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Employment for all

from Asad Zaman

Global experience shows that market economies create massive inequalities, enriching the top one per cent, while leaving the bottom of the population far behind. One key to prosperity is to provide productive jobs for all who would like to participate in the production process. Unfortu­nately, contemporary macroeconomics, which was blind to the possibility of the global financial crisis, is not equipped with the ideas and tools required to create full employment.

Conventional macro blames the poor for their poverty, and suggests education and training to fit them into existing jobs. However, the private sector does not naturally create enough jobs to employ everyone. Experience with Keynesian remedies shows that expansionary monetary policy starts to create inflation a long time before full employment is achieved. Modern Monetary Theory provides a genuine alternative, a job guarantee (JG) programme.

Instead of preparing people to fit them into existing or potential private sector jobs by providing them with education and training, we must create jobs tailored to the people. Jobs should be provided to take people as and where they are. Skills should be provided via on-the-job training. There are a huge number of jobs which require low levels of skill and education, and provide enormous benefits to society, but are not profit-making for the private sector.

Planting trees, building roads, cleaning dams, infrastructure projects, a range of social services, all provide benefits to society, and make a measurable impact on appropriate measures of GNP, but may not be privately profitable.   read more . . . 

  1. Patrick Newman
    May 17, 2019 at 2:43 pm

    There are an almost infinite number of jobs that local government can create for benefiting the community if they did not have to resort to taxation to fund them. Local economies would benefit from the extra purchasing power and consequently avoiding state and federal expenditure on the unemployed could be a major source of funding for these jobs.

    • Helen Sakho
      May 17, 2019 at 3:36 pm

      We can conclude then that so much global poverty, misery and destitution must have had something to do with the placebo effects that Keynes et al used to control the masses. Only now poor people need stronger medicine. But where should they get them from one wonders!

    • Craig
      May 17, 2019 at 6:50 pm

      This is why the new paradigm of direct monetary distributism is essential to awaken to and its consumer price deflationary policies of a universal dividend and 50% discount/rebate at retail sale. A part time job at even a minimum wage of $8/hr. ($640/mo), a dividend of $1000/mo both doubled in potential purchasing power by a 50% discount/rebate policy equals $3280/mo and $39,360/yr and $78,720 for a two adult household. People would obviously love this and businesses would also love it because of the tremendous increase in potential purchasing power for their products and services. It’s integrative of traditionally opposed agendas. When everyone either has a job and/or a dividend payment for life what do we need transfer taxes for unemployment insurance or for a redundant social security system? Again integrative because workers and businesses both pay taxes for those now redundant things.

      Inflation? Not with a 50% discount to every consumer item and an additional 50% discount at note signing for homes powered by solar or other non-fossil fuel sources (same second 50% discount for all products that reduce CO2 emissions). Incentivize price stability with tax breaks, punish monopoly price cutting and unjustified price increases made without actual cost increases and create the department of the bully pulpit to castigate “those anti-social commercial decision makers for trying to greedily destabilize the new abundant and ecologically sane system” and if they persist in trying to do so “you’re going to lose your 50% discount/rebate privileges, baby.”

      MMT, Financial instability hypothesis, financial parasitism? Great reform ideas. Wisdomics-Gracenomics? The new paradigm vision of economics and the money system. Wake up and stand up on your own hind legs and demand it.

  2. Craig
    May 17, 2019 at 11:51 pm

    The paradigm change of Wisdomics-Gracenomics and its policies and structural changes IS THE QUINTESSENTIAL CULTURAL/PATTERN CHANGE. It’s good, it’s WAAAAY GOOD for everyone and every agent EXCEPT private finance. It doesn’t reform and tweak problems it resolves them in the way paradigms do, by complete inversion/transformation of current
    realities.

    If the erudite economists, pundits and small to medium sized
    business community would simply look at the temporal, empirical and problem resolving effects of its policies (particularly the way it can get us “off the dime” toward the implementation of positive ecological effects with the double 50% discount/rebate policy for non-fossil fuel consumer purchases and the ending of the idiocy of financing for ecological sanity being “too expensive”) ….then WHAT IS THERE TO ARGUE ABOUT? ESPECIALLY WHEN THE ALL THE REFORMERS CAN COME UP WITH IS FAR LESSER BUT ALIGNED REFORMS????

    Think about it.

