Sunday, February 23, 2014

Garth Brazelton — History of Jobs Guarantee Program

The idea that a buffer stock of employed citizens be created by the government as a kind of 'employer of last resort' is not a new concept but I've been wondering exactly how old an idea it is. I at the same time was reading exerts from my copy of Thomas Paine's "Rights of Man" 1791 for a completely unrelated reason, and came across this section which sketches an outline of what such a program might look like (at his time). I know of no other such outline (be they from a political persuasion as below or an economic persuasion) written earlier than this (consider this a challenge!)....
Nice find. Gareth is putting together a history of the JG/ELR and is looking for input, both from the history of economics (theoretical) and economic history (actual programs).

Reviving Economics
History of Jobs Guarantee Program
Garth A Brazelton


Tom Hickey said...

Looks like William Petty may have proposed something like an ELR in the case of "supernumeraries"

"Fiscal contributions were of prime concern to policymakers in the 17th century, as they have remained ever since, for the wise country would not spend above its revenues. By Petty’s time, England was engaged in war with Holland, and in the first three chapters of Treatise of Taxes and Contributions, Petty sought to establish principles of taxation and public expenditure, to which the monarch could adhere, when deciding how to raise money for the war. Petty lists six kinds of public charge, namely defence, governance, the pastorage of men’s souls, education, the maintenance of impotents of all sorts and infrastructure, or things of universal good. He then discusses general and particular causes of changes in these charges. He thinks that there is great scope for reduction of the first four public charges, and recommends increased spending on care for the elderly, sick, orphans, etc., as well as the government employment of supernumeraries."

Wikipedia (emphasis added)

Tom Hickey said...

Petty was also a fan of full employment, using an analogy similar to what Keynes would assert later.

"The goal of full employment was of most importance to Petty, having recognised that labour was one of the major sources of wealth for individuals and 'the greatest Wealth and Strength of the Kingdom'. In this vein, he extended the cloth-wine argument above, arguing that it is better to employ men and burn their product or to engage in extravagant public works projects, than to have indolent 'supernumeraries' in an economy – hence his famous example of relocating Stonehenge across the plains of Salisbury."


Ralph Musgrave said...

I say 2,600 years old. According to John Garraty’s “Unemployment in History” the idea goes back to Ancient Athens. Garraty says, “Pericles undertook “vast projects of buildings and designs of work, it being his desire and design that the undisciplined and mechanic multitude … should not go without their share of public salaries, and yet should not have them given them for sitting still and doing nothing”.

That’s got JG with an element of workfare written all over it.