Universal Job Guarantee Program


(Jesse Hermans) #1

In line with my presentation at the PPAU congress on the matter, I am opening this thread to facilitate discussion on the new Job Guarantee Program policy I will be drafting with PPAU members in the Policy Development Committee.
You can view my presentation and Q&A (please watch before asking a question or raising as a concern, as this may have already been addressed) here (it goes for 1 hr):


A transcript of the speech I read out before the Q&A was a re-purposed speech I borrowed from Warwick Smith (with his permission) who spoke recently at the Right2Work conference I helped organise and found earlier this month, which I have attached here and I have pasted below in case the link dies.
I have also attached a recent report Warwick did on the topic for the think tank Per Capita, as well as a policy document from Prof Bill Mitchell (who pioneered the concept over 40 years ago) he made for a commissioned report he made for the Australian Government in 2008.

I will be organising working groups thorough the next 12 months so those who wish to help contribute are more than welcome. I run PDC meetings usually on the first Tuesday of every month at 8:30pm (AEDT) unless otherwise organised, and can be contacted at jesse.hermans@pirateparty.org.au

The job guarantee
By Warwick Smith

Please indulge me while I begin with a tangent.
When it comes to dealing with homelessness I’m a fan of the Utah policy: provide homeless people with homes. Here in Melbourne, with some commendable exceptions, the policy debate around homelessness seems to focus on where they should or shouldn’t be allowed to sleep and to what extent to enforce laws against begging and loitering. Actually solving the problem of homelessness by providing people with homes is, for some reason, a radical proposal.
It’s very interesting to me when the most obvious and direct solution to a problem is seen as radical and unimplementable.
I’m standing here today to talk to you about an equally crazy idea: solving joblessness by giving people jobs.
Firstly, I’d like to point out that this is not my idea, I’m only a messenger. The brains behind the notion of a Job Guarantee include Hyman Minsky, Randall Wray and Australia’s Bill Mitchell. None of them could be here today – so you’ve got me.
The idea of a Job Guarantee is that, if you’re willing and able to work, the government will give you a job. This job would be funded by the federal government but administered by local authorities (most likely local government).
The jobs would mostly be conceived and planned locally, performing tasks that are beneficial to the local community but would not be provided by the market.
Such jobs would primarily involve the provision of so-called public goods. In economics we define a public good as something that is non-excludable and non-rivalrous meaning if you produce a public good you can’t exclude people from benefiting and one person benefiting doesn’t reduce the benefit to others. Classic examples are clean air, national parks and many other environmental goods.
[Show slide of history of unemployment]
I’m a firm believer in the value of history to the field of economics. I reckon a lot more can be gained by listening to economic historians than looking at the output of modern econometric models. Models have their uses, of course, but when it’s available, give me the real world any day.
A commitment to full employment through direct government intervention is not entirely a new idea for Australia. Policy makers in the 1940s would be very familiar with this conversation.
In the 1940s there was explicit acknowledgement of the benefits and costs of a market-based capitalist system. While the benefits were thought to far outweigh the costs, the costs were not whitewashed away. Nor were those who bore the costs, such as the unemployed, shamed and blamed as they are today.
It was openly acknowledged that in a capitalist economy there will, pretty much by definition, be winners and losers. Some will do extremely well and some will do extremely poorly and the only way that a ‘rising tide will lift all boats’ is through government intervention and redistribution.
The thinkers and policy makers of those times had all lived through both the Great Depression and the Second World War and the contrast left an indelible mark on them. The Great Depressions showed the dangers of unregulated capital and “free markets” - while the War demonstrated the power of the state to fully employ the productive capacity of the economy.
THE GREAT DEPRESSION
Triggered by a financial crisis in the United States, the Great Depression hit Australia very hard. Initial policy responses across the globe included the raising of tariffs and implementing financial capital controls. These protectionist responses are largely blamed for rapidly deepening the recession in what had been a highly trade-linked global economy.
Unemployment in Australia peaked at about 20% during the depression years. This was an average figure, with unemployment in some parts of the country and for young school leavers being much higher.
During the Great Depression, when domestic economic conditions were very weak and tax receipts were falling quickly, the federal government cut back on spending. This was the policy orthodoxy of the time, treating government like any other economic entity that should adjust spending according to revenue. The result, obvious with hindsight, was that reduced government spending exacerbated the economic crisis by further reducing demand. This depleted government revenues further, resulting in still greater pressure to reduce expenditure. This is what we now call austerity – demonstrating that many people do not, in fact, pay attention to history.
