GMI + JG = paid work as a choice for all

by John Quiggin on April 23, 2018

I’ve been arguing for a while that a Guarantee Minimum Income (or Universal Basic Income) ought to be combined with a Jobs Guarantee to would make paid work a genuine choice for everyone. To spell this out, the GMI/UBI would make it possible to live decently without paid work, while a Jobs Guarantee would ensure that paid work was available to everyone. As a medium term policy, the best form of GMI would, I think, be the participation income advocated by the late Tony Atkinson. That is, a payment conditional on some form of social contribution, including voluntary work, study and childcare. Support for such a policy entails a direct confrontation with the punitive attitudes behind policies like Work for the Dole, while still maintaining the widely-held principle of reciprocity.

I was going to write more about this, but I just received an article by Felix FitzRoy and Jim Jin, in the Journal of Poverty and Social Justice which presents the argument very well. So, I’ll just recommend that to anyone interested in the issue.

{ 83 comments }

1

Brett 04.23.18 at 6:08 am

To spell this out, the GMI/UBI would make it possible to live decently without paid work, while a Jobs Guarantee would ensure that paid work was available to everyone.

Why would you work if the GMI guarantees a decent living without it?

2

Equalitus 04.23.18 at 6:57 am

@1 Because paid work is better paid, and some paid work is better work/activity. The question is how many, by percent etc. The distribution devil is in the empirical quantitatively details!

3

Wylie Bradford 04.23.18 at 7:20 am

Brett, in order to have a more-than-decent living? People currently seem to devote considerable resources to increasing their lifetime income.

4

Wylie Bradford 04.23.18 at 8:04 am

It’s interesting to see the way the JG forces seized on reciprocity and dignity of work arguments once BI started being touted as an alternative (or indeed equivalent). At least in the domestic (i.e Aus) version of the argument, it was once quite different.

I remember a Centre of Full Employment and Equity conference back in the day where the argument that JG jobs would be richer and more fulfilling than private sector jobs, involving less de-skilling and more rewarding techniques, was challenged in the context of the macro stabilisation aspect of the plan. According to the ‘buffer stock’ concept, governments could use aggregate demand management to move people in and out of the JG ‘stock’ without inflationary consequences. The problem identified was the implications for the porousness of the membrane if the skills in use in the JG stock (and the desirability of the work involved) were radically at odds with those in use outside it, and the resulting complications for demand management.

At one point Bill Mitchell declared, with some degree of exasperation, that the purpose of the JG was not to replicate capitalist wage labour and that perhaps the notion of what constituted ‘work’ needed to be revisited. In relation to the latter point, his example was ‘perhaps they could be paid to go surfing’.

That was surprising given his subsequent anti-BI stance – after all it is precisely the example used by van Parijs in his famous defence of a UBI! It was also rather amusing in that we were in Newcastle and without doubt at that very moment there were plenty of people out surfing, with some proportion unemployed and being paid by the government :)

One of their problems has been that the more they try to differentiate the JG from a UBI, the more they make it sound like work-for-the-dole (another comparison they hate).

5

Shane 04.23.18 at 8:18 am

Brett, why do people go for promotions or apply for better jobs? Same same.

6

sanbikinoraion 04.23.18 at 8:55 am

a payment conditional on some form of social contribution, including voluntary work, study and childcare

… and what do you do with the people who don’t “make a contribution” and don’t get paid? Do they just become homeless and starve…?

Any kind of conditionality on a basic income / minimum income / negative income tax results in people falling through the safety net, who then, ironically, wind up costing more money and time from police, social workers, doctors, and charities than if they had just been in receipt of benefits in the first place.

Secondly, minimum income schemes start to look a lot like workfare unless the wage paid is guaranteed to be the minimum wage. And that of course undermines the labour market for people already in minimum wage employment, as workfare drones undercut their rates – ironically, making them unemployed, and seeking a mincome job.

The details of these schemes matter.

7

Gareth Wilson 04.23.18 at 11:26 am

There are three problems with basic income schemes: Tony, who’s a billionaire and lives a life of luxury, Bruce, who has a chronic medical condition that’s extremely expensive to treat, and Trevor, who is an able-bodied man who just wants to sit around and drink all day. Decide what, if anything, the scheme will pay to Tony, Bruce, and Trevor, and you’re halfway there. Yes, I have been watching the Marvel movies…

8

engels 04.23.18 at 11:35 am

Agree very much with main point and thanks the link.

