Work is important for human well-being

I am now in Kansas City for the next several days, so blogs might come at odd times. I am getting close to finalising the manuscript for my next book (this one with co-author, Italian journalist Thomas Fazi) which traces the way the Left fell prey to what we call the globalisation myth and started to believe that the state had withered and was powerless in the face of the transnational movements of goods and services and capital flows. Accordingly, social democratic politicians frequently opine that national economic policy must be acceptable to the global financial markets and compromise the well-being of their citizens as a result. In Part 3 of the book, which we are now completing, we aim to present a ‘Progressive Manifesto’ to guide policy design and policy choices for progressive governments. We also hope that the ‘Manifesto’ will empower community groups by demonstrating that the TINA mantra, where these alleged goals of the amorphous global financial markets are prioritised over real goals like full employment, renewable energy and revitalised manufacturing sectors is bereft and a range of policy options, now taboo in this neo-liberal world, are available. One proposal that seems to have captivated so-called progressive political forces is that of the need for a basic income guarantee. As regular readers will know I am a leading advocate for employment guarantees. I consider basic income proposals to represent a surrender to the neo-liberal forces – an acceptance of the inevitability of mass unemployment. In that sense, the proponents have been beguiled by the notion that the state can do nothing about the unemployment. It is curious that they think the state is thus powerful enough to redistribute income. I also consider basic income proposals demonstrate a lack of imagination of what work could become and a very narrow conception of the role of work in human well-being. This blog will be the first in several (probably about four) where I sketch the arguments that will be developed (but more tightly edited) in the final manuscript.

Falling prey to the gainful worker construct

The labour force data statistics (employment, unemployment, participation rates) influence the political narrative on a regular (usually monthly basis). Each time a national statistical agency releases the latest survey estimates there are headlines in the media and all manner of claims by politicians to defend their policy positions (almost irrespective of the actual outcome).

The statistics are collected and disseminated on definitions specified in the ‘Labour Force Framework’, and represents international agreements between national statistical agencies. Activity is the basic concept – a person becomes active by working or seeking work and is inactive if they do neither of these things. There are complex rules to demarcate different status locations within the Framework (employed, unemployed, etc).

Prior to the formal introduction of the ‘Labour Force Framework’ as a result of the Great Depression, the major approach to collecting labour market data largely ignored unemployment.

For example, the so-called ‘gainful worker’ framework, which goes back to the early C19th, considered workers to be ‘gainfully employed’ if they were in a ‘gainful occupation’ (Hauser, 1949: 339):

A ‘gainful occupation’ in Census usage is an occupation by which the person who pursues it earns money, or money equivalent, or in which he assists in the production of marketable goods.

[Reference: Hauser, P.M. (1949) ‘The Labor Force and Gainful Workers-Concept, Measurement, and Comparability’, American Journal of Sociology, 54(4), 338-355 – JStor link.]

The Labour Force framework replaced the ‘gainful worker’ approach as a basis for collecting labour market statistics in the 1930s because unemployment became a major concern and there were no formal processes for measuring this problem.

Hauser (1949: 340) wrote:

In the glare of the public spotlight, it was clear that no one had the facts on the most important problem which was facing the nation at the time – mass unemployment. The focus of public attention on the unemployment problem and its political importance undoubtedly gave great impetus to the many experimental surveys conducted during the thirties, out of which a new concept and method of measuring the labor supply emerged.

However, while the ‘gainful worker’ concept was considered an inadequate basis for collecting and disseminating labour force statistics as a guide to policy, the bias it imparted on the way we think of productive employment persisted.

The gainful worker was effectively considered to be engaged in activities that advanced private profit rather than societal well-being. Other activities, particularly public sector employment held a lower ‘status’ and in many situations are not considered productive at all.

Similarly, the concept of productivity has been conceived as a private ‘market’ concept rather than being associated with outcomes that advance general well-being.

This bias was passed onto stigmatisation of public sector job creation programs where terminology such as boondoggling and leaf-raking! and ‘make work schemes’ entered the nomenclature to condition the public at large that nothing good comes from these types of programs.

Such is the public perception of public sector job creation which have been constructed by opponents as ‘make work’ schemes. How many times have you heard a conservative politician say that such ventures do not create ‘real’ jobs?

In 1958, the US experienced a sharp recession and with the unemployment rate in February 1958 and the debate sharpened on what should be done. The Time Magazine on Monday, February 24, 1958 reported that the Republican Vice President, Richard Nixon attacked Democrat proposals to introduce widespread job creation programs.

Nixon was quoted as saying:

The battle cry of the Administration’s opponents is obviously going to be ‘Depression is just around the corner.’ Some are urging us to go back to the multibillion-dollar leaf-raking boondoggling which failed so miserably in the 1930s … [if the Democrats are] … betting on depression … [the Republicans are] … betting on prosperity.

The key Democratic state Governors sent a “telegram” to President Eisenhower requesting that he introduce a “practical program to combat the growing national recession.”

The Democrat majority leader in the US Senate, Lyndon Baines Johnson said the Democrats were drafting a ten-point antirecession program, which would concentrate on widespread public works, and suggested a return to the Works Progress Administration (WPA) programs that were introduced under the New Deal during the Great Depression.

Just as now, the conservatives wanted tax cuts while the Democrats wanted direct job creation programs.

Nixon dismissed the plan, saying:

If the choice is between a boondoggling public program on a massive scale and a tax cut, I for one would be for a tax cut. It would give an immediate impetus to the economy.

Dismissing public sector jobs (especially those created as part of a fiscal stimulus) as ‘boondoggling and leaf-raking’ activities, at best, allows the conservatives to denigrate calls for the public sector to employ unemployed workers to work on community development projects at a minimum wage.

But at the same time, the same conservatives laud the virtues of the private sector as they create hundreds of thousands of low-skill, low-paid, precarious and mind-numbing jobs that leave such workers in ‘working poverty’.

This is also despite a long history where public sector job creation schemes have left massive positive legacies for those engaged in them and for future generations who benefit from the outputs generated.

For example, during the Great Depression, US President Roosevelt’s New Deal was introduced as the private sector was in full-scale retreat from job creation. The Public Works Administration (PWA), which was part of the New Deal, created hundreds of thousands of jobs and the work helped restore ageing public infrastructure (such as, roads, dams and bridges).

Many new buildings were constructed during this period (schools, recreational spaces, libraries, hospitals), which have delivered benefits to the generations that followed.

Harry Kelber (2008) wrote that the WPA meant that:

Thousands of unemployed writers, actors, musicians and painters were given an opportunity to earn a modest livelihood from their artistic talents … and to enrich the lives of countless culturally-deprived citizens. The productions of the WPA Theater Project, for example, entertained a phenomenal audience totaling 60 million people, a great many who had never before seen a play.

The Tennessee Valley Authority was a huge hydro-electricity project introduced during this period and brought electricity and prosperity to some of the poorest rural areas of the US.

At the time, Kelber (2008) notes that the private electricity providers stridently opposed the challenge to their monopoly control. The upshot was that the project forced them to reduce their power charges.

In general, the dynamism of the public sector at that time caused huge outcries from the capitalists who didn’t want challenges to their cosy profit making industries from public sector enterprise.

But societal well-being was unambigously advanced.

[Reference: Kelber, H. (2008) ‘How the New Deal Created Millions of Jobs To Lift the American People from Depression’, The Labor Educator, May 9, 2008. LINK.]

There are many other examples of public sector job creation outcomes that have left valuable legacies over the years across many countries.