WORLD WAR TWO
On the tail of the recovery from the Great Depression came the Second World War. This turned out to be another critical phase in the development of employment policy in Australia.
By 1943 close to two-thirds of the available labour force was employed either directly in the armed services or in supplying the Allied forces with food, clothing, transport, and administrative services. This left a dramatic shortfall in labour for the rest of the economy. Rationing and price controls were used to partly address the impact of labour shortages but the most substantial change was the increase in the participation of women in the workforce. The efficiency of the economy at full employment inspired employment policy for decades to come.
A small group of economists in the commonwealth government’s Financial and Economics Committee, trained in the new Keynesian economics, was extremely influential in planning for peace during the last years of the Second World War. During the war, they had observed the capacity of government expenditure to eliminate unemployment and saw no reason why this could not be replicated during peacetime.
THE POST-WAR BOOM, KEYNES, & THE WHITE PAPER ON FULL EMPLOYMENT
It was this experience that led to the remarkable 1945 White Paper on full employment.
In the White Paper the government acknowledged that unemployment arises as a result of insufficient private demand for labour. This lack of demand is particularly pronounced during economic downturns and recessions. Because these downturns are an inevitable result of the instability of a market based capitalist system, the government and broader society is responsible for the unemployed.
Maybe that’s worth repeating: because these downturns are an inevitable result of the instability of a market based capitalist system, the government and broader society is responsible for the unemployed.
Therefore, the government can, and should, use its spending power to maintain demand such that the economy is always at full capacity and full employment.
How’s that for a commitment? It sounds implausible by today’s standards but, for 25 years, both stripes of government did just that. Between the end of the second world war and the early 1970s unemployment averaged two percent.
If you were unemployed there was plenty of government work on offer. You could turn up at a railyard and be given a job. The Commonwealth Employment Service, rather than treating you like a bludger and scammer, would help you find a job, help pay for you to move to where suitable work was and, if your skills didn’t match demand, would help you get training.
Not coincidentally, the commitment to full employment came to an end across the globe in the 1970s, right at the point where most of the influential economists and policy makers who had lived through the Great Depression had either retired or died. The balance of power shifted to a younger cohort who were trained in a new brand of economics, neoclassical economics, that gives primacy to the individual over collective needs and to the market over government regulation and intervention.
Neoclassical economists came up with the horrendously named NAIRU – or Non-Accelerating Inflation Rate of Unemployment. This is a largely fictitious measure of the level of unemployment, below which, wage earners will gain enough power to demand wage increases above productivity growth.
Now, maybe that needs a little bit of unpacking for those new to the NAIRU.
What it means is that we need a large pool of desperate unemployed people clamouring at the door looking for jobs. This pool of the unemployed act as a disciplinary force on wage claims by those in employment. The most powerful bargaining chip that workers have is to walk away. If they are easily replaced by an unemployed worker who is ready to work then their bargaining power is greatly diminished. When workers are easily replaced, employers are much less likely to meet their demands for better wages and better conditions.
So, the currently accepted economic management paradigm uses the unemployed to put a constraint on wages – as a mechanism for controlling inflation. We need hordes of the unemployed clamouring at the doors to keep a cap on inflation.
Why is inflation so important that it’s worth throwing all these lives to the lions? Inflation is sometimes referred to as a kind of tax on capital. Who wins from very strict controls that create predictable inflation? The holders of capital. Who loses? Labour.
As a result, these days, if you’re unemployed, instead of giving you a job, the government’s role seems to be to kick you while you’re down. The unemployed are blamed for their status and labelled as dole bludgers. Never mentioned is the fact that there are more job seekers than there are jobs and that the system is designed that way. This is about diverting attention from the real cause in order to avoid responsibility for the consequences of the political economic system that we have created.
I agree with Nugget Coombs and the other authors of the 1945 White Paper on full employment; we have a responsibility to the unemployed and we would all benefit from an economy at full employment. This begins by shifting back to seeing unemployment as a collective responsibility instead of individual failure and putting full employment front and centre as an explicit policy goal of government.
However, this is not 1945. Times have changed. So-called “shovel-ready jobs” are far less likely to involve an actual shovel and are far more likely to require skills and capital backing. That’s not to say we can’t achieve full employment through government intervention, only that the path may be more challenging than it was in the post war boom.