Atkinson’s proposal seems like a way of redefining the boundary between deserving and undeserving destitute, rather than anything to do with UBI. Not sure why studying is always a ‘social contribution’? Is it okay if I’m studying serialism? Financial engineering?

9

Lee A. Arnold 04.23.18 at 11:57 am

“Why would you work if the GMI guarantees a decent living without it?”

Because you could get further ahead. “Decent” here merely means freedom from worry about the bare necessities. If you want more, it leaves this open for you.

The authors make a good case, and have a good bibliography.

Their argument is dressed in the lineaments of modern economics, from which the argument carries certain negative premises: a BI (basic income) + JG (job guarantee) is 1. necessary, because the market system is causing inequality and joblessness. And, the addition of JG to BI will 2. avoid the common objections that people still want “dignity from work” and should not get “something for nothing”.

While these necessities and avoidances are commonplaces of our current scene, I think the case should be stated positively: capitalism has succeeded in attaining freedom from absolute want, and now it has become everyone’s birthright.

If this is not stated positively, then there will be only a negative political rhetoric that is available to defenders of BI+JG, to fight the certain re-encroachment of rent extractions by the private upperclass business & financial system in semi-secret lobbying in the corridors of government. (We see this in the U.S. in the current fight by the insurance companies against universal healthcare with the provision of new junk insurance as Trumpcare.) It must be stated positively that BI+JG is a good thing, not a bad one; the outcome of an historical success, not an orphan of failure.

Rhetoric is everything. The basic question is human volition. Modern economics got its ideas of human preference from the ancient condition that money is a measure of scarcity. (Money is numerical, which made a science seem possible by mathematization. Economists believe that money is the root of all good.) Abraham buys a burial place for Sarah using silver shekels in Genesis 23, which is a priestly rewrite by the 5th Century BC. Use of money in China is documented thousands of years further back.

But such antiquity should not blind us to the possibility that this is a long historical era now finally ending (due to technological innovation and success, the chiefest delineator of historical eras) and that it caused a psychological disease, with a cure finally in sight.

10

steven t johnson 04.23.18 at 12:00 pm

Shortening the work week would be a simple way to increase the number of jobs available.

A jobs guarantee should include jobs for youth. If they don’t want years of student poverty to gamble on a degree’s future value as credentials? Raise the student stipend.

It is too often forgotten that some high-stress, high responsibility jobs, such as elder care and child care, would benefit from a higher number of workers, who would relieve each other (or supervise each other, if you want to be cynical.) What passes now for greater efficiency is lower quality of service.

11

nastywoman 04.23.18 at 12:04 pm

– a good idea – while at the same time the major efforts should be in creating ”satisfying” jobs – as there are just too many ”depressed” workers in the so called ”advanced economies” right now –
(and in the US homeland it already turned into an ”opioid epidemic”) –

12

Collin Street 04.23.18 at 12:12 pm

That is, a payment conditional on some form of social contribution, including voluntary work, study and childcare.

We tried that. It was called “Work for the dole” and it didn’t work.

There’s nothing wrong with the idea. The idea is fine. But any idea can only work if it’s implemented by people who have a capacity to admit mistakes and a capacity to comprehend that the experience of others differs from their own. And pretty much by definition that’s not something you’ll ever find from the Right.

All social problems are, at heart, mental-health problems. And I don’t mean the mental health of the downtrodden.

13

anonymousse 04.23.18 at 12:34 pm

Who do you expect to clean your toilets (outside of your home) under any guaranteed income scheme?

anon

14

EB 04.23.18 at 3:23 pm

And who gets to decide whether any given activity is socially useful? I’m on the job guarantee side of this discussion, but I think the definition of job has to be narrower — someone needs to be willing to pay for the service, and it needs to be of value to someone outside the recipient or their immediate family.

15

Whirrlaway 04.23.18 at 3:52 pm

A jobs guarantee would seem to put a floor under wages. Not coercive like minimum wage.

16

Sebastian H 04.23.18 at 4:18 pm

I like the paper because it at least gestures to some of the obvious problems in ways that most proponents don’t (like what does a job guarantee mean if you are always pissing off employers or what happens if you take the job but won’t work).

From a Burkean conservative perspective I’m a little concerned because it’s almost impossible to try it out somewhere. In theory you could target it for whatever your economy and population is now, but if implemented it would cause inflows that would almost certainly swamp the program(s). It suffers all the immigration/economy concerns of a generous welfare state times ten. That seems remediable by instituting strict immigration controls, which would be an odd position for a liberal program. (Something like the multi generation non citizen guest worker scheme that Germany only just recently abandoned). Or if you had non working residency requirements spanning years it would seem to incentivize a nasty underground market while establishing residency. And in places like the US, are we going to force families to move long distances for it? (That would be more palatable if we ever got housing costs under control by allowing building more in rich cities but that’s probably adding too much complexity for one topic).