The bias against public sector job creation programs is also in despite of evaluation evidence. Melvin M. Brodsky (2000: 31) conducted the outcomes of job creation programs that have been introduced in many OECD nations and concluded that:

Public-service employment programs … may be the only effective way to aid those among the long-term unemployed who are less skilled and less well educated.

[Reference: Brodsky, M.M. (2000) ‘Public-service employment programs in selected OECD countries’, Monthly Labor Review, October, 31-41. LINK]

Brodsky found that countries which assessed both the needs of the unemployment and the local labour market they were operating in before developing job designs were most successful. Further the successful programs were “more flexible, more targeted to local needs, and better linked to other labor market services” (Brodsky, 2000: 36).

Please read my blog – Boondoggling and leaf-raking … – for more discussion on this point.

For the purposes of this discussion, the problem we identify is that the progressive side of politics has also been seduced by the bias against public sector job creation.

By buying into neo-liberal narratives about the fiscal limits of the state and failing to understand the causes of mass unemployment are insufficient fiscal deficits, given the spending and saving choices of the non-government sector, progressive politicians have fallen into an acceptance of mass unemployment and to assuage their equity concerns they advocate income guarantee schemes over employment guarantee solutions.

This series of blogs will form the basis of the material on the topic of employment and income guarantees (including robots etc) in Part 3 of the book I am finalising at present, which I hope to have published by the end of 2016.

I will argue that basic income solutions, which were originally advocated by the likes of Milton Friedman, are an inferior approach to a progressive future when considered against the benefits of employment guarantees.

I will argue that basic income proposals:

1. Have acceded in a most compliant manner to the neo-liberal rationing of work through failed fiscal policies and articulate flawed macroeconomic propositions that are not significantly different to standard neo-liberal ideas about fiscal deficits etc. BIG proponents have thus surrendered the ground on full employment to the neo-liberal requirements that there is a continual buffer stock of unemployed to suppress wages growth and allow capital to access greater shares of real income.

2. See work in narrow terms – that is, as income earning activity and fail to embrace the reality that work is an integral aspect of our broad well-being. In this sense, the concept of work for basic income proponents is not that much different to mainstream neo-liberal economists who see work as a bad in competition for time with leisure which is a good.

3. See humans as ‘consumption’ units and the limits of government responsibility to provide some minimal level of consumption to each person. Broader responsibilities that are available to currency-issuing governments in terms of social development and social mobility are denied.

4. Accordingly, BIG advocates never propose a living income but rather some basic amount to allow a person to eke out some sort of existence without significant chances of achieving any upward mobility. So basic income proponents effectively solidify the existing wealth distribution.

5. Do not provide any inflation anchor. That is, basic income is not a macroeconomic stability framework. The inflation anchor remains fluctuations in unemployment, which is extremely costly to individuals and society.

6. Do not provide a dynamic whereby society can have a conversation about the definition of work such that the future challenges of robots and structural change can be addressed by broadening the meaning of productive activity. BIG proponents thus solidify the conventional division between work and non-work.

Work and well-being

Hiding behind all the sophistry embodied in mathematical dynamic stochastic general equilibrium (DSGE) economic models and their ilk, that are among the latest fads used by mainstream economists to create an almost impervious rhetoric as a means of appearing authoritative, are some pretty simple ideas.

In the area of work, mainstream neo-liberal economists present stylised textbook models where households are alleged to have a choice between income and leisure. To get income they have to give up leisure (classified as a good) to work (classified as a bad).

Work is thus a sacrifice the individual makes to get income (a good) and if the terms of sacrifice become too onerous they will increase their leisure (work less). Unemployment then is constructed as a voluntary decision to increase one’s non-work time (leisure) and to enjoy less income.

It is a mind-numbing articulation of the real world and in many ways becomes logically inconsistent and intractable, which is the topic of another conversation.

While mainstream economists love to remain in the security of their artificial world built on a deductive methodology that employs simplistic and flawed assumptions about human psychology and other a priori propositions about the world that can never hold in practice, other disciplines such as sociology and psychology, which are largely ignored by economists, have advanced knowledge in ways that help us understand the importance of work.

For example, there is an extensive research literature examining the role of work in advancing the well-being of individuals and their families (see the review contribution by Blustein, 2008 and additional references).

[Reference: Blustein, D.L. (2008) ‘The role of work in psychological health and well-being: A conceptual, historical, and public policy perspective’, American Psychologist, 63, 228-240.].

Blustein (2008: 230) concludes (see also Fassinger, 2008; Fouad and Bynner, 2008):

… that working is important, and indeed can be essential, for psychological health … Considerable research … has demonstrated that working can promote connection to the broader social and economic world, enhance well-being, and provide a means for individual satisfaction and accomplishment …

[References: Fassinger, R.E. (2008) ‘Workplace diversity and public policy: Challenges and opportunities for psychology’, American Psychologist, 63, 252-268.

Fouad, N.A., and Bynner, J. (2008) ‘Work transitions’, American Psychologist, 63, 241-251.]

The literature is replete with analysis where “individuals who lose their jobs often struggle with mental health problems (such as depression, substance abuse, and anxiety” (Blustein, 2008: 230).

Blustein (2008: 230) documents the findings of a plethora of research studies that have focused on the importance of work for psychological health.

1. “the loss of work has been consistently linked to problems with self- esteem, relational conflicts, substance abuse, alcoholism, and other more serious mental health concerns”.

2. “the loss of work has been associated with a notable decline in the quality of neighborhoods, a decline in the quality of family relationships, and an increase in crime as well as problems in other critical aspects of contemporary life”.

3. “the loss of employment opportunities … [leads] … to a marked disintegration in the quality of life, with corre- sponding elevations in drug abuse, criminal activity, violence, and apathy.”

From an anthropological perspective, Blustein noted (2008: 230) that:

In short, working is a central ingredient in the development and sustenance of psychological health. The nature of working is inextricably linked to our evolutionary past, as our survival was (and still is) dependent on our ability to locate food, find shelter, and develop a community for mutual support and nurturance …

Proponents of employment guarantees share the conclusion of Bluestein (2008: 232) and other researchers that “for many people”:

… working is the “playing field” of their lives, where their interactions with others and with existing social mores are most pronounced, with opportunities for satisfaction and even joy, as well as major challenges and, at times, considerable psychological and physical pain.

A progressive vision clearly cannot ignore the historical context in which a discussion of the benefits of work is being conducted.

Obviously, in a broad sense, the current mode of production, where workers are divorced from ownership of the means of production and have to subject themselves to the whims of capital in order to gain a living, is oppressive and coercive.

But, in identifying the importance of work for psychological well-being, we are not oblivious to this oppressive aspect. However, it is clear that people operate at multiple levels at the same time with some more prominent in their daily consciousness.

In this regard, Blustein (2008: 330) argues that:

… working is the social role in which people generally interact with the broader political, economic, and social contexts that frame their lives, working often becomes the nexus point for social oppression as well as a source of rewards, resilience, and relationships …

It is in that sense that we argue that work as an organised activity is an essential aspect of human well-being, notwithstanding socio-economic context that prevails.

Non-work in the current social context of work is detrimental to human well-being whether it manifest as unemployment or a disguised sort of unemployment made possible by the introduction of a basic income guarantee.

One of the strong empirical results that emerge from the Great Depression is that the job relief programs that the various governments implemented to try to attenuate the massive rise in unemployment were very beneficial. At that time, it was realised that having workers locked out of the production process because there were not enough private jobs being generated was not only irrational in terms of lost income but also caused society additional problems.

