Apologies not accepted

July 20, 2017 4 comments

from Peter Radford

OK, let me get back to it:

I have just read a set of short papers over at a journal aptly named Democracy. The papers are held together under the banner:Symposium: has Economics Failed Us?

Naturally that question was sufficient to get my attention, but reading through the material was so depressing.

Why?

Because there was Jason Furman offering a defense that has all the hallmarks of an economics profession steadfastly denying its own reality.

Dean Baker was brilliant in laying down the gauntlet: his analogy was perfect. He suggested that economics has become akin to an incompetent firefighting team. They sort of have useful ideas about how to put out fires, but fail spectacularly when called upon to do so because they are burdened by too much irrelevant or wrongheaded other ideas.

Worse Baker cites an example of how convoluted and inward looking economics has become: he tells us about a paper that ended up being published by Brookings only after his collaborators [Brad DeLong and Paul Krugman] added sufficient, and irrelevant, complexity to it that editors could take it seriously.

Form, it seems, wins over function every time. Someone is not a serious economist without the right accoutrements no matter whether all that dazzling complexity is relevant. Professional advancement, prestige, and success have to be bought by ensuring that even the simplest insight is made inscrutable to outsiders. Ultimately this leads, and has led, to self-delusion. Economics deserves to be laughed at precisely because it has become laughable. The sad part is that its practitioners, most of whom are honestly toiling away at something they love, do not understand what there profession looks or sounds like from the outside. They are reduced, by their well-meant self-belief, to defend what is an increasingly indefensible exercise.   Read more…

Inequality and climate change

July 19, 2017 4 comments

from David Ruccio

The effects of climate change are, as we know, distributed unequally across locations. Therefore, the damages from climate change—in terms of agriculture, crime, coastal storms, energy, human mortality, and labor—are expected to increase world inequality, by generating a large transfer of value northward and westward from poor to rich countries.

What about within countries—specifically, the United States?

A new report, published in Science, predicts the United States will see its levels of economic inequality increase due to the uneven geographical effects of climate change—resulting in “the largest transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich in the country’s history,” according to Solomon Hsiang, the study’s lead author.   Read more…

Economics as a religion

July 19, 2017 3 comments

from Lars Syll

rapleyContrary to the tenets of orthodox economists, contemporary research suggests that, rather than seeking always to maximise our personal gain, humans still remain reasonably altruistic and selfless. Nor is it clear that the endless accumulation of wealth always makes us happier. And when we do make decisions, especially those to do with matters of principle, we seem not to engage in the sort of rational “utility-maximizing” calculus that orthodox economic models take as a given. The truth is, in much of our daily life we don’t fit the model all that well.

For decades, neoliberal evangelists replied to such objections by saying it was incumbent on us all to adapt to the model, which was held to be immutable – one recalls Bill Clinton’s depiction of neoliberal globalisation, for instance, as a “force of nature”. And yet, in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis and the consequent recession, there has been a turn against globalisation across much of the west …

Read more…

Women at work: global highlights

from Maria Alejandra Madi

The roots of gender and poverty studies began with Pearce (1978) who coined the expression ‘feminization of poverty’. Pearce considered female-headed families, excluding poor women who live in male- headed families, based on the argument that the proportion of families headed by women among the poor has been  increasing since the 1950s. In her opinion, women have become poorer because of their gender.

The recent dynamics of the global labour market has reinforced the precariousness of women’s employment and working conditions. Among other issues, the recent global highlights about the participation of women in the labour markets are listed below:

Unemployment: Women are more likely to be unemployed than men, with global unemployment rates of 5.5 per cent for men and 6.2 per cent for women

Informal Work:      In 2015, a total of 586 million women were own-account or contributing family workers. Many working women remain in occupations that are more likely to consist of informal work arrangements

Wage and salaried jobs: Moreover, 52.1 per cent of women and 51.2 per cent of men in the labour market are wage and salaried workers.

Jobs and occupations by economic sectors:  Globally, the services sector has overtaken agriculture as the sector that employs the highest number of women and men. In the period between 1995 and 2015, women are employed in the services sector: since 1995, women’s employment in services has increased from 41.1 per cent to 61.5 per cent.

High-skilled occupations: High-skilled occupations expanded faster for women than for men in emerging economies where there is a gender gap in high-skilled employment in women’s favour.

Part-time jobs: Globally, women represent less than 40 per cent of total  employment, but make up 57 per cent of those working on a part-time basis.