Assuming the effectiveness of the programs, I guess the question is whether or not proponents are willing to bite the bullet on immigration issues.

17

engels 04.23.18 at 6:59 pm

Who do you expect to clean your toilets (outside of your home) under any guaranteed income scheme?

This comment kinda sums up the growing opposition to UBI ime

18

engels 04.23.18 at 7:14 pm

‘If we free our slaves we won’t be able to force them to clean our toilets anymore’

19

Matt 04.23.18 at 7:27 pm

@13,

Someone who wants to make a bit more than the guaranteed income? It’s a floor, not a ceiling….

20

engels 04.24.18 at 1:05 am

someone needs to be willing to pay for the service, and it needs to be of value to someone outside the recipient or their immediate family

So if Baker, Conway and David mow their own lawns they’re not contributing members of society (and deserve to starve).
But if Baker pays Conway to mow Davis’s lawn, and C pays D to mow B’s, and D pays B to mow C’s, for the same pay they’re all contributing members of society.

Awesome

21

J-D 04.24.18 at 1:22 am

anonymousse

Who do you expect to clean your toilets (outside of your home) under any guaranteed income scheme?

At least three possibilities occur to me.
1. In the office where I work, there’s a roster for cleaning the office kitchen. Everybody has to take a turn. I can’t think of any reason why cleaning the bathroom couldn’t be done on the same system: everybody could be rostered to take a turn. As a variation, it could be your turn to clean the toilet every time you use the toilet, but it might be harder to make that system work.
2. It could be one requirement of a job that people desire because of its other features, as, for example, if you want to be an intern in the White House you will be required to do some bathroom-cleaning as part of your job duties or, for another example, if you want to be Chief Justice of the United States you will be required to do some bathroom-cleaning as part of your job duties.
3. You could raise the rate you pay people for the job until you find people who are prepared to do it at that pay rate. I think that’s what some people call ‘the free market’, although I admit I’m not clear on that point.

22

anonymousse 04.24.18 at 1:59 am

‘If we free our slaves we won’t be able to force them to clean our toilets anymore’

This is the kind of pithy comment I expected-and I would expect at an academic conference, after which, when there is a scheduled break, everyone goes to use the toilet-which someone else will be cleaning.

anon

23

derrida derider 04.24.18 at 4:20 am

Plenty I could comment here, but my current (relevant) work limits me. I’ll just second John’s recommendation of Fitzroy & Jin’s paper. If Dropbox doesn’t work for you its also at at IZA (Institut Zur Arbeitswirtschaft – love those German compound words) at http://ftp.iza.org/pp133.pdf

24

nastywoman 04.24.18 at 4:52 am

– and about the ”cleaning toilets” –
in countries which have too yuuuge of so called ”Service” Industries there are a lot more ”worst” jobs than just cleaning toilets or picking up the trash.
There are a majority of jobs which are so psychological degrading that they (supposedly) take away ones ”purpose” – or ”love for life” – and only can be done with drugs.

25

MFB 04.24.18 at 7:45 am

Sebastian H, we could probably do something like this in South Africa because the flow of population from southern Africa to South Africa is already gigantic. In fact we do have something similar to a basic income via the social grant system (although I doubt anybody reading this blog would consider social grant money anything like enough).

Unfortunately, given our current government and our 45% unemployment rate, the idea of a guaranteed job in South Africa is very much a pipedream. Pass me the pipe . . .

26

sanbikinoraion 04.24.18 at 9:45 am

Who do you expect to clean your toilets (outside of your home) under any guaranteed income scheme?

Under guaranteed income, some pleb who has effectively been compelled into working to earn minimum wage regardless of how convenient that is to their personal circumstances (in the UK, I forsee people being forced to take 2 buses 1.5h each way to work a literally shitty job for a close-to-nil net cash benefit, once elimination of non-working benefits have been factored in). You will wind up with shitty, poorly cleaned toilets.

Under a basic income scheme, where toilet cleaning pays (a perhaps lower) minimum wage *in addition* to the BI, I imagine you’ll get people who actually want to work for the money. Your toilets will be less shitty this way.

27

casmilus 04.24.18 at 9:49 am

@13

Crapperdroid 9000 units.

