Dutch academic “star” Rutger Bregman at The Daily Show: in the 50’s rich paid much higher taxes

While touring around the world with his progressive ideas, Dutch historian Rutger Bregman payed a visit to The Daily Show. Here, he highlighted hypocrisies of the Trump administration, as well as his vision for a more sustainable society. “If I see someone like President Trump who says we should make America great again, maybe that’s a good idea,” he said to host Trevor Noah. “Because in the ’50s, we had much higher taxes for the rich.” 

Bregman rose to international stardom when he emphasised the importance of taxation at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting. As he sat among some of the richest people in the world, he reminded the billionaires that society will not progress unless the conversation is centred around taxes. “I hear people talking the language of participation and justice and equality and transparency,” he said at the conference. “But almost no one raises the real issue of tax avoidance.” In his book, “Utopia for Realists,” the historian compiled a list of ideas, along with taxation, that he believes will improve society.

A particular idea Noah said was his “favourite part of the book” was the 15-hour work week Bregman proposes. “This is like Freddy Krueger for a GOP person,” Noah joked. But Bregman informed Noah that this is not a new idea. “Up until the ‘70s, we were on track to make [the 15-hour work week],” he said to Noah. “The experts were predicting that the biggest challenge of the future was going to be boredom. It’s only until 1980 that throughout the developed world, we have been starting to working more and more.” 

Noah played devil’s advocate at times during the interview, attempting to poke holes through Bregman’s positions. But Bregman countered these arguments using historical examples. He said he hopes to show moderates that being “unreasonable” at times might act as the solution to battle growing income inequality. “What frustrates me the most are these people, the so-called moderates, the centrist, who say, ‘Oh that’s never going to happen, you know? That is too radical,” he said to Noah. “If you zoom out a little bit, you see that so many times in history, utopian fantasies have become reality.” 


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