  3. Ken Zimmerman
    May 23, 2019 at 1:19 pm

    Does everyone want to work, or be employed? The history of work in western culture is an interesting one. There is no agreed-on definition of work. In early human societies work and leisure are not easy to distinguish. In medieval Europe it could be similarly difficult to tell where work ended and leisure began; for many pastimes were not so much recreations as the training rituals of a society organized for war: the tournament for the upper classes, archery for the people, riding, wrestling, and similar rehearsals for future conflict. Even chess was a war game. Till the end of the western Middle-Ages all the population, men and women, the young and the old, had some sort of economic role to play. Young children herded animals. Aristocratic ladies cooked and did embroidery. No firm line separated the ’employed’ from the ‘unemployed’; and work was less a separate domain than a dimension of all aspects of life. Yet though everyone worked in one way or another, the modern undifferentiated abstraction, ‘work’, was slow to emerge. By the end of the 17th century it was generally agreed that it was upon the labor of its inhabitants that a country’s prosperity depended. Some even suggested that, from the economic point of view, the labor of the common people was more productive than that of their social superiors. By this time, it had become customary to accept that productive work was the basis of civilization. In this celebration of human productive power, we see the acceptance of the idea that ‘work’ or ‘industry’ was something common to an infinite range of different occupations. This notion was to be the foundation of what economists came to know as the labor theory of value. For the most famous proponent of that theory, Karl Marx, as for many other 19th century theorists, work was the defining feature of humans. It was the purposive effort of men and women to ensure their survival and to meet their ever-growing needs. This was said to be a uniquely human quality. The development of capitalism over the last three hundred years has been accompanied by another invention, the free labor market. Typically, an employed person sells his or her labor for a defined period, and that labor is usually performed away from the worker’s residence. This system makes possible a much clearer distinction between work and leisure, and between work and the home, and divides up the work-day and work-week clearly between work and leisure. The system also draws a distinction between persons employed in this way and those who, like children, the retired, and the unemployed, supposedly do not work. The line is not always a clear one, as the case of the spouse who manages the household demonstrates, but it makes it somewhat easier to determine which activities should or should not be counted as ‘work.’ In the end, however, we must recognize that the definition of work is not a neutral matter. The term’s differing meanings embody different parts of historical development and different socio-cultural viewpoints. Just as the male economists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries were reluctant to accept that unpaid household work was really work, preferring to classify it as an ‘unproductive’ activity, so modern activists are unwilling to accept that the Queen is working when she gives a garden party. In the era of the Reformation, Protestants denounced monks as idle parasites; for them, the contemplative life could not count as work. In North America the early English colonists lamented the idleness of the native Americans, who were warriors and hunters; as the English saw it, it was only the women who were engaged in real work, agriculture. Businesspersons and manual workers have always been skeptical about the existence of such a thing as intellectual work.

    In David Copperfield Dickens makes Uriah Heep complain that when he was at school, “(the same school where I picked up so much umbleness),” he was taught, “from nine o’clock to eleven, that labour was a curse; and from eleven o’clock to one, that it was a blessing and a cheerfulness, and a dignity, and I don’t know what all, eh?” The same inconsistency runs through the history of work. On the one hand, from earliest western history, work has been fashioned as a curse, a result of the ‘Fall’ and a punishment for sin. It was assumed that work was a thing that everyone would naturally try to avoid, whether they were ‘savages’ lounging in the tropical sun, or European aristocrats, pursuing an existence of conspicuous leisure, or the commercial elite pursuing a life of conspicuous consumption. The ideal society was a place of Cockayne, where all things came by nature and the need to work had vanished. On the other hand, work was widely admired as a divine activity, practiced by God during the creation of the world and by Adam and Eve in Eden. It was a sacred duty and the source of all human comforts, creating wealth and making civilization possible. It was a cure for boredom and melancholy, and a remedy for vice. It was the only sure route to genuine human community, happiness, health, contentment, and personal fulfilment. It structured the day, gave opportunities for sociability and companionship, fostered pride in individual creativity, and created a sense of personal identity. Idleness could never make people happy; the ideal society was one in which there was satisfying work available for everybody. The classical economists took the first of these two views. Adam Smith agreed with Dr. Johnson that commonplace people were naturally idlers. It was axiomatic that humans preferred leisure to work. Labor meant ‘toil and trouble’. It was undertaken only for the sake of remuneration, what in North America is still revealingly called ‘compensation.’ The object of working was to acquire wealth; the object of wealth was to avoid having to work. It was widely believed that the laboring classes, worked only out of necessity: to avoid starvation, or to acquire additional goods that they coveted for their practical utility or as a means of keeping ahead of their neighbors. Without either stick or carrot, the inertial force of human indolence would be sure to reassert itself.