28

ph 04.24.18 at 11:36 am

What’s interesting (to me) is that nobody needs to wait for any government policy to implement this scheme.

Those who think sitting around getting money for nothing bestows the same dignity on individuals could get together with others willing to support the money for nothing gang and implement the policy to demonstrate how easy and simple it will be to make the plan work.

Doctors keen to give free medical care to loafers, and engineers keen to design and build homes for the unwilling to work will be delighted to participate in a plan that respects everyone equally regardless of their contribution to the common pot. Fact is, a significant percentage of folks who can work, don’t, out of choice. The jobs are beneath them evidently.

I expect my wife would divorce me on the spot if I ever ‘decided’ work wasn’t for me. As she aptly puts it: ‘who’s going to show the kids how to get up and put in a good day’s work, if not you? She’s up at 5:00 most days. I expect I’ll be between the shafts in some form, or another until I drop, with no regrets. I like work. I can understand that others don’t, but I see no reason to subsidize their choice when they’re clearly unwilling/unable to return anything like a return in any kind.

One of my mentors in a particularly cut-throat capitalist enterprise decades ago boasted that he’d steal before he’d go on the dole. He also liked guns. Off to the re-education camp for him, I suppose.

29

MisterMr 04.24.18 at 11:39 am

@anonimousse 13

“Who do you expect to clean your toilets (outside of your home) under any guaranteed income scheme?”

As someone above me already remarked, people would then ask to be paid much more for doing unpleasant jobs like toilet cleaning (as opposite to now, where people who have problem finding a good job are forced to get a job that is often both unpleasant and underpaid).

The real question is, since productivty and production cannot increase above a certain limit, who is gonna lose income so that other can have more income?

I (and I think most people) would like “the rich” to take a hit, and the various guaranteed income/job schemes to work with a redistributive effect.

If we do this by pure printing, it’s likely that we just get more inflation and that the redistributive effect would be small, so IMHO the ideal would be to have a situation where the increased jobs and the possibility of not working without starving give more bargaining power to worker, so that the wage share increases.

30

Lupita 04.24.18 at 5:46 pm

Who do you expect to clean your toilets (outside of your home) under any guaranteed income scheme?

Robots.

31

Ingrid Robeyns 04.24.18 at 5:51 pm

Thanks for the link, John! I will only have time to read this paper in a week or two, but I am looking forward reading it.

32

nastywoman 04.25.18 at 4:51 am

@24
”As she aptly puts it: ‘who’s going to show the kids how to get up and put in a good day’s work, if not you?”

Me? –
as I love to work too – which make it very hard to understand that people who love to work could believe that there are ”others” who are ”unwilling to work”?

33

nastywoman 04.25.18 at 5:12 am

– and furthermore there are whole countries known for ”their people’s love to work” -(like… Finnland) while trying out universal basic income without accusing others that they are ”unwilling to work”.

And where does such an idea come from anyway?
From ”Trumpists”?

34

engels 04.25.18 at 10:53 am

It could be one requirement of a job that people desire because of its other features, as, for example, if you want to be an intern in the White House you will be required to do some bathroom-cleaning as part of your job duties or, for another example, if you want to be Chief Justice of the United States you will be required to do some bathroom-cleaning as part of your job duties.

This is a good solution imo

35

eg 04.25.18 at 11:09 am

@29

The “pure printing” (by which I take it you mean a sovereign currency issuer just credits the accounts in question) may lead to less demand driven inflation than you think.

In any event, inflation has its own elegance as a form of stealth taxation when it’s otherwise difficult or impossible to get the oligarchs to voluntarily tax themselves to a sufficient degree.

Cue the “zomg– but hyperinflation!” trollbots …

36

nastywoman 04.25.18 at 11:38 am

@34
”This is a good solution imo”

Doubtful – as it actually shows the same kind of thinking which made the ”GMI experiment” in Finnland so ”envious”.

There are still far too many people in this world who absolutely hate it if anybody else get’s some so called ”Free Lunch” -(like – without cleaning some toilets before?)

That’s why the GMI reality some American Indian Tribes are practicing – already since years might be most preferable?

Firstly Indian Tribes whose income comes mainly from ”Gambling” or ”Casinos” understand that fact – unlike most Gamblers on Wall Street or the general US-Casino.