In summary, it is well documented that sustained unemployment imposes significant economic, personal and social costs that include:

  • loss of current output;
  • social exclusion and the loss of freedom;
  • skill loss;
  • psychological harm, including increased suicide rates;
  • ill health and reduced life expectancy;
  • loss of motivation;
  • the undermining of human relations and family life;
  • racial and gender inequality; and
  • loss of social values and responsibility.

Many of these “costs” are difficult to quantify but clearly are substantial given qualitative evidence.

Please read my blogs – The costs of unemployment – again and The daily losses from unemployment – for more discussion on this point.


In Part 2 of this little mini-series I will develop an understanding of the basic income proposal and indicate its deficiencies as signalled below.

Then we will discuss employment guarantees, robots and the second machine age, and progressive transitions in work and income support. Several blogs to follow that is.

The series so far

This is a further part of a series I am writing as background to my next book on globalisation and the capacities of the nation-state. More instalments will come as the research process unfolds.

The series so far:

1. Friday lay day – The Stability Pact didn’t mean much anyway, did it?

2. European Left face a Dystopia of their own making

3. The Eurozone Groupthink and Denial continues …

4. Mitterrand’s turn to austerity was an ideological choice not an inevitability

5. The origins of the ‘leftist’ failure to oppose austerity

6. The European Project is dead

7. The Italian left should hang their heads in shame

8. On the trail of inflation and the fears of the same ….

9. Globalisation and currency arrangements

10. The co-option of government by transnational organisations

11. The Modigliani controversy – the break with Keynesian thinking

12. The capacity of the state and the open economy – Part 1

13. Is exchange rate depreciation inflationary?

14. Balance of payments constraints

15. Ultimately, real resource availability constrains prosperity

16. The impossibility theorem that beguiles the Left.

17. The British Monetarist infestation.

18. The Monetarism Trap snares the second Wilson Labour Government.

19. The Heath government was not Monetarist – that was left to the Labour Party.

20. Britain and the 1970s oil shocks – the failure of Monetarism.

21. The right-wing counter attack – 1971.

22. British trade unions in the early 1970s.

23. Distributional conflict and inflation – Britain in the early 1970s.

24. Rising urban inequality and segregation and the role of the state.

25. The British Labour Party path to Monetarism.

26. Britain approaches the 1976 currency crisis.

27. The 1976 currency crisis.

28. The Left confuses globalisation with neo-liberalism and gets lost.

29. The metamorphosis of the IMF as a neo-liberal attack dog.

30. The Wall Street-US Treasury Complex.

31. The Bacon-Eltis intervention – Britain 1976.

32. British Left reject fiscal strategy – speculation mounts, March 1976.

33. The US government view of the 1976 sterling crisis.

34. Iceland proves the nation state is alive and well.

35. The British Cabinet divides over the IMF negotiations in 1976.

36. The conspiracy to bring British Labour to heel 1976.

37. The 1976 British austerity shift – a triumph of perception over reality.

38. The British Left is usurped and IMF austerity begins 1976.

39. Why capital controls should be part of a progressive policy.

40. Brexit signals that a new policy paradigm is required including re-nationalisation.

41. Towards a progressive concept of efficiency – Part 1.

42. Towards a progressive concept of efficiency – Part 2.

43. The case for re-nationalisation – Part 2.

44. Brainbelts – only a part of a progressive future.

45. Reforming the international institutional framework – Part 1.

46. Reforming the international institutional framework – Part 2.

47. Reducing income inequality.

48. The struggle to establish a coherent progressive position continues

49. Work is important for human well-being

The blogs in these series should be considered working notes rather than self-contained topics. Ultimately, they will be edited into the final manuscript of my next book due later in 2016.

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2016 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

This Post Has 55 Comments

  1. I always find the ‘leisure’ concept interesting within the scope of basic income. By definition a basic income is basic. In any proposals I’ve seen it is a fraction of the living wage per week. (In the UK’s case about a fifth – £73.10 per week as opposed to a £375 living wage).

    The problem with leisure is that it is expensive. What are those only on a Basic Income going to use for money to buy the amount of leisure they need to fill all those hours?

    The same as with food, they will buy the cheap stuff that isn’t the healthiest – booze, drugs and endless Murdoch TV. Just as they do in any poor shanty town across the world.

    Or instead they could be on a Job Guarantee – filling their hours with meaningful activity and enjoying a full life. All while being paid for that form of leisure.

    Leisure is work you pay to do. Work is leisure you get paid to do.

    In reality Basic Income has nothing to do with providing a living for the poor, and everything to do with providing the middle class individuals that advocate it additional disposable pin money while providing a post-hoc justification excuse to do that in terms of the poor. That’s the end goal and we all know it.

    See Appendix B of the latest Compass proposals here ( – particularly the graphs on pp29.

  2. “Work” and “job” are different things though, let’s not conflate both and fall prey onto the typical mainstream economist narrative.

    There is a hell load of work being done that is not a job, and in a perfect society would be remunerated properly one way or an other. Work doesn’t necessarily entitle working for a third party (be it the state or a corporation) and being payed, the objective definition of work (which comes from motion and energy) has nothing to do with that.

    The psychological effects of work and jobs are conflated usually, as well as their meaning. What people wants is ‘jobs’, is a way to sustain themselves first, to cover their necessities, once that is done we can have an honest discussion about the effects of WORK per se, eliminated the stressing (and other worse things) effects of the lack of income.

    Generalization is, also, not good, what we are talking about NORMS, which is how psychology measures most behavior. Norms are influenced by many factors, including social and cultural. There is no “human nature”, beyond a few basic things all humans have in common (usually related to physiological needs).

    That is if we want to have an honest, scientific, discussion, regardless if the results dislike our personal preferences. If what we want is to do propaganda wars, then well, we have neoclassical economy.

    My 2c.

  3. “BIG advocates never propose a living income but rather some basic amount to allow a person to eke out some sort of existence without significant chances of achieving any upward mobility.”

    Don’t insult your readers. Of course if you look only at proposals submitted by reactionaries like Friedman and Murray that is what you’ll find. But every GI proposal from left thinkers like Graeber begins with a living income.

    “BIG proponents thus solidify the conventional division between work and non-work.”

    On the contrary it is JG proponents that solidify such divisions by considering a solution which is only tenable for the class of “involuntarily unemployed” which does not include the MAJORITY of unemployed people — people who need incomes, including the disabled, elders, single parents, unpaid care takers of all kinds, and all others who for a plethora of reason, recognized or not by society, the state, or the academy — cannot work.

    “basic income proposals demonstrate a lack of imagination of what work could become and a very narrow conception of the role of work in human well-being.”

    Lack of imagination is embodied by the above. With a GI, human potential is wide open to engage not only in the broadest definitions of “work”, but beyond. Avocation. Service. Life-learning. Practice.

  4. “But every GI proposal from left thinkers like Graeber begins with a living income.”

    And none that go to a politician ever are. They are all foot in the door pittances. The UK proposals are all around £70 per week with higher tax rates, whereas the JG proposal is £375 per week with the same tax rates.

    So less Basic Income and more Basic Stipend. Or BS for short.

    “cannot work”

    What they are doing is work. The problem is your definition of work. Which you need to change. And they are not the majority of people any way. You are designing your system and using a small minority of people to justify it. Whereas the JG approach is simpler – change the definition of work to include all who need work and a living income.