    In the 12th and 13th centuries European theologians gave work a more positive status, stressing its social and moral benefits and repeating St. Benedict’s observation that idleness was the enemy of the soul. But they did not represent work as innately satisfying. Neither did the many proponents of the work ethic who emerged in the late medieval and early modern periods. For the Puritans in England and America, work was praiseworthy because St. Paul had said that those who did not work should not eat; because work fostered a spirit of renunciation, and was good for the character; because it made people healthier; and because society functioned more smoothly when everyone had a lawful calling. Above all, work was good because idleness was a dangerous state that led people into many vices and disorders, particularly those associated with drink, sex, and violence. The Puritans thus said very little about the intrinsic satisfactions that work might bring with it. For them, it was a divine command; and its main advantage was that it kept people out of mischief and enabled them to provide for themselves. It’s not difficult to see these notions in some of today’s evangelical Christians, including those in the South of the USA. Nor in the political positions of some conservative(?) Republicans. Utopian scholars have speculated about a world in which the burden of work could be reduced by limiting human wants and sharing labor out among everyone. Communists and socialists have dignified manual labor and attempted to devise a social framework in which work becomes fulfilling because the worker owns and governs the means of production. In the West, most social reformers have pursued such plans as reducing the length of the working week, increasing the number of holidays, and improving pay and conditions of labor. Others look to automation as the long run means of eliminating dreary and laborious toil. And some, like in this posting look to guaranteed employment or guaranteed income, or both.

    Today, how workers see work has not changed much. Sociologists find that most workers view work as instrumental: it is a means to an end, a temporary surrender of liberty for the sake of material reward. Yet, at the same time it is known that many workers don’t want to retire or when they become able to support themselves without work, often workers don’t give up their jobs. In the words of a maid who had just won over $2 million, “I love my job, and life just wouldn’t be the same without it.” So, work can be a physical and emotional necessity for human beings, no less than an economic one. A view uncommon before the modern era (1900). For Marx, work was not just a way of securing a livelihood, it was potentially a liberating activity, leading to self-realization and freedom. Alfred Marshall also conceded that “in a healthy state, pleasure predominates over pain in a great part even of the work that is done for hire.” He believed that “as human nature is constituted, man rapidly degenerates unless he has some hard work to do, some difficulties to overcome. Nevertheless, most of those who claim to enjoy their work and to find life impossible without it were engaged not in manual toil but in relatively agreeable middle-class occupations. Is this long idyllic tradition a conspiracy to deceive the poor into thinking that they have the best of all possible worlds, and to reassure the rich that their comforts do not involve the exploitation of others? Did it show insensitivity to the hardships of the laboring poor? Or was it just another instance of the pervasive influence of classical literary models? Whatever the case, poetry does not offer much in the way of an everyday view of manual work until the appearance in the 18th century of the laborer-poet, Stephen Duck, with his unemotional account, “The Thresher’s Labour,” and the washerwoman Mary Collier, with her equally hard-bitten reply, “The Woman’s Labour.” Much writing (literary and scholarly) about work is deficient because it expresses the external view of a comfortably placed observer, with an eye for the scenic and a taste for the sight of the human body under strain. Yet there are also many persuasive accounts of the satisfactions of manual work, of pride in craftsmanship and of the self-esteem arising from achievement, even of the pleasures of work done for low wages in harsh surroundings.

    Today it appears great change is on the horizon. The tasks of producing food have long ceased to occupy most of the population, while mechanization and automation have vastly reduced the demand for manual and clerical labor. It is a commonplace to say that work is much less central to people’s existence than previously and that vast spaces of leisure and home life have opened. We are told that work is only one of many possible forms of fulfilment and that full-time employment and the life-time career will become increasingly uncommon and irrelevant. Replacing them will emerge an economy of short-term contracts, part-time work and frequent retraining. If the trend to ever greater amounts of leisure continues, the basic human impulses towards activity and social involvement that were such a crucial feature in the working patterns of the past will have to be satisfied in other ways. And this does not even consider what happens if work goes away entirely.

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