And whereas other gambling institutions may do as their stakeholders please with their net profits, tribal nations must follow strict rules. Per IGRA (25 USC 2710), gaming net profits may be used only to:

1) Fund tribal government operations or programs;

2) Provide for the general welfare of their members;

3) Promote tribal economic development;

4) Donate to charitable organizations; and

5) Help fund operations of local government agencies

This means the tribe must use gaming revenue to improve its infrastructure, develop education opportunities, and provide social programs for the people.
BUT on top of it a tribe also can decide to distribute per capita payments to the tribal members – AFTER having developed a “revenue allocation plan” and gain approval of the plan from the DOI Secretary.

But even then – sometimes the same ”Envy Problem” as in Finland might appear – as a 2008 report found out ”that tribal leaders don’t like to disburse cash, contending “large per capita payments lead to citizen dependence on tribal governments, undermine the work ethic, and discourage young citizens from finishing their educations.”

37

Wylie Bradford 04.25.18 at 12:25 pm

38

nastywoman 04.25.18 at 12:56 pm

@37

Not really

…In Finland, where the social safety net is famously generous, a structure like Britain’s could yield the very thing basic income is supposed to deliver: a guarantee that every member of society can be assured of sustenance and shelter.

This may be the main reason that basic income has lost momentum in Finland: It is effectively redundant.

Health care is furnished by the state. University education is free. Jobless people draw generous unemployment benefits and have access to some of the most effective training programs on earth.

“In a sense,” said Mr. Hiilamo, the social policy professor, “Finland already has basic income.”

39

steven t johnson 04.25.18 at 1:00 pm

The notion that people exist to work hard is a staple of conservativism as it really is, although it’s not really part of the Corey Robin version. I think it is as perverse as it is popular. And I think universities might be smaller if the students were there for the love of learning rather than a credential, yet overall much improved.

40

engels 04.25.18 at 1:36 pm

it actually shows the same kind of thinking which made the ”GMI experiment” in Finnland so ”envious

No: creating a fair distribution of unpleasant work (eg by bundling it with desirable jobs) doesn’t have same motive as forcing everyone to work and/or forcing the least advantaged to do that work

41

ph 04.25.18 at 1:38 pm

Sanders is touting a variation of jobs for all, which seems worth noting. Re: what happens when folks don’t work and lessons learned. A former very close friend who was very active with women in crisis/shelters put it to me as follows. One of her close friends had grown up in home where mom was on welfare/government housing. She never had a job, but received a check for herself and her daughter. There are, of course, perfectly sound arguments for single-mothers remaining at home to care for a child/children, arguments I generally support. So, her friend has a daughter who was often at our place with her mom. And when the two left one day, my lady friend turned to me and said: she’ll be pregnant by the time she’s fifteen. Ack! How was I to respond, other than with a ‘do you really think so?’ Sure enough, she was. And so the cycle begins anew, perhaps with another pregnancy because that’s how one gets more money from the government. My pal and I were both mildly political active and supported the programs that made such families possible.

I’m not sure how wise it actually is to persuade people they do not need to work. Seems like extremely bad advice to me. I tend to stress the benefits of work and most people I know seem to agree. Funny us!

42

engels 04.25.18 at 1:50 pm

The notion that people exist to work hard is a staple of conservativism as it really is

Also large parts of the American hipster-left, judging by Twitter

43

Layman 04.25.18 at 2:45 pm

ph: “I like work.”

Because, from the perspective of 90% of the world’s population, you don’t actually do any.

44

Layman 04.25.18 at 2:48 pm

MFB: “In fact we do have something similar to a basic income via the social grant system (although I doubt anybody reading this blog would consider social grant money anything like enough).”

I’m standing on a street corner in South Africa right now (in PE) and based on what I see, I’m certain it isn’t enough.

45

Lobsterman 04.25.18 at 5:24 pm

The basic premise behind the basic income folks is that the vast majority of human endeavor in the US is completely wasted. I can’t get on board with that. Most folks do, in fact, work for a living, and even if that work is not necessarily efficient, it’s still stuff that needs doing in some sense.

46

steven t johnson 04.25.18 at 5:32 pm

engels@24 Hipster-left is not a thing. My view only, I suppose, but I can’t help but thinking judging by Twitter just leaves you Twitterpated.

47

nastywoman 04.25.18 at 8:33 pm

”The notion that people exist to find a enjoyable work-life balance” might be a hipster-left effort – the hipster-left shares with a lot of people who try to find an enjoyable work-life balance without being ”hipsters” but just some kind of… ”left”.

48

nastywoman 04.25.18 at 8:52 pm

– and just as a reminder – ”social democrats” AND ”socialists” always worked on making ”work”… shall we say: More enjoy-fully AND better payed!

