Monday, May 15, 2023

Quote of the week: Steve Keen’s concerns about a Job Guarantee, Part 2 — Nick Johnson

I think Steve Keen has a point worth considering about fixation on a JG — with a caveat — I don't think he is right about canning a JG at this point.

While innovation has in the past led to an increase in leisure, the digital age promises to deliver the potential for much greater leisure since the need for human labor ("jobs") will decrease. To continue focusing on "jobs" (full employment) is a sort of Luddite stance standing in the way of both increased leisure and also better ecology.

The caveat is that changing our attitudes toward "work" as making a social contribution as well as an economic one is difficult is there is always resistance to cultural change.  Increased distribution of labor is a political choice and in liberal democracies this depends at least on part on the attitude of the electoral albeit more on the elite (oligarchy, really) in that contemporary liberal democracies tend to be plutocracies. The elite has no great motivation to be concerned with the increasing distribution of leisure as a result of investment in technological innovation.

The transition from a culture based on work to one based on leisure is likely going to be more gradual than sudden, although ecological necessity might speed that up. An alternative is culling the population of redundancy, something that many believe is "the plan."

So, while the need for a job guarantee will continue for some time, forward-looking people will realize that the digital age promises a level of distributed leisure that is unprecedented and that we need to change the culturally embedded view of the value of work. One way to do this is to realize that the definition of leisure is not "goofing off," but rather, engaging in a lifestyle and activity of one's choice.

Leisure is often viewed economically as "non-productive time" (Veblen), or "free time." But this view is based on comparing and contrasting leisure (not working) with employment (working). This is not the classical view of leisure, however. Athens enjoyed the opportunity for the informed debate necessary for direct democracy because the work was done by slaves. 

When slavery was replaced, part of the replacement was with technology, the cotton gin, for example. An opportunity is developing with the introduction not only of machinery but also automation and robotics based on AI.  This is an opportunity to be seized through both cultural and political change.

History reminds us that the increased distribution of leisure made available by technological innovation resulting from science and the knowledge revolution, including universal education, was not a gift of the owners of capital to workers but it came as a result of political activism.

The Political Economy of Development
Quote of the week: Steve Keen’s concerns about a Job Guarantee, Part 2
Nick Johnson


Peter Pan said...

There won't be a JG, so don't worry about it. The issue is moot.

Tom Hickey said...

There won't be a JG, so don't worry about it. The issue is moot

There won't be a lot more distributed leisure under capitalism either.

NeilW said...

The problem is one of solidarity and pricing.

Why should the farmer work five days a week if you won't? Why shouldn't the improvements in productivity accrue to the farmer and they stop producing after four days work and take Friday's off.

For the farmer to work that final day, producing the surplus for those who are currently unemployed, they need to see something in return. That's other people working about as much as they do.

Moreover the Job Guarantee *sets the base price of the labour hour in the economy from which all other prices are derived*. It is the anchor, of the anchorism within MMT.

If I give you 10 of my notes, you have absolutely no idea how much they are worth or how many Big Macs they will buy. But if I tell you you get those 10 notes for five hours work, you will be able to gauge quickly how much a Big Mac should be in my notes. Therefore you'll tend not to overpay.

That anchors inflation. Everybody knows how much a labour hour is worth at base, and that then *replaces* interest rate adjustments as stabilisation policy in the economy. We move stabilisation from the market for money to the market for labour.

Quite why Steve can't get his head around that I don't understand.

Peter Pan said...

Learning is universal, education is pernicious.