Hours of work: Across the global labour scenario, one fourth of women in employment (25.7 per cent) work more than 48 hours a week, mainly in Eastern , Western and Central Asia, where almost half of  women employed work more than 48 hours a week.

Gender wage gap: Globally, women earn 77 per cent of what men earn. 

Indeed, although women have been increasing their participation rate in the labor market in the last decades, they worked in more precarious occupations. This situation characterized by precarious jobs, mainly based on short-term contracts, enhances the vulnerability of workers, mainly women, as the financialization of management strategies turns out to be subordinated to economic efficiency targets, that shape employment relations, overwhelmed by longer working hours, job destruction, turnover and outsourcing. Workforce displacement and loss of rights could also be part of the spectrum of management alternatives aimed at cost reduction. In addition to the wage gap, women’s participation is stronger in the services sector where working hours are longer and wages lower.    read more

Modern economists: The Inept Firefighters’ Club

July 18, 2017 3 comments

from Dean Baker

Suppose that our fire department was staffed with out-of-shape incompetents who didn’t know how to handle a fire hose. That would be really bad news, but it wouldn’t be obvious most of the time because we don’t often see major fires. The inadequacy of the fire department would become apparent only when a major fire hit and we were left with a vast amount of unnecessary death and destruction. This is essentially the story of modern economics.

The problem is not that modern economics lacks the tools needed to understand the economy. Just as with firefighting, the basics have been well known for a long time. The problem is with the behavior and the incentive structure of the practitioners. There is overwhelming pressure to produce work that supports the status quo (i.e. redistributing to the rich), that doesn’t question authority, and that is needlessly complex. The result is a discipline in which much of the work is of little use, except to legitimate the existing power structure. In terms of the poor quality of work, it is easy to point to the failure to recognize the size and risks posed by the housing bubble in the last decade. This failure has been unbelievably costly to the United States and the rest of the world. If we compare the most recent estimates of the potential GDP of the U.S. economy from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) with the projections made in 2008, before the severity of the crash was recognized, the difference is $1.8 trillion. This is an annual figure; it implies a loss of $18 trillion over the course of the decade. This amount averages out to more than $54,000 for every person in the country. Other countries have seen even larger losses.   Read more…

Rocking the boat

July 18, 2017 6 comments

from David Ruccio

As I argued a couple of days ago, recent events—such as Brexit, Donald Trump’s presidency, and the rise of Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn—have surprised many experts and shaken up the existing common sense. In short, they’ve rocked the neoliberal boat.

The question is, where does this leave us?

Thomas Edsall thinks it means we’ve reached the end of class-based politics. I’m not convinced.

Yes, the response to the problems with neoliberal globalization has challenged and cut across traditional party families and their positions on domestic matters, in the United States as in Western Europe. But that doesn’t mean the differences between the Left and the Right have disintegrated or that class politics have become irrelevant.

To take but one of Edsall’s examples, just because there’s no one-to-one correspondence between people who have lost and gained from existing forms of globalization and those who voted for or against Donald Trump doesn’t mean class has declined in political importance, much less that it’s been displaced by a simple “globalism versus nationalism” opposition. Plenty of voters in economic distress voted for Trump and for Clinton—in part because of their different ways of framing class issues, but also because class politics have always been overlain with other, salient identities, resentments, and desires. The 2016 presidential election was no exception.   Read more…

Why not even Paul Krugman is a real Keynesian

July 18, 2017 5 comments

from Lars Syll

Keynes’s insights have enormous practical importance, according to Lance Taylor and Duncan Foley …

But isn’t Keynes now mainstream? No, say Foley and Taylor. The mainstream still sees economies as inherently moving to an optimal equilibrium … It still says demand causes short-run fluctuations, but only supply factors, such as the capital stock and technology, can affect long-run growth.

EVEN PAUL KRUGMAN, a self-described Keynesian, Nobel laureate, and New York Times columnist, writes in the 2012 edition of his textbook: “In the long run the economy is self-correcting: shocks to aggregate demand affect aggregate output in the short run but not in the long run” …

KeynesUpsidedownKrugman does point to one exception: If interest rates are nearly zero, as during the financial crisis, markets lose restorative force. But, Taylor asks, what’s the logic?

Keynes saw capitalism’s general state as allowing almost arbitrary unemployment: hence his “General Theory.” Full employment was a lucky exception.