One example of a great public good employment scheme would be to put our power lines underground across the country. The benefits are extensive, including reduced bushfires, reduced blackouts and other disruptions due to downed cables, increased visual amenity and the release of a huge system of linear corridors suddenly available for revegetation and conservation reserve connectivity and enhancement.
That’s just one example that I could come up with. The more people involved in the planning and decision making about such jobs the more would emerge, particularly locally appropriate jobs designed by local communities.
Inflation risk is a common criticism of the job guarantee. Job Guarantee proponents respond by arguing that price stability is inherent in the proposal. Inflation is caused by competition for scarce resources but the unemployed are superfluous to current demand at current prices so the JG is not competing for their labour. By maintaining the Job Guarantee wage at or just below the minimum wage, there is always incentive for Job Guarantee workers to move into private employment when it becomes available.
Workers who were once unemployed and are now on the Job Guarantee would have more income and demand more goods and services. This would prompt an increase in supply that would pull more of the JG workers into the private labour market in order to meet the new demand. The end result is, that while upon its introduction, a JG might employ a lot of workers, this demand effect of increased wages would result in a rebalancing back towards private sector employment.
All of that might work well when the skills required to meet the increased demand for goods and services can be supplied by the JG workers. But if there is a substantial skill mismatch – as may be the case with the coming robotics and artificial intelligence revolution, then problems may arise and inflation may be driven up.
None of these issues are deal-breakers for the job guarantee, it just needs to be considered and taken into account in planning and policy. Again the 1945 White Paper explicitly acknowledged all of these issues and the government committed itself to using all of the means at its disposal to maintain price stability in the face of inflationary pressures caused by full employment. Some of those means are no longer available or have reduced capacity, such as rationing and protectionism; however, others are still available and currently underutilised. That said, it’s important to note that they didn’t give inflation targeting nearly the same importance that we do today and inflation was more volatile than it has been since the establishment of the Reserve Bank and its inflation targeting mandate.
I would argue that, once again, we can learn something from history. I believe a rethink of the independence of monetary policy (that’s interest rate setting) from fiscal policy (spending and taxing) is well overdue. Monetary policy is an absurdly blunt instrument whereas fiscal policy can be very specifically targeted, both geographically and by sector or industry. It makes sense to use monetary and fiscal policy in a coordinated way for macroeconomic management.
Government funded research and innovation was a key element of the post-war boom with government institutions dedicated to improving productivity and assisting industry to implement the improvements. This was a key part of inflation control. The clearest example of this was the CSIRO, for many years considered one of the premier government research organisations in the world. The CSIRO transformed agricultural productivity in this country as well as making substantial contributions to many other industries. Sadly, those magnificent days are over and the CSIRO is a mere shell of its former self.
Universities obviously also play a key role in productivity enhancing research. They are also being increasingly squeezed and forced to self-fund and forced to meet endless “efficiency dividends”. Lack of tenure and increasing competition for dwindling research funding undermines the value of Australia’s universities in increasing productivity and, therefore, placing downward pressure on inflation.
Education is another key factor in productivity and is yet another area where Australia is sliding backwards at all levels including school, VET and tertiary education.
Fortunately, all of these things can be improved with sufficient political will but, nevertheless, the challenges should not be glossed over.
Involuntary unemployment was once effectively eliminated in Australia using a buffer-stock of jobs, meaning that anybody who wanted work could find a job. Today, inflation and wage costs are managed through a buffer-stock of the unemployed. This shift is as profound in impact as any in our political history.
Ultimately this comes down to the never-ending power struggle between capital and labour. It’s become unfashionable to talk about class and power but that’s just another symptom of the dominance of the capitalist class. There is a fundamental conflict between the interests of the holders of capital and the interests of labour. This conflict used to be openly acknowledged, discussed and debated. We need to bring back these conversations and debates.
How much of our national output should go to the holders of capital and how much to the workers? It seems to me that’s a fundamental question but even asking it seems radical. While we stay silent on this question an increasingly large proportion of output is being quietly appropriated by the holders of capital.
A Job Guarantee is one way to claw back some power for labour in this perpetual struggle – a rebalancing that is, in my opinion, well overdue.
Thank you.