    Work is just leisure you get paid to do. Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.

    “With a GI, human potential is wide open to engage not only in the broadest definitions of “work”, but beyond”

    Yup, if not booze, drugs and mental illness from isolation, they can always be radicalised by extremist groups.

    As ever with a basic income you can’t buy anything but the basics and you are relying upon the ‘free market’ to magically produce things for people to do. That doesn’t work. And if the government doesn’t help people find something to do, eventually somebody else will. Particularly those with unpleasant motives.

    Basic income is a free market idea, and fails for the same reason all the other free market ideas do. There is no natural order. Society is organised.

  5. Recent work by evolutionary psychologists indicates that a well-designed JG/ELR/workfare scheme may be more consistent with innate human instincts than income guarantee schemes.

    It is suggested that during the last 300,000 years an instinct for “strong reciprocity” between members of human social groups evolved by the process of “group selection”.
    Strong reciprocity is a propensity to cooperate with others on a shared social task, even at personal cost, and a willingness to punish those who violate cooperative norms, even when punishing is personally costly.
    Tribes with a high proportion of cooperative members tended to be the most successful at surviving wars, predators, resource constraints, climate changes and natural disasters. Groups whose members were less willing to cooperate tended to be become extinct.
    Strong reciprocity instincts lead to social security and welfare schemes for people who are regarded as ‘deserving’. But egalitarian policies that reward people independently of whether and how much they contribute to society tend to be considered unfair/contrary to cooperative norms.
    This analysis helps to explain why JG/ELR/workfare schemes may be socially acceptable whereas mere income guarantee schemes are often seen as unfair to those who work/contribute to society.
    A good intro is:
    The book by Bowles and Gintis can be downloaded for free from:

  6. Yes, work is important but let’s not conflate wage slavery with work.

    How is it that assets are so narrowly owned that most must work for wages rather than for themselves and for their families on their own land and in their own individually or collectively owned businesses?

    A major reason is government subsidized private credit creation since it allows those with equity to avoid sharing it but instead use that equity as the basis for loans of what is, in essence, THE PUBLIC’S CREDIT.

  7. Yup, if not booze, drugs and mental illness from isolation, they can always be radicalised by extremist groups. Neil

    Then let’s have land and asset redistribution since those were likely accumulated with the stolen purchasing power of the population anyway. That’ll give the disemployed something to do.

    And there’s a Biblical precedent for periodic land redistribution (Leviticus 25) and restitution for theft too.

    And justice is coming anyway, Neil – at the Second Coming of Christ. Shouldn’t you want to be on the correct side of it before then?

  8. as Extropia da Silva has written across the web, work is important, jobs are not.

    Lose jobs= mental anguish, social isolation .. etc.

    The problem with these studies is they do not and CAN NOT compare a statistically significant sample of people from the bottom three quartiles who 1) rely on work for income vs 2) do not rely on work for income, as there are not enough people in 2) –
    this issue MAY be overcome by a UBI. We don’t know whether it would help because its not studied and trialled, other than Manitoba, Namibia, India, which I hope people are familiar with and which resulted in tremendous skill gains, wealth creation, technological innovation, and improved well-being.

    I know that personally I would be able to lose my job and cope well provided I had a UBI in perpetuity of UK£400pcm. I could continue to socialise, travel, gain skills, pay for dentistry etc- with this amount. I could also devote more time to caring for my elderly parents and young child. I could look into developing myself as a writer or a sports coach/referee, I could develop my guitar and chess skills further. All things I do at the moment but with very little time given work (and work travel) by ABSOLUTE NECESSITY (which I would call wage slavery).
    As described by Malcolm Torry this amount (he uses £74pw in most of his recent work but by removing the additional pension allowance we could arrive at close to £400pcm) could be implemented right now.

    Im not sure how a JG differs quite as much as bill and neil Wilson sometimes put forward, given that you can declare yourself an artist under the JG. Would there be some kind of caveat? Do you have to prove your artistry? What about an 18year old? Are you going to implement watchers of watchers to check people are busy ()arting about for 40 hours a week?

    Its really the only place I disagree with what you put forward in these blogs.

    Work (job) is: not important to my well-being.

  9. BIG or JG without a living wage is nonsense. Like minimum wave (US), it would not supply even a valid test of these concepts.

    Of course in the US, where even hard empirical evidence is ignored, it’s impossible to get a real test of anything.

  10. “I know that personally I would be able to lose my job and cope well provided I had a UBI in perpetuity of UK£400pcm.”

    How very nice for you. Now how do you pay rent of £500 per month from that?

    And that’s the point. It’s all very nice for those people with loads of current assets that they are relying on for free service. But most people don’t have that.

    It’s not about you.

    There is a reason the living wage should be £10 per hour. That is what is required for somebody to live a basic existence. And that means £375 per week.

    So if you are proposing less that £375 per week, then you are not really wanting to help the poor at all. You are wanting something for yourself and offering nothing in return.

    The basic income has not been studied or trialled at all. All that has happened is that a very small chunk of the population has been given some money, sat in a fixed exchange rate area with a whole load of other people who are getting nothing. So you have a captive slave operation there to provide the output that the chosen few can consume, and the fixed exchange rate prevents any adjustment. It’s no wonder it works. We know that. We have the 1% swanning around spending money they haven’t earned while others produce goods and services for them.

    And of course every single one of these trials ends. They are either politically scrapped, or reduced to a stipend that is insufficient to live on. And that’s because to get money you have to demonstrate to others that you have earned it.

    Work can be lots of things, but most importantly it is clear service to others. Because if you don’t demonstrate that, then they will simply vote for the other lot and have your income removed.

    So it’s not necessarily about what you want regardless of everybody else. It’s about what others want to see you doing. Which is to be expected in a social species trying to operate a functional society.

    Unsurprisingly paying people off isn’t enough. Service to others is the rent you pay for your place here on earth. If you’re planning to do that, then that is seen as work by others, and then you can get paid for it. The Job Guarantee should enable as many of those types of jobs as is feasible as well as helping people show to others that they are providing genuine public service. Only when you do something others see as useful and convince them of that will the system pass the political test and become stable and long lasting.

    You don’t get to do just what you want when you want to in society. There are others to consider. Most people have learnt that by the age of 3.

  11. I think creating at least the opportunity to develop skills which can lead to increased prospects for earning a higher income should be a target for any job guarantee.

    There is also no reason a job guarantee and a basic income cannot coexist. As Prof L Randall Wray has pointed out, the job guarantee should be put in place first and then we should look to see what unmet needs remain and then deal with those by whatever means are necessary.

    Putting these ideas together ought to offer a reasonably good path to maximising the potential of each individual.

    A national job guarantee offers the possibility to offer employment in areas the private sector would not necessarily pursue with full vigour, despite being beneficial from a societal perspective, thus offering a direct means for government to deliver economic leadership in areas identified by democratic process.

  12. ‘Most people learnt that by age of 3’ – I expected a ranty insult from you Neil, I don’t know why you resort to it when we agree on more issues than 99% of people do, yet you do it every time someone steps out of (your) line(s).

    you’ve filled out a one line quote into a strawman filled blusterbus that I cant respond to without filling 10 pages. lets just start with ‘how very nice for you’ . No , just tremendously careful, as Ive pointed out in support of you (vs ralph Musgrave) in the past, I had a far below average income for many years, I don’t own any assets outright but I am paying off a very cheap house and my income has now moved slightly closer to average. But as you then went on to say (after the guesses about my life) this isn’t about me.