To Taylor, calling full employment the general state and allowing one unlucky exception turns Keynes upside down.

Jonathan Schlefer

Iy is difficult not to agree with Taylor and Foley. To a large degree one does get the impression that Krugman thinks he is a Keynesian because he is a stout believer in John Hicks IS-LM interpretation of Keynes.  Read more…

(Modified) Irish national income Q1, 2017.

Update 18-7-2017: see also, much more extensive and in depth but along the same lines, the Financial Times.

To circumvent the internationally approved rules of national accounting, irish economists developed new national income indicators: Modified Gross National Income and Modified Total Domestic Demand. They were right to do this. And these are not minor changes. Modified Income is almost a third (a third!) lower than ‘normal’ income. AlsoIn today’s quarterly results, the modified Total Domestic Demand indicator decreased by 2.7% in Quarter 1 2017, while the traditional indicator decreased by 17.3%’. Wow.

What are the differences between the indicators and why did the Irish statisticians do this? First, a quote from the press release of Irish National Income in Q1, 2017:

Modified GNI (or GNI*) is defined as GNI less the effects of the profits of re-domiciled companies and the depreciation of intellectual property products and aircraft leasing companies.  This new indicator of the level of the Irish economy will be a useful additional input to debt ratio analysis.

Modified Total Domestic Demand is defined as Total Domestic Demand less the effects of the trade in aircraft by aircraft leasing companies and the imports of intellectual property.  This modified indicator gives insight into the activity within the domestic economy and is designed to be more closely related to employment growth as it is focuses on the physical capital used to produce domestic output

Read more…

How rich would Bill Gates be without his copyright on Windows?

July 17, 2017 5 comments

from Dean Baker

Suppose we lived in a world where Bill Gates could not get copyright or patent protection for Windows and other Microsoft products. Anyone who wanted could duplicate these products without charge, sending Bill Gates a thank you note, if they were so inspired.

In that world, Bill Gates would certainly not be the world’s richest human with a fortune of more than $70 billion. Even without copyright protection Mr. Gates would probably still be doing fine — he seems reasonably bright, works hard and comes from a wealthy family — but he would not have amassed his huge fortune if he could not get government granted monopolies on his software.

This simple and obvious point matters because it is popular in many circles to claim that income inequality is just an inevitable, even if unfortunate, result of technology and globalization. In fact, there is nothing inevitable about patent and copyright protection; these monopolies exist as a result of government policy. The fact that Bill Gates and many others have gotten hugely rich as a result of these protections is a result of government policy, not an inevitable outcome of technological progress.  Read more…

‘Money as electricity’ – redux

July 17, 2017 4 comments

Morris_A__CopelandThe heterodox heritage of economic statistics is underestimated. Too often I encounter the idea that heterodox economics does not provide an alternative to mainstream economics, let alone economic measurement. Ahem. Instead of ignoring (data on) unemployment (Robert Lucas!) or ignoring (data on) money and the monetary system (more on this below), it were heterodox economists who set out to measure it. To quite an extent, economic statistics are the heterodox alternative people want to see, surely when it comes to macro-economics . If alone because unlike mainstream macro it does carefully define variables – modern science! The mainstream equivalent of the tedious statistical manuals which economic statistics use to do this is entirely absent! One example of such data are the Flow of Funds. Read more…

Technology, employment, and distribution

July 17, 2017 2 comments

from David Ruccio

New technologies—automationroboticsartificial intelligence—have created a specter of mass unemployment. But, as critical as I am of existing economic institutions, I don’t see that as the issue, at least at the macro level. The real problem is the distribution of the value that is produced with the assistance of the new technologies—in short, the specter of growing inequality.

David Autor and Anna Salomons (pdf) are the latest to attempt to answer the question about technology and employment in their contribution to the recent ECB Forum on Central Banking. Their empirical work leads to the conclusion that while “industry-level employment robustly falls as industry productivity rises. . .country-level employment generally grows as aggregate productivity rises.”