(Alex Jago) #2

Thanks Jesse.

I’ve previously had allergic-ish reactions to JG proponents because I’ve seen them to be dismissive of UBI. After your presentation today, I’m convinced that both have a place. I’m particularly thrilled by the concept of using the JG to mediate the transition to a post-employment economy.

I note from your nomination bio that you’re also an MMT proponent. This has potential for some very interesting clashes with the anti-fiat-currency blockchain boosters, who might also reasonably expect to identify as Pirates.

From a political perspective, once we get to actual policy text I think reference to the Commonwealth Employment Service could play quite well.


(Jesse Hermans) #3

Yeah the problem is there’s been ridiculous hostility between the groups because discussions like this generally are not well facilitated online and result in groups talking past each other.
I learnt from this lecture on deliberative democracy that social media and text based media online in general is a bad place to dissect informed citizen discussion on public policy issues:

I’m happy to do some work on complementary currency and other crypto work, as well as facilitate a discussion around MMT. I might even be able to get Bill Mitchell to a presentation on MMT should a Job Guarantee be adopted.
Generally speaking to keep things short and the topic to another thread my view is cryptos ultimately will not be able to displace the Federal Government’s monopoly currency given it is required to pay government taxes in. This is especially apparent when one considers land taxes, which then oblige people to obtain the currency for their rent or rates etc. So ultimately there will always be a demand for the state currency rather than alternative crypto currencies. This is not to say local councils can’t issue their own parallel crypto currencies and demand some portion of rates be paid in them etc. which is where I think the technology has far greater social potential.

Yes, I will do my best to incorporate that.


(Jesse Hermans) #4

I have also decided to now pirate that line in use for policy heading.


#5

One of those oddities in life, I guess, because the two ideas are really quite complementary. A Job Guarantee doesn’t cope all that well with increasing automation, and a Universal Basic Income doesn’t give people any incentive to maintain skills and not become completely idle.


#6

It was a good and valuable presentation, and definitely worth the time at a national level for this as I believe visionary economic reform is and should be a cornerstone of the party.

How it works through with relationship with other movements in the space such as UBI and crypto I think at a detail level are still very much WIP but at this point I see a lot in continuing the support of thought leadership and progress.

I would be hesitant in jumping the gun with too prescriptive policy however so would be wary of policy that favours one economic vision over another without a very solid and debated reasoning aligned to the Pirate values. But all in all, an excellent presentation and discussion, and I feel I learnt something useful.


(Edwin Waters) #7

One of those oddities in life, I guess, because the two ideas are really quite complementary. A Job Guarantee doesn’t cope all that well with increasing automation, and a Universal Basic Income doesn’t give people any incentive to maintain skills and not become completely idle.

I am interested to know how a job guarantee doesn’t cope with increasing automation?


#8

I would take at present with my limited insight, that the job guarantee is a pragmatic solution for how society currently envisions value of the individual. UBI to really be implemented will take a fundamental transformation in how society sees the role of government and the value and place of citizens.

Job guarantee in my view can quickly become anti innovation by consuming and financing competition with genuine innovation by a centrally controlled job creation mechanism that will be motivated to be risk averse, populist (always the bane of genuine innovation) and demanding of attention for assurity of a breadline for its participants. UBI gives much more freedom and hence room for innovation.

I think that a pragmatic transition then transformation over time is what is realistic at present. But looking forward to my views being challenged and gaining more insight.


(Edwin Waters) #9

I don’t understand how you are under the impression that a job guarantee would be anti innovation? Think of a hackerspace where people are paid to innovate and develop new technology.


#10

because it has centralised control rather than market. By its nature government controlled investment decisioning will always be more risk averse, and that classification and prioritisation of what will constitute a job under this is an investment decision.


#11

I had a similar reaction, and was having trouble with my irc connection and ended up not asking any questions where it’s a policy area very close to my heart.

I do still think JG has fundamental issues, and the main one is that it makes assumptions about fundamental human motivation and civic responsibility, which have tended to be discovered to be completely unfounded and incorrect, when UBI programs are trialled. The primary assumption I think with the difference between UBI and JG is that JG is seen as necessary only because of the assumption that people are fundamentally lazy, and need to be policed to be of value to society. The other issue is inefficiency. I hate the inherent inefficiency of requiring humans to be employed, because we are so rapidly heading toward the post-employment economy that this stage honestly is simply unnecessary, and could be done better and cheaper through automation if not now, in the near enough future, that policy needs to look to or beyond that point. JG does nothing to improve the current benefits system which reduces people’s ability to genuinely develop a sense of self, a sense of purpose, and basically increases learned helplessness. This is science, not opinion, and while we haven’t had society-wide experiments, we have a lot of small scale pilot data which shows this.