49

engels 04.25.18 at 11:16 pm

judging by Twitter just leaves you Twitterpated.

You might be right (I hope so)

50

Equalitus 04.26.18 at 3:19 am

Norway and a few other countries already have a combination of welfare programs and/or universal transfer programs that in practice can be labelled as a GMI-function or Basic Income Guarantee function. There is also a very expanded public sector which functions like a conditional but aggregate Job Guarantee. It’s just that people with low grades from school or no higher education will not be offered public sector jobs in the way the JG scheme is usually framed.

51

J-D 04.26.18 at 5:19 am

engelsIn that case, you might be interested in reading about parecon, if you haven’t already; also, you might be interested in reading The Dispossessed, if you haven’t already.

52

Layman 04.26.18 at 5:56 am

ph: “Ack! How was I to respond, other than with a ‘do you really think so?’ ”

Probably the right thing to do at that point was to ask a taxi driver what he/she thought. But do you have a serious mustache? That’s the important question.

53

nastywoman 04.26.18 at 6:34 am

– and as a few times mentioned before –
so called ”social-democratic advanced” economies who (still) concentrate on ”making things” -(aka ”producing” or ”manufacturing”) – currently don’t need – neither job guarantees nor GMI – as CURRENTLY there are far too many ”good” -(aka: well paying and secure jobs) in such ”Producing Economies” – and there is a yuuuge shortage of workers who might fill these jobs –
And with the amazing growing demand for all ”things made well” – it looks like that only Predominant Consumer Countries – with lots and lots of poorly paying ”service” jobs will need something like GMI –
but about ”job guarantees” for really ”undesirable” jobs – is that a good idea…?

54

ccc 04.26.18 at 9:58 am

@ #37 Wylie Bradford:

Yeah, that NYC put out a factually incorrect, rhetorically spurious pieice is a small inconvenience. Good then that some have already set the record straight.

http://peoplespolicyproject.org/2018/04/25/the-nyt-gets-the-finland-basic-income-story-wrong/
https://yle.fi/uutiset/osasto/news/finlands_basic_income_organisers_correct_inaccurate_media_reports_of_trials_premature_death/10177476

55

Lee A. Arnold 04.26.18 at 11:45 am

Lobsterman #45: “The basic premise behind the basic income folks is that the vast majority of human endeavor in the US is completely wasted.”

This could not be more wrong in my case. The basic premise is that the vast majority of human endeavor is unpaid or underpaid. Further, we don’t have a solution for this which would also solve the additional premises.

Because there are additional premises: For several decades we’ve been moving into an era of greater inequality, and into job careers that are shorter and more volatile. (There are exceptions to short careers, e.g. in building construction.) In addition, since the invention of the credit card in the late 1960’s the economy has been re-financialized and many people are on a credit treadmill. In addition, looking to the near future, the outlook for the combination of robots + AI shows two things at once, it promises astonishing new goods and services, yet indicates more job losses.

It’s a handful of very different premises, which have various interlinkages. Come to think of it, this is what most “basic income folks” are observing, too.

My own point (in #9) is that these are negative circumstances which could be seen as indicating a possibly GOOD future. It might even happen naturally; one possible harbinger is that people everywhere are puzzling-out for themselves the ideas of BI+JG.

But as it stands right now, a greater number of people are arguing simply for policies to increase the “labor participation rate” in the current system; they just want to see an uptick in the graph. Which is fine so far as it goes, but we are in an economic regime which guarantees greater profit extraction by the private financial sector in return for financing those short jobs. Thus: more inequality, & more “winners-take-all” oligopolies of intellectual property and financial instruments.

So we should start to study if hearts can change about the virtues of making a contribution to life, regardless of whether money is paid for it. A first step is to make sure that the barest necessities are covered for everyone, while providing a job guarantee to anyone.

The naysayers above who insist that people will be lazy, implicitly suggest the existence of a mind-numbing Oblomovian inertia that is probably quite rare if not apocryphal. (And treatable if it is real.)

Note that their real examples of laziness are two different kinds: of kids who want to play, and of people made hopeless (and even substance-abusing) in a treadmill society that always shorts your efforts. For either kind, there are far more effective “policy nudges” than throwing people into despair and indigence under “free-market individualism”.

56

ccc 04.26.18 at 12:16 pm

Questions to John Quiggin after a quick read of the linked FitzRoy & Jin article.

You wrote “while still maintaining the widely-held principle of reciprocity”.