    ‘basic income hasn’t been studied..’ blah. well yes it has, in small scale in the places I mentioned. and my point if you took a breath whilst scanning (I wont call it reading) my post- and didn’t try to mislead people- was that it hasn’t been studied anywhere near enough, thus the fault with the studies bill cites regarding this mythical love of jobs people supposedly have, and the breakdown that follows if they don’t have one. Its my contention that lack of income, and access to society is the problem. not the lack of sitting in an office all day having a good stare at a spreadsheet.

    I didn’t propose less than £375pw at all. I pointed out that £100 pw is do-able now. Its not what I propose, but given that its achievable with very little issue and MASSIVE OVERNIGHT REDUCTION IN CHILD POVERTY -see Torry- I don’t see why you have such a problem with it as a discussion point.

    If you view the material on the BI via .org and scott santens you can see the arguments as to why even a partial UBI would be helpful. At the moment there is a UBI of £0. Any amount above that should be considered for its pros and cons. The evidence I see points to pros outweighing cons substantially for £100pw. You speak as though this somehow removes other benefits from the equation leaving the poor in poverty, if that is your belief then you haven’t read many of the proposals even though you’ve already been told of Torry and Graeber.

  13. Consider the source: Neil Wilson also defends government privileges for depository institutions – the source of our problems wrt to un/under-employment* in the first place.

    And we’re supposed to accept “solutions” from him?

    *E.g. automation financed with the workers’ own legally stolen purchasing power.

  14. Positive purposeful activity, whether as employment or other self determined means, must be the objective of any enlightened society, and all of the society’s institutions need to both diligently acculturate that in the minds of their citizens….and recognize that the set of purposeful activities is much larger than the set of employment possibilities. And the option of an employment guarantee as policy for those desiring or requiring it fits seamlessly within the latter set.

    Integrate the above truths with the moment to moment modern macro-economic fact of an inherent scarcity of total individual incomes in ratio to total costs, the increasingly disruptive erosion of aggregate demand by artificial intelligence and the monopolistic control on credit creation as well as the restrictive vehicles for which distribution of credit is allowed (only as loans and only for production/employment) and the necessity of providing an abundant (not just basic) monetary gift of money and a means of reversing the cost inflationary nature of modern economies to a cost deflationary vector, becomes the more inclusive analysis, more resolving set of policies, and the deeper psychological examination of the individual’s needs.

  15. Bill,
    As you know, I’m no expert, but it strikes me that when agriculture became automated it seemed to increase that industry’s productivity. This reduced the real cost of food. With food security people then become more sophisticated in their lives which creates demand for new goods and services. This in turn employed those that were formally employed in agriculture.

    That’s how I see it. The same was probably true with manufacturing. If there comes a time when automation no longer leads to jobs in more socially sophisticated industries, then some other approach would be necessary as you indicated above. The question is, will there ever be a time where even your approach would not be enough to offset the job losses from automation?

    Kind Regards

  16. Steven Hummel,
    I picked up on a couple of possible misunderstandings in what you say (maybe).

    In previous blogs Bill has said that work that is not currently treated as a paid job, should be, and that would help to solve the automation problem in a superior way to income guarantees which would continue in their failure to recognise these activities as economically valuable.

    I presume that when you say “individual incomes” you are talking about household incomes (because across the economy as a whole income must equal spending as a matter of accounting). Bill has previously said that other incomes like profits and rents as a proportion of total income should be democratically agreed on and this be enforced by government.

    Also credit by definition can only be in the form of a loan as that is what “credit” means, but government creates money (Net Financial Assets) every time it runs a fiscal deficit. So banks do not have a complete monopoly on creating money. Also, government can (and should) control bank lending -they make the laws afterall – to make sure it is done in a socially acceptable way.

    I hope this helps.

  17. well the work/leisure trade off idea is ridiculous as most people can’t support themselves without wage labour.
    Unemployment insurance in countries with welfare states isn’t sufficient to support any decent life, let alone any type of leisure filled one(or simply healthy restful one for that matter, as you struggle to pay bills).

    For an individual loss of work has many health benefits, where as loss of income is what creates psychological damage from the social alienation of being completely skint creates. The not having to wake up early in the morning and having to commute is not what causes problems for an individual. Its the not being able to pay bills, rent and buy food.

    Anyway most western economies will have a large population of benefit or guaranteed income recipients(retirees) and a smaller population of working age people in the near future.

    So the real challenge is making sure that the economy can produce enough output, to meet this demand, with a shrinking amount of inputs(labour) as efficiently as possible in the years ahead.

    These are the supply side challenges that we all face. Which are trickier than demand deficiency problems.

    The truth is no one from the guaranteed income camp can ensure that we wont develop a wage price inflation spiral and output shrinkage, if we provided all working age people with guaranteed income.

    Also without commensurate tax changes a guaranteed income would just go straight to the private landlords and land values.

    Anyway it won’t be long until we face a Guaranteed Income type economy as the population graph becomes an inverse pyramid populated by retirees. So we have to make that future work effectively.

    Instead figuring out how government should ration out more leisure time without addressing output levels. We should instead work on producing more output or current levels of output whilst reducing hours worked per work day. Reducing days worked per work week and reducing the retirement ages. A necessary precondition of this is successfully maintaining increasing levels of output produced on a continuous sustained basis. The onus will be on public and private firms to achieve organisational and technological efficiency to produce sufficient output to meet demand until (in a resource/productive capacity sense) we an afford to put more and more people into retirement. Perhaps in hundreds(if not one thousand) of years firms will get so productive that private firms throw the towel in and voila we end up in a post-capitalist society as Marx originally envisioned, people being catered to by the machines.

    After all, Keynes had said we would be working half weeks by now.

    But it is ridiculous/non-sensual for bill to argue that Guaranteed income is a neo-liberal ploy to assuage us for their reluctance to use government fiscal capacity to create jobs when government would still have to exceed their own fiscal cliffs to finance income guarantees. The guaranteed income would face the same challenge of explaining the mechanics of explaining sovereign government’s fiscal capacity.

    “The same as with food, they will buy the cheap stuff that isn’t the healthiest – booze, drugs and endless Murdoch TV.” Neil is clearly a typical brit classist snob who knows better than the poor and knows what they spend their money on.

    “Work is just leisure you get paid to do”-a ludicrous jobsworth

    “Society is organised”-with an ominous authoritarian streak

  18. All,
    Neil can be very blunt but there is no malice in him. Like me, he regularly goes on blogs to tell people about MMT, only to be met with ridicule. It is very difficult to change out of that combative mode. I would ask you all to reserve judgement, as most of what he says has considerable merit.

    Kind Regards

  19. @CharlesJ,

    “I presume that when you say “individual incomes” you are talking about household incomes (because across the economy as a whole income must equal spending as a matter of accounting).”

    They are equal as a matter of the surface level of accounting of total debits and credits, but not in “on the ground” reality as savings, investment, etc. disequilibrate them. Furthermore as modern economies become more and more capital intensive the costs of depreciation, obsolescence and waste, all of which must go into the flow of total costs and by cost accounting convention into the flow of prices, will increase this scarcity disequilibrium between total individual incomes and total prices. Also, according to reputable researchers AI is going to eliminate jobs at a rate at least 10 times faster than it has ever done so before. Finally, credit/money injected into the system via enterprises and so via employment cannot resolve the above inherently cost inflationary system as it will re-initiate that cost inflationary reality. The policies of a direct gift of money to the individual and a discount to prices at retail sale are the only policies that actually are able to resolve the inherent problematic ratio. Having said this a job guarantee as an option for those who for whatever reason would prefer employment over other self determined purposeful activities would be fine so far as I’m concerned.