This is one of the key reasons society is so broken atm, (imnsho). And so backing a policy which I personally think is as fundamentally damaging psychologically as the current benefits system, is not something I personally can support, regardless of the transition arguments.

But! But! But!! This may seem to be in direct opposition to my support of a compulsory period of military / humanitarian / civil service, but I think it’s actually very different (and can be see kindof as a JG too ;)) . Happy to expand if needed, or see that thread really.

:slight_smile:


#12

As more and more things are automated, the number of jobs available to be done by actual people reduces. As the number of jobs available reduces, eventually it will get to the point where people who want jobs outnumber the available jobs, and to keep a job guarantee going there would have to be useless busywork going on.

Obviously we aren’t at that point yet, but it’s definitely something that can happen as technology improves.


(Edwin Waters) #13

As more and more things are automated, the number of jobs available to be done by actual people reduces. As the number of jobs available reduces, eventually it will get to the point where people who want jobs outnumber the available jobs, and to keep a job guarantee going there would have to be useless busywork going on. Obviously we aren’t at that point yet, but it’s definitely something that can happen as technology improves.

What is your time frame for a fully automated society? There are a lot of not for profit activities people could be paid to do for the public good that isn’t “busy work”. As Jesse suggested at the meeting, busking is one idea.


(Jesse Hermans) #14

Yes, which is why we can use a flexible institution like the Job Guarantee to gradually broaden the concept of work, reduce working hours and the retirement age as appropriate.


#15

I can tell that we’re heading in that direction, but I don’t have enough knowledge to give a timeframe. At least partially because no society has actually reached the point of full automation yet.

Busking is an interesting thing. Theoretically it’s already been subject to automation, with various forms of audio playback having existed for quite a while. So what’s really going on is an exhibition of skill and it’s therefore an activity that inherently has a person involved.

My argument is that there aren’t enough jobs that inherently involve a person to replace every job that will eventually be automated.

Sounds like some sort of mix of JG and UBI that gets the best parts of each to me, which is what I was alluding to earlier.


(Jesse Hermans) #16

You might hate it, but that’s a personal preference. The Job Guarantee is completely voluntary so if you don’t want to work in it that’s fine - there is no “requiring humans to be employed”. But if others prefer to work then I don’t see why you should deny them their human right Article 23:
Article 23(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:

“Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.”

We still have a basic income policy, so choosing not take a job is an option as is supplementing only a few hours of work a week in addition to the BI payment via the program. With both policies we provide people with that choice.

You seem to be either unaware or equally dismissive of the vast body of academic literature which exists on the socially and psychologically detrimental effects of long term unemployment beyond income loss. This is not someone’s “opinion”, this has been shown repeatedly in happiness studies etc. Not to mention the results and studies on employment guarantees, which found participants valued the program for multiple reasons above and beyond the income. According to surveys of the Plan Jefes program, participants stated that income was the 5th most important thing to participants in the program (from 9min in):

More information is available here:


and a collection of a large amount of academic work done on Job Guarantees is available here:

Additionally the Job Guarantee has been tried and tested on a society wide level. It was a de facto policy from 1945-74 thanks to Australia’s Full Employment White Paper.

This is a speculative assertion that has yet to manifest in the productivity growth data, and hasn’t even reach the point where it offsets the ageing population problem yet. No doubt it will come, but as I’ve said above a flexible institution which allows us to manage the transition is very beneficial. Not to mention there is no reason why we should be forcing people into involuntary unemployment in the interim, or keep using the current dysfunctional model of using the unemployed/underemployed as a buffer-stock and policy tool for controlling inflation.


(Jesse Hermans) #17

On the note of employment providing benefits beyond income loss, there is another example a read recently in a Bill Mitchell blog post which I will paste below:


On December 2, 1930 the Marienthal textile factory was finally shutdown because sales had collapsed as the Great Depression spread. The Depression was the last straw.

