Even if you don’t know Dutch historian Rutger Bregman’s name, you’ve likely heard him speak. In January of last year, you probably saw a viral video on social media of Bregman speaking truth to power in front of some of the wealthiest and most powerful people in the world at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Bregman’s speech, in which he told an audience full of CEOs, royalty, and heirs that if they really wanted to do good in the world, they should “stop talking about philanthropy and start talking about taxes,” made him an instant celebrity.
Bregman did the requisite TV and podcast tour to explain why rich people should pay a lot more in taxes, and then he went silent for a while. Now, he’s back making headlines with a surprising new book. On the latest episode of Pitchfork Economics, Nick Hanauer and David Goldstein asked Bregman to sum up the book in a few words. His response?
“Deep down, most people are pretty decent,” Bregman announced.
You might not expect a notorious bomb-throwing firebrand to follow up his big sensational activist moment with a manifesto about human kindness and cooperation.
Bregman admits that the premise of his new book, Humankind: A Hopeful History sounds like “it’s not really a threat to anyone,” but he explains that “it’s a really subversive idea if you really think it through, because throughout history a more cynical view of human nature has been used by those in power to legitimize power differences and hierarchy.”