    “credit by definition can only be in the form of a loan as that is what “credit” means,…”

    Just like austerity that is the idea that the private banking system prefers and habituates individuals to think. However, monetary grace as in gifting explodes that notion and is the new monetary paradigm and policy that integrated into the debt based system will prevent the historical oppressiveness associated with both private and public institutions.

  20. In case anybody here would enjoy liking or hating it, as Calgacus I posted a long rant at “Who will own the robots?” where similar things are being discussed.

    In short: The UBI / BIG is a comical confusion of obtusity and evil, it is quite comparable, in fact it is near identical to a proposal never made by abolitionists and slaves:

    Resolved: To abolish Slavery forever: Make everyone a Master!

  21. “t is very difficult to change out of that combative mode”

    There’s nothing combative about it. There are fundamentally two types of people. Those who think the surfers should get paid (i.e. they want a bung for themselves and are fundamentally individualist aristocrats in outlook who expect others to produce stuff for them for nothing in return), and those who think they shouldn’t (because they realise society is more than just extreme individualism and is a complex web of mutual obligations).

    So it becomes a religious belief that will have to be massively defeated in a democratic election, or proceed to its natural failure point as it always has done. The simple failure of the UK Child Benefit (now restricted to a pittance, and not universal) ought to be enough to damn the strategy, but clearly it isn’t. It pops up every generation or so and fails in the same way every time.

    It’s always entertaining to hear the arguments put forward in an environment where retirement ages continue to go up and work weeks continue to get longer.

    The simple solution is to reduce the retirement age, but that would mean those campaigning for the bung wouldn’t get the bung themselves. So it’s clearly not about lack of work opportunities or anything else. There is an underlying point that is been obfuscated by propaganda.

    You cannot convince somebody who really believes life owes them a living that it doesn’t. They have to find out the hard way.

  22. Off to work have not had a chance for a thorough review of the blog but a few points.
    Why make a battle line between income and work guarantees?
    Only if income guarantees come in a fiscal straightjacket is there any conflict.
    If they come as part of a fiscal stimulus ,including for me large scale public job creation
    directed for the public purpose,health,education,production of energy without greenhouse gases,
    scientific research and here in the Uk house building.MIllions of well paid ,highly skilled needing many
    years of training jobs to halt the erosion of the middle class.
    As a part of a fiscal stimulus to raise aggregate demand ,income guarantees, effectively a continuation
    of the negative income tax for lower paid can generate full employment and help job guarantees
    become a reality.
    Capitalism like Feudalism and slavery before it has always impovershed the lower strata .
    Even at full employment.
    Fundamental conflicts prevail ,wages being a cost and income for employers,profits claims on wages.
    Income guarantees while not eliminating conflict ( I am no utopian) offer a real method of mitigating them.
    It also offers a democratic contract between a monetary sovereign state and its citizens based in
    the reality of fiat currency.
    Full employment based on a real living wage would inevitably lead to greater inflation than full employment
    where there is negative tax rates for those on a minimum income.Cost push is real and often demand pull
    is a chimera in reality where supply can respond ,not land or football teams.

  23. “As a part of a fiscal stimulus to raise aggregate demand ,income guarantees, effectively a continuation
    of the negative income tax for lower paid can generate full employment ”

    No they can’t. That is the fundamental difference between aggregate demand and *effective* demand that Keynes talks about. Effective demand requires a supply response as well. Which in this case is a far greater supply of liquid job offers.

    You cannot fix the problem by throwing more money at it and hoping it goes away by magic. It doesn’t self-organise to that point.

  24. “Neil is clearly a typical brit classist snob who knows better than the poor and knows what they spend their money on.”

    Is it me that is the classist snob, or did I just precis what Bill wrote about the Psychological Research in the literature.

    Here’s the bit again in case you skipped reading it.

    “Blustein (2008: 230) documents the findings of a plethora of research studies that have focused on the importance of work for psychological health.

    1. “the loss of work has been consistently linked to problems with self- esteem, relational conflicts, substance abuse, alcoholism, and other more serious mental health concerns”.

    2. “the loss of work has been associated with a notable decline in the quality of neighborhoods, a decline in the quality of family relationships, and an increase in crime as well as problems in other critical aspects of contemporary life”.

    3. “the loss of employment opportunities … [leads] … to a marked disintegration in the quality of life, with corre- sponding elevations in drug abuse, criminal activity, violence, and apathy.”

    ‘the poor know what they are doing and should just be left to get on with it’ argument is another of those free market laissez faire arguments designed to shut down debate of the issues. Just pay them off and forget about them. It is another example where the extreme left wing individualist view runs into the extreme right wing view.

  25. some guy, One of the conclusions of the article you link to is this: “The advantages of a basic income financed by capital taxation become obvious.”. While the argument that the public should own the robots rather than the capitalists is well taken, there is no discussion in the excerpts selected by the author of any JG to assist those who lose their jobs. All they apparently think of is the implementation of a basic income financed by taxation. It is clear that the authors writing for an IMF research journal have not got their collective heads around the nature of taxation. This is pathetic.

    One commenter thought that a three day week would be of assistance. It would be terrific, but no substitute for a JG.

  26. I should add that, as Neil has correctly pointed out, leisure costs. An hour at a council swimming pool can cost £7 per hour. Then what of those whose identity is wrapped up in what they see themselves as contributing to their community or their family, most of it wrapped around “work” of some description, as Bill has repeatedly pointed out? There is a tendency for a number of people to fill their lives when they are not working with video games and some of these sometimes find this activity to be more “real” than their actual lives. What would they do with a three day week? A three day week if on offer should be solely voluntary. A mandatory three day week could wreck psychological havoc. Just as virtually mandatory unemployment is doing right now.

  27. @ neil
    no its you who is the typical classist brit snob when you insist that “The same as with food, they will buy the cheap stuff that isn’t the healthiest – booze, drugs and endless Murdoch TV” which is prejudicial nonsense.

    You have no idea about the spending habits of low income people.I’m not sure why Bill’s reference to the paper which shows how lack of work(income) has deleterious affects of those experiencing it has any thing to do with your wildly clueless self perceived expertise on those who happen to be poor.

  28. The problem is purpose not just employment, especially as AI and innovation increase productivity and decrease the need for human input. A relatively abundant gift of money in addition to whatever employment is available in the private sector AND the option of a job guarantee is the answer to an inherently austere system. When you understand that you stop unconsciously helping man to be made for systems instead of making them FOR Man. The purpose (and trick) in Life is the cultivation of graciousness which is a two way gift, and whatever other constructive purposes one self determinedly desires to keep their attention focused on the present moment. Economic theories should mirror this philosophy with their policies.

  29. Describing Income Guarentees as neo liberal is as generalising as describing job guarentees as
    slavery.As the bard says you protest too much.It seems a little disingenious.
    It is the hubris of the economic profession to seek magic bullets ,automatic stabilisers,
    price mechanisms ,inflation buffers etc and certainly an income guarentees is no magic bullet but neither is a job guarentee.