At its peak (1929) it had employed 1,200 workers and an addition 90 salaried staff, which constituted about 75 per cent of the local population.

As we read in the book (p.ix):

Over the summer of 1929 the factory and all of its companion plants closed down and nearly every family in the small village became affected by unemployment. The big difference from former recessions was the sheer length of time this unemployment lasted. When the researchers first came to Marienthal more than two years after the shutdown of the factory, the situation had not changed at all; it had became even worse.

The closure saw the people quickly descend into poverty and hopelessness.

The study found that (p.ix):

Only one out of five families had at least one member earning an income from regular work. Three quarters of the families were dependent on unemployment payments, which were dramatically low at this time … when a dog disappears, the owner no longer bothers to report the loss.

The reference to the disappearing dogs relates to the increasing desperation for food among the local population.

The Marienthal study sought to investigate the impacts of this economic catastrophe on the people affected. It was funded by the “Federal Chamber of Labour of Vienna and Lower Austria and by the US-American Rockefeller Foundation”.

Jahoda, Lazarsfeld and Zeisl were working in the private research centre directed by Lazarsfeld – Österreichische Wirtschaftspsychologische Forschungsstelle (Austrian Research Unit for Economic Psychology).

The conjectures entertained by the investigation at the time included whether long-term unemployment would lead to a socialist revolt or, instead, lead to social exclusion, isolation and increased passive resignation.

Interestingly, we read in the Introduction that (p.x):

Marienthal was a stronghold of the Social Democratic Labor Movement. There was a full-fledged Workers’ Library, newspapers were widely distributed and read, participation in the community’s life was strong, many clubs were active and participation in political campaigns and elections was high.

An interesting observation (especially in the face of some of the modern claims about the freedom joblessness would give people with a basic income guarantee), is that given (p.x):

Nearly everything had come to a stop after the closing of the factory … People who should have more time for reading books stopped borrowing them from the library; newspapers were not read as carefully as before, if at all; only organizations offering their members direct financial advantages showed an increase …

The research process began in November 1931 and ran until “mid-January 1932”

What did they find?

  1. In terms of the typology of changing attitudes to the unemployment, four specific patterns emerged – “the inner unbroken – the resigned – in despair – the apathetic”.

We learn that the unbroken family – one which suffered the least from the unemployment (p.53) was best described as on that engaged in the:

… maintenance of the household, care of the children, subjective well-being, activity, hopes and plans for the future, sustained vitality, and continued attempts to find employment.

However, the apathetic families, which were the most impoverished became passive and exhibited hopelessness. They gave up trying to improve their situation.

Instead of having “plans and hopes for the future”, the unemployment “led to a renouncement of a future that does not even play a role in the imagination”.

  1. The other finding related to this was that as time passed these typical states became transitions in the path to destitution.

So the “lower the income the more deprived the families reacted”. And those who had previously exhibited hope were worn down by the enduring nature of the calamity and as their resources vanished, their passivity increased.

This was an important observation given the belief among the Social Democrat activists that “a more active, rebellious reaction to deprivation” would result (p.xi).

Indeed (p.xi):

Marxists of all branches anticipate the revolution to come after the final breakdown of capitalism. Marienthal provided a telling lesson quite contrary to the conventional wisdom and history itself validated the experience.

This is an important point and helps to explain why the elites and capital do not mind entrenched levels of mass unemployment. It helps to explain why Greeks who are enduring above 20 per cent unemployment and increasing poverty still support the institutional structure (the common currency) that has created their plight.

Mass unemployment works for the elites. It demoralises those who are forced by the lack of jobs to endure it. It is not just about the income poverty that results.

Rather, these attitudinal changes are significant factors which act to discipline the workforce and render it compliant to the wishes and desires of capital.

  1. The study also provided insights in what the authors called the “Meaning of Time” (Chapter 7).

As the Introduction notes (p.xi):

Someone from the research group called attention to the fact that men walked more slowly across the main street and stopped more often on their way that women … A conclusion of their … observations was that women were not really unemployed but only unpaid.

On page 74, we read that “They have the household to run, which fully occupies the day”.

Interestingly, the authors found that when the men were asked about what they did during the day (p.85):

The unemployed are simply no longer able to given an account of everything he did during the day.

They concluded that time and they way it forces the employed persons to divide their time to suit the range of activities they need to fulfill in a day had “lost meaning” to the unemployed.