But the linked article gives no sustained argument or explication of such a principle. They use the term reciprocity only once, briefly. The most reciprocity-ish content is a sketch of two arguments on page 5: “A modest BI combined with a JO is more likely to be achievable than just a generous BI, partly by attenuating widespread opposition to ‘something for nothing’, and importantly, because BI alone would fail to provide the widely-recognised and documented, essential second component of psychological wellbeing for most people (Mitchell and Fazi, 2017), namely ‘dignity of work’. “

Since you state agreement with the article I have two questions:

Question 1: What is the evidence for the “more likely to be achievable” claim? That is, what is the evidence for thinking that a policy push that adopts and fuels an (most often very selective!) “anti something for nothing” mentality is more effective than a policy push that resists, argues against and debunks that mentality?

Question 2: what is the evidence for the claim that “dignity of work” is *essential* for psychological well-being?

I ask since effects on psychological well-being from being in/out of formal work per se can easily be confounded with other, currently in place but really separate and contingent causal factors. Such as:

(1) a culture that heavily guilts and blames anyone not in formal work

(2) an UBI-less economic system where a person not in formal work has a hard time to satisfy their basic material needs without submitting to humiliating workfare with coerced activations and intrusive inspections.

57

ph 04.26.18 at 1:16 pm

TAP has an interesting piece on full employment, which makes more sense to me.

http://prospect.org/article/why-cause-full-employment-back-dead

58

nastywoman 04.26.18 at 2:56 pm

@55
”Note that their real examples of laziness are two different kinds: of kids who want to play, and of people made hopeless (and even substance-abusing) in a treadmill society that always shorts your efforts.”

That’s why it is so important NOT to call it (or see it) as ”laziness” –
as in reality it is… NOT ”laziness”.
It is pretty rational and natural reaction to ”any indecent offer one only can refuse”.

And people who always come up with all of these examples – about how
”this or that person doesn’t like to work” –
or –
”get’s pregnant instead of working” are actually might hate work –
as they might always firstly expect ”others” hating work too?

59

nastywoman 04.26.18 at 3:03 pm

– and about:
”what is the evidence for the claim that “dignity of work” is *essential* for psychological well-being?”

The election of something like… Trump?

60

nastywoman 04.26.18 at 3:16 pm

BUT on the other hand – and taking it more seriously – the main problem might be – that people like Mr. Arnold and the average Gaggia worker -(in Milan) live in two completely different worlds?

Like some US Ex-proud steel worker compared to a German car mechanic who still has his job.
As if y’all ever had to interview US Ex-proud steel worker compared to German car mechanics who still have their job you get so much evidence for the claim that “dignity of work” is *essential* for psychological well-being? – that you even don’t need an erection of Trump to realize – Whassup?

61

Lee A. Arnold 04.27.18 at 11:01 am

Nastywoman #60: “the main problem might be – that people like Mr. Arnold and the average Gaggia worker -(in Milan) live in two completely different worlds?”

What are the two completely different worlds?

62

nastywoman 04.27.18 at 12:41 pm

@
”What are the two completely different worlds?”

One world which makes sure that not only ”the barest necessities are covered for everyone” – but that there is also a job market – where it is possible to chose jobs which actually give you a sense of “dignity of work” or an understanding that without work – the might have a problem – Houston?
-(and as this thread hinted this ”nice working world” is NOT in Houston)

– and then there seems to be this ”other world ” -(Houston?) – which seems to create ”the basic premise that the vast majority of human endeavor is unpaid or underpaid. –
-(which it is – but NOT in any so called ”successful social democratic countries”) and so we actually ”have solutions” – we just have to adopt them – the way we could adopt ”successful” and payable European Health Care systems.

And then – as mentioned before we even might NOT need some ”GMI” or job guarantees – as how did Mr. Hiilamo, the social policy professor from Finland say:

“Finland already has basic income.”

63

Lee A. Arnold 04.27.18 at 3:32 pm

Nastywoman #62: “then there seems to be this ”other world ” -(Houston?) – which seems to create ”the basic premise that the vast majority of human endeavor is unpaid or underpaid. –
-(which it is – but NOT in any so called ”successful social democratic countries”)”

But my response in #55 is to Lobsterman’s comment in #45, “The basic premise behind the basic income folks is that the vast majority of human endeavor in the US is completely wasted.” He wrote “wasted”. He specifically references the United States, and I was responding to his comment about the United States: the labor is not wasted, it is unpaid or underpaid.

I don’t understand why you would think that people in the U.S. who are interested in these questions are not paying attention to the solutions in successful social democratic countries.