    Much prefer the term universal citzens dividend .A democratic contract not a living owed.
    It is the dividend shared from the productive value of previous work, knowledge and technology.
    the machines and the computers share .It also undermines the divide and rule of workers and

  30. Much prefer the term universal citzens dividend . kevin harding

    Yes, that’s a much better description since the economy has been built with the contributions of all citizens – given that government subsidies for private credit creation mean that it is the PUBLIC’S CREDIT that has been used to finance so-called private enterprise. Therefore the public deserves dividends.

  31. This discussion seems to happen every time Bill talks about the Job Guarantee. Can’t people at least agree that everyone who wants to work should be able to? And that everyone who does work full time should be able to afford to live a life with some economic dignity? I think the people talking about BIG here at Billy Blog have their hearts in the right place mostly, but I’m with Neil Wilson on this. Society does not owe you anything material just because you were born. I would argue and often do, that a decent and moral society that is able to afford it, should provide those unable to contribute with some decent level of existence, but to argue that those who were unwilling to contribute (even if they could) are owed some sort of reward for being alive is just a bit beyond me.

  32. but to argue that those who were unwilling to contribute (even if they could) are owed some sort of reward for being alive is just a bit beyond me.

    That’s not what I argue; I argue the population has been systematically looted by a government-privileged usury cartel for the sake of depository institutions themselves and for the sake of the most so-called creditworthy, the rich.

    Therefore restitution in the form of a citizen’s dividend is not at all amiss.

    Neil Wilson defends privileges for depository institutions so it’s him who needs to be informed that banks and the rich are not owed the ability to steal from the rest of us and that their victims should not have to work for restitution.

  33. Ok Andrew, I agree that when people have been robbed, then THOSE people who have been robbed deserve restitution from the robbers. I agree that you have a different argument from what I summarized as a typical BIG advocate argument. But your argument does not imply a basic income award to everyone, just those who were wrongfully deprived of the fruits of their own efforts- as in people who work.

    Now how about you- do you agree that everyone who wants a job, and is willing to work, should be able to get such job and while working at it, should be able to afford a reasonable existence in a country that has enough resources to afford such existence? Because that is already a HUGELY difficult proposition to implement politically given the current state of understanding in most countries. But it is a very reasonable proposition in and of itself. That even most conservatives agree with.

  34. While strongly supporting a JG (though perhaps with a more distributed administration than I have seen proposed in this forum); I do not think it accurate to describe the non-working law-abiding citizen as a non-contributor.

    If we believe that private ownership can lead to more productive utilisation of any class of property (indeed if property itself is a useful concept), then we should be able to accept that respecting property rights has a positive utility and deserves reward by society. The current approach of creating a negative incentive for not respecting property rights (locking up larger and larger sections of the populace) is a barbaric and unjust practice. Some sort of universal good citizen bonus would be greatly preferred; though it should certainly not be sufficient to provide a living wage as it really is important for people to interact constructively with their fellow creatures and to be recognised accordingly.

  35. It’s plainly simple – a BIG addresses some symptoms of the neo-liberal economies. A JG address the root cause of the problem, which would render any BIG obsolete. A Band-Aid compared to a cure.

    A JG has proven results, as evidenced by the New Deal for example, and is relatively simple to establish and administer. A JG does not inherently prevent a society investigating new forms of banking, property ownership or welfare for those that refuse to/are unable to/have retired from work. QED.

  36. “You have no idea about the spending habits of low income people.”

    I read the psychological research papers as Bill does, and they show what people actually do. The prejudice is in believing that it will all magically sort itself out. It doesn’t.

    You have read the papers haven’t you, rather than just pre-judging the situation.

  37. “should provide those unable to contribute with some decent level of existence”

    I’d go further than should. It *must* provide for them. Anything else is immoral. But also it must provide an assessment system that is morally just – which means that the decision, say, on disability must be made by a qualified doctor to whom the task has been delegated.

    Just as we wouldn’t try criminal court cases using law students, we shouldn’t assess those who are unable to contribute using processing clerks. The population want the assessment done by people who have the appropriate moral and social standing. That way there is very little argument either way whether the assessment is appropriate.

    If somebody is signed off sick by a doctor, then that should be the end of the matter until the doctor changes their mind. And they should be as independent in their assessment as the judiciary is – for the same reason.

    Social security assessment on the cheap is just as abhorrent as justice on the cheap. It breaks the bonds in society.

  38. Matt B puts this very well I think. A Jobs Guarantee does not preclude a discussion about banking, property ownership, or welfare allowances for anyone. A JG would be an immediate benefit to many if we could get one implemented. Plus, and equally important, or maybe more important , a Job Guarantee as described by MMT would have positive effects on the supply capacities of our economies while at the same time acting as a brake to inflation. A JG would be a large automatic stabilizer in the economy. Maybe even the best one possible.

  39. Yes Neil, I said a decent and moral society should provide for those unable to contribute. And I try to argue for that in my ineffective ways. Even here sometimes apparently.

  40. VEry much agree with Jerry ,we should be able to agree that government should ensure there
    is work for all that wants it although understand the logistical difficulties in achieving that.
    Far too much focus on the very small portion of the population who may for a wide variety of
    reasons want to use a universal citizens income to cut down their working hours or even
    take a complete break from work for a while,yes these will be predominantly better off people
    able to make a choice about work life balances ,caring for sick relatives or ‘finding themselves’.
    The vast majority for the extent of their working lives will want to maximize their earnings or at
    least ensure a comfortable standard of living.
    I also agree with the thrust of the blog ,that cooperation makes humans thrive ,we achieve more
    and are more content working as a team unfortunately the current labour market does little to
    maximize these social benefits.
    We are plagued by poor governance , they have xxxxxd it up so much US citizens might make
    Mr Trump president.

  41. Matt B there is no cure , political economy is humans interacting.
    What makes me ‘left wing’ is a kind of faith although I think there is evidence to support it.
    Greater equality will make the world a better place to live in. Social justice ,cohesion , mobility
    the team will be stronger.
    Yes the end of involuntary unemployment moving the balance of power in the labour market
    would advance this cause although I doubt the logistical feasibility of a real living wage on demand
    in today’s labour market it would be such a popular offer but universal citizens income is a
    different debate do not conflate them.
    It is a part of a different egalitarian tool box, a progressive tax policy. As long as there are income
    distribution iniquities government should tax the rich more and add to the income of the poor.
    Universal pluses and wealth based minuses undermine the divide and rule anti welfare political
    and economic narrative of the right wing who correctly see egalatariansm as a threat to their
    privileges, they are not team players.

  42. Social security assessment on the cheap is just as abhorrent as justice on the cheap. Neil Wilson

    Justice, Neil? What is just about government privileges for depository institutions and, by extension, for the most so-called credit worthy, the rich?

    What is just about making the victims work for restitution?

  43. I am going to go old school and say:

    “From each according to his/her ability/capacity, to each according to his/her need(s)”.

    Clearly, a “societal dividend” is going to be included, notionally, in a significant number of cases of a JG system with living wage (as there will surely be folks who will be contributing less ‘value’ through their work than the ‘value’ they’ll be receiving through the JG, just as there will be some for whom the opposite will be the case).

    The JG is a ‘flat honorarium’ type of scheme, it seems to me. It’s definitely ‘according to your abilities’, although it certainly won’t necessarily be ‘according to your needs’.

    But it’s a start in the right direction. Obviously, a basic income guarantee COUPLED WITH a JG is a “no-brainer”.

  44. Basic Income is a consumption scheme originating in free market fundamentalism; the notion that freedom (the only freedom deserved by the poor, anyway) consists of choosing between Colgate and Crest. The scheme will primarily increase corporate profits, encourage additional environmental degradation, and further cement growing domestic income inequality while doing nothing to improve social well-being.