To me, their results make sense. But for a different reason.

fredgraph

It is clear that, in many sectors—perhaps especially in manufacturing—the growth in output (the red line in the chart above) is due to the growth in labor productivity (the blue line) occasioned by the use of new technologies, which in turn has led to a decline in manufacturing employment (the green line).   Read more…

The deadweight economy

July 16, 2017 4 comments

Is there a decoupling of economic growth and use of materials? On the national scale: sometimes. On the global scale: absolutely not. From The Journal of Industrial Ecology:

The international industrial ecology (IE) research community and United Nations (UN) Environment have, for the first time, agreed on an authoritative and comprehensive data set for global material extraction and trade covering 40 years of global economic activity and natural resource use. This new data set is becoming the standard information source for decision making at the UN in the context of the post-2015 development agenda, which acknowledges the strong links between sustainable natural resource management, economic prosperity, and human well-being. Only if economic growth and human development can become substantially decoupled from accelerating material use, waste, and emissions can the tensions inherent in the Sustainable Development Goals be resolved and inclusive human development be achieved. In this paper, we summarize the key findings of the assessment study to make the IE research community aware of this new global research resource. The global results show a massive increase in materials extraction from 22 billion tonnes (Bt) in 1970 to 70 Bt in 2010, and an acceleration in material extraction since 2000. This acceleration has occurred at a time when global population growth has slowed and global economic growth has stalled. The global surge in material extraction has been driven by growing wealth and consumption and accelerating trade. A material footprint perspective shows that demand for materials has grown even in the wealthiest parts of the world. Low-income countries have benefited least from growing global resource availability and have continued to deliver primary materials to high-income countries while experiencing few improvements in their domestic material living standards. Material efficiency, the amount of primary materials required per unit of economic activity, has declined since around 2000 because of a shift of global production from very material-efficient economies to less-efficient ones. This global trend of recoupling economic activity with material use, driven by industrialization and urbanization in the global South, most notably Asia, has negative impacts on a suite of environmental and social issues, including natural resource depletion, climate change, loss of biodiversity, and uneven economic development.
 

A new perspective on microfoundations

July 16, 2017 1 comment

from Lars Syll

Defenders of microfoundations and its rational expectations equipped representative agent’s intertemporal optimization often argue as if sticking with simple representative agent macroeconomic models doesn’t impart a bias to the analysis. I unequivocally reject that unsubstantiated view, and have given the reasons why here.

These defenders often also maintain that there are no methodologically coherent alternatives to microfoundations modeling. That allegation is of course difficult to evaluate, substantially hinging on how coherence is defined. But one thing I do know, is that the kind of microfoundationalist macroeconomics that New Classical economists and “New Keynesian” economists are pursuing, are not methodologically coherent according to the standard coherence definition (see e. g. here). And that ought to be rather embarrassing for those ilks of macroeconomists to whom axiomatics and deductivity is the hallmark of science tout court.

ba7658c533d4de20cf77161b8910d903cab9cbe6_m

The fact that Lucas introduced rational expectations as a consistency axiom is not really an argument to why we should accept it as an acceptable assumption in a theory or model purporting to explain real macroeconomic processes (see e. g. here). And although virtually any macroeconomic empirical claim is contestable, so is any claim in micro (see e. g. here).

On this issue I think Paul Krugman comes closer to truth than his “New Keynesian” buddies with his remark that  Read more…

A job-killing robot for rich people

July 16, 2017 3 comments

from Dean Baker

In the last couple years, the financial transactions tax (FTT) has moved from a fringe idea to a policy proposal treated seriously by even the mainstream of the Democratic Party. The decision by Senator Bernie Sanders to make it a central part of his presidential campaign certainly helped, but a number of members of Congress, including Keith Ellison and Peter DeFazio, have also pushed FTT proposals for many years.

The FTT is also gaining momentum overseas. There’s a push to enact an FTT in the eurozone. And in England, an expanded FTT — the London stock exchange has long levied a 0.5 percent tax on stock trades — was included in the Labour Party’s platform in the recent election.

But while the idea of taxing financial transactions is growing more popular, even many of its proponents don’t realize its full benefits. An FTT is usually seen as a way to raise large amounts of revenue (in the US, it could possibly generate as much as $190 billion a year, or 1 percent of GDP). Or it is viewed as a means to limit speculative trading in the financial sector, potentially making markets less volatile.

The best argument for an FTT, however, is that it can sharply reduce some of the highest incomes in the economy by curtailing the trading that makes those incomes possible. As a result, it can play a large role in reversing the upward redistribution of income that we’ve seen over the last four decades.

Investors …   Read more…

‘Til debt do us part

July 15, 2017 2 comments

from David Ruccio

fredgraph (1)

Sometimes you just have to sit back and admire capitalism’s ingenuity.

