinkers".[3] His TED Talk, "Poverty Isn't a Lack of Character; It's a Lack of Cash", was chosen by TED curator Chris Anderson as one of the top ten of 2017.[4]

Early life and education[edit]

Bregman was born in Renesse.[1] His father is a Protestant minister, while his mother is a special needs teacher. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in history at Utrecht University in 2009.[1] He earned his Master of Arts in history in 2012, partly at Utrecht and partly at the University of California, Los Angeles.[1][5] His graduate studies concentrated on cities, states and citizenship.[6][7][8] He was a member of Christian student association SSR-NU.[9]


Bregman thought of becoming an academic historian, but began working as a journalist instead.[10] He writes regularly for the online journal De Correspondent,[11][12] and was twice nominated for the European Press Prize for his work there.[13] His articles have also been published in The Guardian,[11] The Washington Post,[14] Evonomics,[15][16] and The Conversation.[17]


Utopia for Realists[edit]

Utopia for Realists: How We Can Build the Ideal World (Dutch title: Gratis geld voor iedereen) promotes a more productive and equitable life based on three core ideas which include a universal and unconditional basic income paid to everybody, a short workweek of fifteen hours, and open borders worldwide with the free exchange of citizens between all nations.[18] It was originally written as a series of articles for the Dutch online journal De Correspondent.[19]

In an interview with the Montreal newspaper Le Devoir in September 2017, Bregman said that "to move forward, a society needs dreams, not nightmares. Yet people are caught in the logic of fear. Whether it is Trump, Brexit or the last elections in Germany, they vote against the future and instead for solutions to replace it, believing the past was better based on a thoroughly mistaken view of the world: the world was worse before … Humanity is improving, conditions of life, work and health too. And it's time to open the windows of our minds to see it."[20]

Humankind: A Hopeful History[edit]

In September 2019, Bregman published Humankind: A Hopeful History (Dutch title: De meeste mensen deugen), where he argues that humans are fundamentally mostly decent, and that more recognition of this view would likely be beneficial to everyone, partly as it would reduce excessive cynicism. For example, if society was less adamant on the view that humans are naturally lazy, there would be less reason to oppose the widespread introduction of poverty mitigation measures like universal basic income. The book takes a multi-disciplinary approach, drawing from the findings of history, economics, psychology, biology, anthropology and archaeology. Bregman's arguments include the assertion that in the state of nature debate, Rousseau, rather than Hobbes, was more correct about humanity's essential goodness. An English translation was published in May 2020.[21][22] The paperback release was a New York Times Best Seller.[23] In addition to praise, Humankind: Hopeful History has also received strong criticism. Various critics, for example, point to the book's lack of scientific content.[24][25][26][27][28][29]

Other books[edit]

Prior to the release of Utopia for Realists, Bregman had already published several books, including History of Progress, which won the Liberales book prize for best Dutch-language nonfiction book of 2013.[30][31][17]

Other activities[edit]

A TED Talk by Rutger Bregman in 2017

In a TED presentation titled "Poverty Isn't a Lack of Character; It's a Lack of Cash" in April 2017, Bregman argued for a universal basic income as the solution to end poverty.[32][33]

In January 2019, Bregman took part in a panel debate at the World Economic Forum in Davos, where he criticised the event for its focus on philanthropy rather than tax avoidance and the need for fair taxation. His intervention was widely reported and followed on social media.[34]

A month after his Davos appearance, Bregman was interviewed remotely by Fox News anchor and journalist Tucker Carlson, with a recording originally being scheduled to air at a later point. Bregman told Carlson that the United States "could easily crack down on tax paradises"[35] if they wanted to and that Fox News would not cover stories about tax evasion by the wealthy.[36] He said that Carlson himself had been taking "dirty money" for years from the CATO Institute where he was senior fellow and which is "funded by Koch billionaires", Charles Koch and David Koch.[35] He said that Carlson and other Fox News anchors are "millionaires paid by billionaires", referring to the Murdochs and, in Carlson's case, the Koch brothers.[36] Bregman told Carlson that "what the Murdochs want you to do [on Fox News] is scapegoat immigrants instead of talking about tax avoidance".[35][37] Carlson was angered by Bregman's comments, calling him a "moron" and telling him to "go fuck [himself]". Carlson later apologized for using profane language, but declared his comments towards Bregman were "genuinely heartfelt".[36] A recording of the interview from Bregman's point of view was obtained by NowThis News, who released the video on 20 February 2019. It later exceeded four million views on YouTube.[35]

In 2023, he was a guest in the Dutch television program Van Rossem Vertelt of his colleague historian Maarten van Rossem where they philosophised about the next 80 years.[38]

Major themes[edit]

The major themes of Bregman's works include universal basic income, the workweek and open borders.