    I’d suggest these failures are why BIG proponents like it but the hyper-individualist left is so incoherent in their thinking I doubt they could come up with such a plan.

  45. The scheme will primarily increase corporate profits, Ben Johannson

    And a JG does not? How?

    encourage additional environmental degradation,

    And a JG does not? How?

    and further cement growing domestic income inequality

    That’s largely a result of current and previous subsidies for private credit creation. Where are the proposals of JG proponents to eliminate those?

    while doing nothing to improve social well-being.

    And paying people to waste their time improves their social well-being? How?

    This isn’t to say we shouldn’t have generous infrastructure spending and indeed perpetual deficits (but with non positive interest paying sovereign debt) but let’s not waste people’s time, energy and morale with make-work – which a focus on jobs instead of justice and work is bound to produce.

  46. @Ben Johannson

    I’m sorry, but IMO that is a very biased point of view. The real problem is economists and intellectuals in general need to “wake up and die right” ….by living in present time where the transformative realities spoken and written about by history’s sages are real….and all of the fragmented, orthodoxy ridden idiocies of both religion and science are exposed as just that….idiocies.

    Systems do not have a mind or consciousness. They require policies that reflect the deep and transformative
    aspects that mind/consciousness have to guide them instead of being based on mere profit, power and control …or mere reactionary or unconscious acceptance of orthodoxy about them.

    Let us bring consciousness to economics and all of our systems. So that we can come into a new unit of time and stop being reactionaries on the left and the right.

  47. Andrew Anderson, I will try to answer some of your questions to Ben Johannson with what is only my own understanding of a Job Guarantee, as in I certainly am no expert on it and can’t speak for MMT.

    -A job guarantee does not primarily increase corporate profits. Although in some states of the economy it may increase demand for goods and services provided by some corporations by maintaining aggregate demand. What a JG definitely does do is increase the bargaining power of labor, especially for the lower end of wage earners. I would think that that aspect of a JG would lead to an increase in the labor share of income at the expense of the profit share.

    -A JG does not in any way serve to increase environmental degradation. In fact many of the jobs created could be for the purpose of repairing previous environmental degradation.

    -A JG should not be thought of as paying people to waste their time. Where in the world did you come up with such an idea? There are many, many useful and productive services that willing people could spend their time doing. Repairing the environment could be one of them. What IS a waste of time is to distribute money to people in a way such that it might cause disincentives for people to engage in useful activity. That is something that could certainly lead to a negative supply situation and inflation. And of course the most obvious waste of time for people is to be involuntarily unemployed when they do in fact want a job. A total waste of not only time but also resources and opportunities that Bill has pointed out many times often has seriously negative long term effects for individuals, families, and nations.

    -As for your points about bankers, well I am not a huge fan of banks either. I do see a role for private underwriting of loans however. And for the market to determine “the money supply” that we all use in a way that is regulated to benefit all citizens. And the risks that banks take should be borne by their shareholders and the individuals that hold bank bonds. Not by the general public. I am pretty sure we have not yet reached the ideal solution as far as finance is concerned, and maybe we have gone backward on that. But a “citizens dividend ” based on bank profits can only (as I see it) at the very maximum redirect the current consumption of real goods and services of bankers and owners to the citizens. I really doubt that will end up being much of a dividend in terms of real goods and services for the average citizen.

  48. What a JG definitely does do is increase the bargaining power of labor, especially for the lower end of wage earners. I would think that that aspect of a JG would lead to an increase in the labor share of income at the expense of the profit share. Jerry Brown

    1) By destroying labor ala milk dumping in the 1930’s? How is the destruction of labor any saner now than milk dumping then when people were starving?
    2) Will hasten the trend to automation and thus LESS demand for labor.

    Otoh, a citizen’s dividend will not necessarily destroy any labor (by employing it uselessly for 40 hours a week). As for reducing corporate profits, minimum wage laws should be just as effective (or ineffective, given automation) as paying people to waste time.

    And yes, a JG will waste labor because its purpose is to remove labor from the market, not accomplish work efficiently.

    Like I’ve said previously let’s have generous infrastructure spending but beyond that the solution, in addition to fundamental reform wrt to fiat and credit creation, is to just give the citizens fiat. Indeed, all fiat creation by the central bank for the private sector could/should instead be distributed equally to all adult citizens in the form of a citizen’s dividend.

    As for underwriting by the banks, they could still do so as 100% private businesses with 100% voluntary depositors.

  49. Well Andrew, I didn’t really expect to convince you of anything given your previous comments. I see it was a waste of time at this point. Hopefully if we are able to get a Job Guarantee it will not provide for you to sit around writing comments, because that would be a waste that I had never considered before. Apparently we agree on something at least.

    The purpose of a job guarantee is not to destroy labor. It is to utilize labor that is unwillingly idle and to provide an income and a market for that labor. In a way that encourages production of good things and services and understands the real constraints of time, energy, and material that all economies face.

    Labor is people by the way. People that want to do useful things in exchange for the things they and their families need from other people. Maybe you can convince enough people that they should work to provide you with things just because you happen to be you. Good luck with that.

    Your point about the milk is beyond ridiculous.

  50. The purpose of a job guarantee is not to destroy labor. Jerry Brown

    Then what is its purpose since a citizen’s dividend still allows people to work for themselves or, if they desire, for others? Or. if they desire, collectively by pooling their capital?

  51. You said it yourself, Andrew, in that comment. “If they desire”. With a JG, unemployment truly is a choice between work and leisure but if you don’t work, you don’t get paid (any basic stipend notwithstanding).

    You’re advocating a system where, by design, it discourages people from work by providing them with a larger income for no exchange of labour. There would be more demand chasing the same supply which inevitably results in inflation and reliance on either the market to balance things or the government to start taxing more heavily (or push up interest rates, which means more profits for your friends the banks).

  52. Thank you for this discussion of how ‘gainful employment’ became conflated with private employment that supports profit making. And how public sector jobs, because they don’t generate ‘profits’, have been devalued.

    Makes me wonder if we don’t need a new definition of ‘gainful employment’ as something that adds to the overall well being of society…triple bottom line…not just profit for a few. Why should a job in the money market, or advertising, or MacDonalds be considered equivalent or better than that of a nurse, doctor, teacher, fireman, or any other public servant. What true value, other than profit for their employee, do these jobs create?

    To be honest, I do not have a problem with a Citizens Dividend (my renaming of a revamped Basic Income), which would be a bit like a CEO’s bonus, but different in that it is linked to the overall well being and common wealth of a society (a progressive vision). A Citizen’s Dividend would be designed to keep everybody’s eye and attention on the main game and would vary with performance. It would require some form of measure, perhaps an annual Citizens Report on the wellbeing of the Nation. PLUS some kind of job guarantee, that would ensure the work that really benefits society, though unprofitable, actually gets done, for the benefit of all.

    And hopefully, if those workers concerned know that in some way they are contributing to the overall benefit of all, whether it be in picking up a rubbish or bridge building, hopefully that will give their labour meaning and a sense of having a role to play, of participating in the work of society and nation building.

    Am reading ‘The Shepherds Life’ by James Rebanks…and he says at one point
    “I understand for the first time that our sense of belonging is about participation. We belong because we are part of the work of this place.” He is talking about the work of a sheep farmer. That work is deeply meaningful to him.

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