It’s able to make profits twice over. First, capitalists know that, when they keep workers’ wages down—even when there’s “full employment”—they can make spectacular profits. And, second, they can make additional profits by loaning money to those same workers, who are desperate to purchase goods and services and send their children to college, thereby financing the demand for the goods and services industrial capitalists need to sell to realize their profits.

Thus, as we can see in the chart at the top of the post, the amount of consumer credit is once again soaring to record highs. In relation to personal income, consumer credit fell after the Great Recession (to just under 20 percent in December 2012)—as households “deleveraged”—and then it began to rise once again, reaching 23.3 percent four years later.  Read more…

Krugman vs Syll on the IS-LM model

July 15, 2017 5 comments

from Lars Syll

islmSome time ago yours truly ventured to question Paul Krugman for his unadulterated devotion to the IS-LM model. For years self-proclaimed “proud neoclassicist” Paul Krugman had in endless harpings on the same IS-LM string told us about the splendour of the Hicksian invention.

Krugman’s response contained nothing new. In an earlier post on his blog, Krugman had argued that ‘Keynesian’ macroeconomics more than anything else “made economics the model-oriented field it has become.” In Krugman’s eyes, Keynes was a “pretty klutzy modeler,” and it was only thanks to Samuelson’s famous 45-degree diagram and Hicks’s IS-LM that things got into place. Although admitting that economists have a tendency to use ”excessive math” and “equate hard math with quality” he still vehemently defends — and always have — the mathematization of economics:

I’ve seen quite a lot of what economics without math and models looks like — and it’s not good.

Sure, ‘New Keynesian’ economists like Mankiw and Krugman — and their forerunners, ‘Keynesian’ economists like Paul Samuelson and (young) John Hicks — certainly have contributed to making economics more mathematical and “model-oriented.”   Read more…

Is there a housing bubble in the EU? Not everywhere.

July 13, 2017 1 comment

Houses1

House price developments in the EU show large differences in development – which makes the task for monetary and fiscal policy even more difficult.

One of the beneficial consequences of the Great Financial Crisis is that economic statisticians at for instance Eurostat or the Bank for International Settlements spend more effort on assembling house prices , though The Economist deserves praise as it led the way about 15 years ago. What do these data tell us? Low interest rates are criticized by some economists as these should encourage asset price bubbles. Houses are our most important asset. Are house prices in the EU at this moment increasing too fast?

Not yet in Southern Europe. Spanish prices show a considerable increase but the level in Spain is still low. And prices in France and Italy do not show any meaningful increase, while Italian levels are low.

However… Swedish prices are of the chart. Dutch prices are rapidly increasing (and continued to do so during the first six months of 2017). German prices have, by now, increased with a third (house ownership in Germany is less common than in many other countries but the increase means that there will, quite soon, be a push to sell houses to renters – who of course have to borrow from the big banks). yes, there is a northern European bubble. And it is rapidly inflating: during the last six months (not in the graph) prices have continued to increase.

The house price bubble has not exactly the same characteristics as the previous one. The previous bubble was financed by credit and money creation. The money created was to a considerable extent stacked away by the sellers (who often inherited these houses) in long-term deposits and is now used again to finance new house purchases. In selected cities, like Amsterdam, house prices are exploding (+21% in one year, I read somewhere) which is to an extent influenced by Airbnb. Nevertheless – house prices show continued increases which are way higher than the increases of nominal income of households, even including Airbnb income. Actions have to be taken: a gradual increase (with clear forward guidance) of land value taxes (the money raised has to be used to lower VAT on labor), a gradual decrease of Loan to Value ratio’s (with clear forward guidance) and a gradual banishment of tax deductions of interest paid (with clear forward guidance).

It won’t happen.

The nature of growth: three visions

July 12, 2017 6 comments

Do we need growth? Do we need technology? Is technology ‘neutral’ in the sense that its appearance and use can be understood without historical context? The Journal of Industrial Ecology has a special issue about such ideas. I love the kind of calculations they do about flows of stuff. But Vincent Moreau, Marlyne Sahakian, Pascal van Griethuysen and Francois Vuille have an apt observation.

In light of the environmental consequences of linear production and consumption processes, the circular economy (CE) is gaining momentum … promoting closed material cycles by focusing on multiple strategies from material recycling to product reuse, as well as rethinking production and consumption chains toward increased resource efficiency. Yet, by considering mainly cost-effective opportunities within the realm of economic competitiveness, it stops short of grappling with the institutional and social predispositions necessary for societal transitions to a CE. The distinction of noncompetitive and not-for-profit activities remains to be addressed, along with other societal questions relating to labor conditions, wealth distribution, and governance systems. … We examine the CE from a biophysical and social perspective to show that the concept lacks the social and institutional dimensions to address the current material and energy throughput in the economy. We show that reconsidering labor is essential .