Universal basic income[edit]

Bregman approvingly cites a 1968 US proposal for a guaranteed minimum income, put forward by President Richard Nixon, among others.[39] He also cites a 1974–1979 Canadian federal government project in Dauphin, Manitoba, that temporarily eradicated poverty.[40] "The most popular study on the effects of basic income took place in Manitoba between 1974 and 1979 where everyone received a 'Mincome' (minimum income) of $9,000 a year (by today's standards) from the government, no strings attached. Evelyn Forget, an economist and professor at the University of Manitoba, who looked over the data from the study says there was a 9 percent reduction in working hours among two main groups of citizens. But the reasons why give insight into how basic income can dramatically change the course of someone's life."[41]

Personal life[edit]

Bregman is married to Maartje ter Horst, a photographer.[42][43] They reside in Houten.[44]

In April 2021 Bregman became a member of Giving What We Can, a community of people who have pledged to give at least 10% of their income to effective charities.[45]


  • Met de kennis van toen : actuele problemen in het licht van de geschiedenis (With the knowledge of back then : current problems in a historical light). Amsterdam: De Bezige Bij, 2012, ISBN 978-90-2347212-4.
  • De geschiedenis van de vooruitgang (The history of progress). Amsterdam, De Bezige Bij, 2013, ISBN 978-90-2347754-9.
  • Gratis geld voor iedereen : en nog vijf grote ideeën die de wereld kunnen veranderen. Amsterdam: De Correspondent, 2014, ISBN 978 90 822 5630 7. English translation: Utopia for realists, and how we can get there (2014).
  • Waarom vuilnismannen meer verdienen dan bankiers (Why dustmen deserve more than bankers), with Jesse Frederik. Rotterdam: Maand van de Filosofie, 2015, ISBN 9789047706830.
  • De meeste mensen deugen, een nieuwe geschiedenis van de mens. Amsterdam: De Correspondent, 2019, ISBN 9789082942187. English translation: Humankind : a new history of human nature (2020).
  • Het water komt : een brief aan alle Nederlanders (The water is coming : a letter to all Netherlanders). Amsterdam: De Correspondent, 2020, ISBN 9789083017761.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Rutger Bregman: 'Soms dreigt het een grote egoshow te worden' (in Dutch). de Volkskrant.
  2. ^ "Inside the 17 March edition". The Guardian. 17 March 2017. Retrieved 7 January 2018. Books casts an eye over a theory of modern utopia by the Dutch wunderkind of new ideas, Rutger Bregman
  3. ^ "Biography: Rutger Bregman, author of Utopia for Realists". TED Talks. 2017. Retrieved 7 January 2018. He has published four books on history, philosophy and economics. His book Utopia for Realists -- on universal basic income and other radical ideas -- has been translated in more than 20 languages. His work has been featured in The Washington Post and The Guardian and on the BBC.
  4. ^ "Curator's Picks: Top 10 TED Talks of 2017". TED Talks. nd. Retrieved 7 January 2018. The most notable talks of 2017, chosen by TED Curator Chris Anderson
  5. ^ "I Want the State to Think like an Anarchist: Dutch Historian Rutger Bregman on Why the Left Must Reclaim Utopianism". The New Statesman. 26 February 2018. Retrieved 23 February 2019.
  6. ^ p.21https://www.uu.nl/sites/default/files/UUUF148_Illuster_afstudeerspecial_LR_spreads.pdf
  7. ^ "Rutger Bregman: 'Cijfers verhullen wat er echt aan de hand is bij universiteiten' | DUB". dub.uu.nl. Retrieved 9 January 2024.
  8. ^ "Interview Rutger Bregman". 30 March 2019. Archived from the original on 30 March 2019. Retrieved 9 January 2024.
  9. ^ "Profile". TED2017. July 2017. Retrieved 7 January 2018.
  10. ^ "Rutger Bregman: 'We could cut the working week by a third'". TheGuardian.com. 26 February 2017. Retrieved 22 February 2019.
  11. ^ a b Bregman, Rutger C. (17 March 2018). "Look at the phone in your hand – you can thank the state for that". The Guardian.
  12. ^ Bregman, Rutger (4 November 2013). "De promovendifabriek". De Correspondent (in Dutch). Retrieved 9 January 2024.
  13. ^ "Utopia for Realists: This book originated on De Correspondent". De Correspondent. nd. Retrieved 7 January 2018.
  14. ^ Bregman, Rutger (29 December 2013). "Free money might be the best way to end poverty". The Washington Post. Retrieved 7 April 2021.
  15. ^ "Why Society's Biggest Freeloaders Are at the Top: No, wealth isn't created at the top. It is merely devoured there". 15 April 2017. Retrieved 7 January 2017.