Public holidays lost their significance and after the collapse the Marienthal population spent much less time occupied with public events or to volunteer for civic duties.

In 1933, the authoritarian Austrian government sought to deal with unemployment after their austerity policies had failed. They introduced job creation schemes about which Marie Jahoda would later write in letters to Paul Lazarsfeld (see footnote 3 in the Introduction to the Transaction Edition):

Only the provision of any work could counter the resignation that comes with unemployment.

The political consequences of the unemployment were clearly significant. Jahoda, herself, later noted that rather than emancipate the unemployed into a politicised and active group, the most likely political outcomes would be to push the workers towards right-wing politics

When I was younger I wondered why the unemployed didn’t take the opportunity to learn things – a new language, a musical instrument etc – given they now had ‘free’ time.

I was naive. The Marienthal study found the workers overwhelmingly failed to use the freedom from work. Their apathy and dislocation became intensified as time passed.

Their aspirations collapsed.

The costs of the unemployment thus went beyond the material losses that a lack of income brings. A job is more than an income, which is as relevant today as it was in the time of the Marienthal study.

Workers deprived of the capacity to gain employment are simultaneously deprived of social interactions that are important in creating aspiration and hope.

Time becomes important and motivation increases as a way to deal with competing time uses.


Now one could argue in the 21st century involuntary unemployed BI recipients might simply spend their days binge watching YouTube, playing video games, become “professional” sommeliers (chronic drinkers), or head off to the gym every so often instead of walking down the main street looking at the pavement. But whether they do that by choice or circumstance is another matter entirely.


#18

I don’t believe most people who are pro-JG feel this way. It’s good that you personally do, but as a policy I think it’s going to be misinterpreted a lot, mainly by people (and this is the majority out there both from far left to hard right) who believe, as a very core belief, that “no-one deserves to get something for nothing”.

I’d also argue that we are literally on the cusp (within the next couple of years) of the number of available jobs being reducing thanks to automation, to beyond the point at which a JG program would really be useful. It could have been good a few decades ago, and honestly if the work had been done, it would be useful now. But policies like this take years to actually implement. The real world isn’t waiting for us. I’ve been yelling at anyone who will listen for a few years now about automation, had conversations when doorknocking last year with people who were seeing it already happening in their workplace, and increasingly talking with clients this year in a variety of industries including law, mining, IT and more, that are literally watching jobs in their companies disappear before their eyes thanks to automation.

This horse, seriously, has already bolted.


#19

this is not fixed by giving someone a meaningless job that a robot could do cheaper, faster and better. In fact, that’s even more soul destroying.


(Jesse Hermans) #20

No Job Guarantee advocate is advocating a make work scheme. Additionally as I’ve said before the JG is voluntary, so if you don’t want to participate then that’s your preference/choice, but it doesn’t give you the right to deny others that right.
They themselves have the power to suggest their own community driven jobs, so given this they are able to propose jobs which they want to do. Broadening of the concept of work is infinite in its potential. Even a book club could eventually become a JG job.
The participants of these example programs speak through their actions. They show up to work even when given a BI. It’s only when the program is terminated they are forced to stop working.

This argument doesn’t hold water when one considers the vast number of jobs which have been assessed as potential JG jobs:
http://e1.newcastle.edu.au/coffee/pubs/wp/2006/06-15.pdf
http://e1.newcastle.edu.au/coffee/pubs/reports/2008/CofFEE_JA/CofFEE_JA_final_report_November_2008.pdf
Alternatively there are some mentioned in the video above. Regardless as the need for work shrinks and productivity surges one merely needs to reduce working hours, the retirement age, and maintain the same weekly take home pay through wage increases, to “ration” what work there is which is still available for the program. In addition to broadening the concept of work itself which creates more of it.

I can’t force you to read the feasibility studies, the real world examples, and academic literature on how Job Guarantees work in an increasingly automated world. Nor can I argue against a speculative claim/assertion that automation overnight at some unspecified time in the near future will render human labour obsolete. All I can do is make a case that using a buffer-stock of underutilised labour for inflation control is vastly inequitable, inefficient, exclusive and inferior as opposed to socially productive, publicly employed labour.
Just humans have the ingenuity to put men on the moon, I have no doubt we have the capacity to continuously come up with meaningful work and broaden our concept of work.