Utopia for Realists

Rutger Bregman, author of Utopia for Realists and the Dutch historian from the viral video calling out billionaires at Davos (“taxes taxes taxes, all the rest is bullshit in my opinion”), talking to Ezra Klein in Vox:

We should never underestimate capitalism’s extraordinary ability to come up with new bullshit jobs.

We could theoretically live in some kind of dystopia where we’re all just pretending to work and sending emails and writing unnecessary reports, and the robots are doing all the real, valuable work.

Now, who are these people? They often have wonderful LinkedIn profiles, went to Ivy League universities, have excellent salaries. They work in marketing, finance, etc. Still, at the end of the day, if you give them a beer or two, they’ll admit that their job is perfectly useless. If we actually rewarded people for the value of the work they do, I think that many bankers would earn a negative salary while many nurses and teachers will be millionaires.

And then dovetailing healthcare into this pretty wide-ranging discussion on automation, universal basic income, and the depressing way we value/pay people who are essentially a drain on the system (not through welfare but through wealth extraction):

Economists talk about how it’s some kind of problem that government is not efficient enough compared to the private sector, but I think that’s actually the point. The point of the future is that we can have a huge amount of inefficiency because that’s what makes life meaningful. Good care is inefficient. You actually have to talk some to someone to have the meaningful relationship. If you want to make health care more efficient, you usually destroy it.

What if healthcare didn’t have to be an industry anymore? It’s really a mind-blasting thought.

Samples on Hand

From “Physicians Get Addicted Too,” an Atlantic story about opiates and addiction in West Virginia.

“I made pizza deliveries where I used to make house calls,” Ortenzio said. “I delivered pizzas to people who were former patients. They felt very uncomfortable, felt sorry for me.” But, he said, “it didn’t bother me. I was in a much better place.”

Ortenzio eventually left pizza delivery. But the way he told me the story, the job was an important step in his recovery: Every pie he delivered liberated him. He was free of the lies he’d told his colleagues, his family, and himself to hide his addiction. He liked hearing kids screaming “The pizza guy’s here!” when he knocked on the door. “You make people happy,” he said. “That was what I liked about being a doctor.”


Some of you may have noticed that things have been a little bit quieter than usual around here. While I’m still writing (and have plenty more in store), my attention was divided recently on a new passion project my wife and I just launched.

It’s called Kosher(ish), and it’s basically the first part of a new Jewish lifestyle brand and blog. Because why not? Also, because there aren’t enough fun things for us to dress our son in for the holidays, and Hanukkah isn’t the only one that deserves a t-shirt or some paper goods!

(We only have a few items for this 2018/5779 Hanukkah season, but if you’re in the market, time is running out to receive your order for the holiday.)

It’s not easy to balance a dinosaur-and-train-loving three-year-old, this sprawling website, a half-finished book, a new job, and a new venture! In the meantime, I have some exciting news about my student loans books coming soon and a bunch of great posts to close out the year.

Most of all, thanks as always for reading.