  16. ^ Bregman, Rutger C.; Frederik, Jesse (21 April 2016). "Why garbage men should earn more than bankers". Essay of the Month of Philosophy 2015. Translated by Elizabeth Manton. Lemniscate. Retrieved 7 January 2018.
  17. ^ a b Rutger C. Bregman. Free money for everyone, and five big ideas that can change the world . de Correspondent, Amsterdam, 2014, ISBN 978 90 822 5630 7
  18. ^ Rutger Bregman (14 March 2017). Utopia for Realists: How We Can Build the Ideal World. Little, Brown and Company/Hachette Book Group USA. ISBN 978-0316471893.
  19. ^ "Utopia for Realists - The case for a universal basic income, open borders and a 15-hour workweek". The Correspondent. Retrieved 2 February 2019.
  20. ^ Deglise, Fabien (27 September 2017). "Rutger Bregman et son rêve de faire de l'utopie un pays". Le Devoir. Translated by Google Translate. Pour avancer, une société a besoin de rêves, pas de cauchemars, lance Rutger Bregman, joint cette semaine aux Pays-Bas par Le Devoir. Or, quand on regarde autour de nous, on constate que ces rêves n'arrivent pas à émerger. Les gens sont pris dans la logique du pire, de la peur, de la crainte. Qu'il s'agisse de Trump, du Brexit ou des dernières élections en Allemagne, ils votent contre une perspective d'avenir plutôt que pour des solutions de remplacement, en pensant que le passé était meilleur, ce qui repose sur une vision du monde totalement erronée. Le monde était pire avant. L'humanité ne va qu'en s'améliorant, les conditions de vie, de travail, de santé aussi. Et il est temps d'ouvrir les fenêtres de nos esprits pour le voir. {{cite news}}: |translator= has generic name (help)
  21. ^ Martin Bentham (7 May 2020). "Book review: Humankind by Rutger Bregman". Evening Standard. Retrieved 10 May 2020.
  22. ^ Freedland, Jonathan (9 May 2020). "Rutger Bregman: the Dutch historian who rocked Davos and unearthed the real Lord of the Flies". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 March 2021.
  23. ^ "Paperback Nonfiction Books Best Sellers". The New York Times. 19 December 2021. Retrieved 19 December 2021.
  24. ^ "Rutger Bregman en het simsalabimdenken". www.medischcontact.nl (in Dutch). Retrieved 20 May 2022.
  25. ^ De snijtafel - De meeste mensen deugen (#73.5), retrieved 20 May 2022
  26. ^ "Deugt dat boek van Rutger Bregman eigenlijk wel?". richardengelfriet.nl (in Dutch). 3 March 2020. Retrieved 20 May 2022.
  27. ^ "'De meeste mensen deugen' van Rutger Bregman is opium voor het volk - Joop - BNNVARA". Joop (in Dutch). Retrieved 20 May 2022.
  28. ^ "Humankind by Rutger Bregman review – why we are all deep-down decent". the Guardian. 10 June 2020. Retrieved 20 May 2022.
  29. ^ Smith, David Livingstone (25 November 2021). "Are We Decent Deep Down?". The Philosopher 1923. Retrieved 20 May 2022.
  30. ^ Bregman, Rutger C. (2013). The History of Progress. de Bezige Bij. ISBN 978-90-2347754-9.
  31. ^ Rutger C. Bregman. With the knowledge of then, Current problems in the light of history, ed. de Bezige Bij, 2012, ISBN 978-90-2347212-4
  32. ^ "Poverty isn't a lack of character; it's a lack of cash". TED2017. April 2017. Retrieved 7 January 2018.
  33. ^ "Poverty isn't a lack of character; it's a lack of cash". TED2017. nd. Retrieved 7 January 2018.
  34. ^ "'It's like the 'T' word is forbidden'". BBC News. Retrieved 2 February 2019.
  35. ^ a b c d Tucker Carlson Blows Up at Rutger Bregman in Unaired Fox News Interview. NowThis News. 20 February 2019. Retrieved 8 December 2021.
  36. ^ a b c Wolfson, Sam (20 February 2019), "Historian who confronted Davos billionaires leaks Tucker Carlson rant", The Guardian, retrieved 22 July 2019
  37. ^ "Cato Institute: Immigration". Cato Institute. Retrieved 24 June 2019.
  38. ^ https://www.rtvutrecht.nl/nieuws/3655973/maarten-van-rossem-en-rutger-bregman-filosoferen-over-de-komende-80-jaar
  39. ^ Jacobin:Nixon’s Basic Income Plan.
  40. ^ "A Canadian City Once Eliminated Poverty And Nearly Everyone Forgot About It". HuffPost Canada. 23 December 2014. Retrieved 2 February 2019.
  41. ^ Shoemaker, Natalie (19 April 2016). "Rutger Bregman's 'Utopia for Realists' Shows Us Why We Deserve Universal Basic Income". Big Think.
  42. ^ Bregman, Rutger (9 May 2020). "The real Lord of the Flies: what happened when six boys were shipwrecked for 15 months". The Guardian.
  43. ^ "OVER". Maartje ter Horst (in Dutch). Retrieved 6 April 2021.
  44. ^ Kuper, Simon (29 May 2020). "Meet Rutger Bregman — outspoken historian and scourge of Davos". www.ft.com. Retrieved 6 April 2021.
  45. ^ "Members", www.givingwhatwecan.org

Further reading[edit]