See also Branko Milanovic about the”Need and inevitability of growth”: Read more…

What Macron should know about the win-win-win-win-win consequences of the new German minimum wage

July 12, 2017 3 comments

Recently, Germany introduced an economy wide minimum wage. This led to better jobs, better incomes, an increase in productivity, no upsurge in inflation and no decline of employment growth:

“Higher wages, shorter hours The comparison of both worker groups shows that the minimum wage has worked. As intended, the hourly wage of the interviewed minimum wage workers rose from €6.70 to €8.20, an impressive 22 percent. This is a multiple of the wage increase in the control group, which amounted to 4 percent. However, this also shows that the average hourly wage had not yet reached the minimum wage of €8.50, which is not due to exemptions from the minimum wage (we excluded these from the data). At the same time, weekly working hours of minimum wage workers fell by 90 minutes, whereas working time in the control group increased somewhat. In particular, the share of employees with very long working hours of more than 45 fell markedly. This also runs counter to the trend of the control group. Finally, despite lower average working hours, the monthly gross wage climbed from roughly €840 to €990. This is important, since it is the gross wage more than the hourly wage that matters for being able to meet living expenses.

Happier despite higher workload

These results paint the minimum wage in glowing colours for affected workers. However, how did companies react? Manager interviews conducted in another IAB survey showed that firms focused more on raising worker productivity than on layoffs. Our results confirm this from a worker perspective.”

Involuntary unemployment in the Eurozone, the rest of the EU and the USA: elevated and high

July 11, 2017 4 comments

SaveIn the USA and the EU, employment is up and unemployment is down. But unemployment is not yet low. Unemployment rates have to decline more (a bit in the USA, a lot in the EU) and participation rates have to recover (a lot in the USA, a bit in the EU). In the EU, there are large differences between countries (compare Spain with Germany). But on the macro level, there is still a large reservoir of involuntary unemployment and, looking at the participation rates, people who have given up altogether.

For practical reasons (it always takes time and effort to find a job), unemployment will never be zero. But we can account for this and look at “involuntary unemployment” only. In a statistical sense, we might define involuntary unemployment as the number of unemployed which, after a reasonable time, still have not yet found a new job. Available data led me to set this ‘reasonable time’ to one quarter for the EU and to 15 weeks for the USA, the data are shown in graph 1 (German data not available!). In the USA, there are still over 2 million people who were unemployed for 15 weeks or more. Which is way lower than in 2009 – but still 2 million. The comparable figure for the Euro zone is, ahem, 9,7 million and for the non-Euro zone EU about 1,7 million. And though the employment to population ratio in the USA is finally rising in a serious way, it is still way below the per 2008 level (let alone the much higher level of the end of the twentieth century). Aside – the nefarious consequences of the combination of monetary tightening and government austerity in the Euro zone after 2010 clearly show.

Meta: John Maynard Keynes once invented, or at least popularized, the word: “involuntary unemployment”. This means something as: “even when the unemployed are willing to accept a wage cut to find work – they won’t find it”. To restate this in the language of modern data on labor market flows: “even when, during a slump, the wage rate is cut this won’t increase the net outflow (gross outflow minus gross inflow) from the reservoir of unemployed”. One of the reasons for this is the non-existence of individual wages. A wage cut is not a wage cut for an individual worker – but a cut to the ‘market rate’, a ‘wages cut’. That’s the way labor markets work. And worked: historical data on wages very clearly show the existence of very stable market wide wage rates for carpenters, agricultural labor, masons and whatever even in a time when government interference with wage rates was much less than today.

Update: more meta. The way the unemployment data used above are measured ensures that it shows that on the individual level ‘measured unemployment’ is involuntary too, as the unemployed are asked if they are actively trying to change their situation. This is related to but not the same kind as the ‘involuntary unemployment’ referred to above which is probably best explained by the fact that the people in the unemployment reservoir might, in one year, be very different people than in the preceding or the next year. A not entirely satisfying aspect of the definition of involuntary unemployment used above is that even when people get new jobs quite fast they still might encounter many short spells of unemployment, leading to high average unemployment.