64

John Quiggin 04.27.18 at 9:49 pm

ccc @56 The distinction between “work” and “formal work” is critical here. The point of ideas like participation income is that plenty of activity makes a social contribution and can therefore be regarded as “work”, but doesn’t involve generating a market income, which is the critical function of “formal work”.

65

engels 04.27.18 at 10:13 pm

If the unemployed are to be forced to make a ‘social contribution’ why shouldn’t the employed (and idle rich, early retired, etc) be too?

66

mclaren 04.28.18 at 4:31 am

“…a payment conditional on some form of social contribution…”

This is a bold proposal, since it means that as a society, America would immediately stop employing Pentagon generals, weapons contractors, anyone in the insurance or advertising industry, most soft-science tenured academics, most police, almost all mid-level managers (including those magisters of mystery like “supply chain consultants” and “HR diversity coordinators” and “Title VI enforcement officers” and “DOD defense contractor liasons,” to see nothing of congressional pages, K-street lobbyists, military contactors and think tank employees), and the vast majority of salespeople at all levels.

Impressive agenda, but that would leave a couple of hundred thousand Americans still receiving a salary in the USA. Some engineers, scientists, a few hard science tenured academics, and lots of social workers. Pretty much everyone else would be out of luck.

Ambitious, but impractical.

I say we just implement the same program for everyone that already works for Ivy league grads–a permanent job guarantee, where you can screw up, recommend invading Iraq or deregulating the banks or blow up the economy on Wall Street, and still get promoted. Hey…it works for Harvard grads like Larry Summers! They wrecked the entire Russian economy and the U.S. economy, gave us both Putin and Trump, and in punishment Summers gets named president of Harvard University and came within a hairsbreadth of being named Treasure Secretary by Obama.
https://www.thenation.com/article/harvard-boys-do-russia/

https://www.counterpunch.org/2011/03/04/how-harvard-deep-sixed-its-russian-scandal/

If it works for the Ivy league, why not use the same program for anyone else?

67

nastywoman 04.28.18 at 6:17 am

@63
”I don’t understand why you would think that people in the U.S. who are interested in these questions are not paying attention to the solutions in successful social democratic countries.”

Because if these questions come up on U.S blogs it sometimes could take 36 comments before somebody mentions that ”all these solutions in successful social democratic countries” – already there?

And that is sometimes hard to take – especially if some of the 36 comments give the impression that the problem is ”people not wanting to work” or stories about somebody getting ”pregnant in order not wanting to work”.

68

nastywoman 04.28.18 at 7:12 am

and about:
”people not wanting to work” or stories about somebody getting ”pregnant in order not wanting to work”.

As mentioned before – we once had to do a lot of interviews with workers in the so called ”US Rust Belt” and if these workers weren’t lying – their wishes for (satisfying) work was overwhelming – and we know – we know – there might be this (American?) attitude that ”satisfying” is just another one of these s-words like ”social” or ”socialistic” – BUT if we ALL could have agreed from the get going – that – actually these wishes to get some (satisfying) work are ”the universal truth” and not some ideas of (some) workers trying to get some ”free lunch” – a conversation about GMI might be far more… constructive?

69

ccc 04.28.18 at 9:27 am

John Quiggin @64:
First re “formal work”: making a non-market activity into a condition for economic benefits transforms and “semi-formalizes” the activity. Administrators must have a way to reach inside to quantify and control which individual did not do enough or good enough non-market income activity (given some list of qualifying activities) so as to know when to deny that individual economic benefits.

My Question 2 still stands: what is the evidence for the paternalistic claim that “dignity of work” is *essential* to psychological well-being?

If we keep the notion of work narrow then my earlier challenge re confounding factors (1)(2) still stands. If we instead stretch the notion of work wide to include almost anything social then some of that is obviously essential for well-being. But most individuals are already voluntarily social. So then it is unclear why inserting a system of controls and conditions into such social activities will be better for the individual compared to not adding that system.

In short, drop the specifically paternalistic argument for conditionality.

I also doubt the tactical arguments for conditionality. Conditionality is the problem. The “what if someone (poor) gets something for nothing!” mentality is the problem. At the current level of wealth and technological sophistication every citizens should have an unconditional right to a floor of economic resources including adequate food, housing, education and health care. Period. No ifs, no buts, no strings, no conditions. That is the case the UBI movement should (continue to) make.

70

engels 04.28.18 at 10:09 am

McLaren said it better

71

ph 04.28.18 at 11:02 am

@59 Yes, but given the Democrats response to Trump it appears an even bigger bat is required – probably a second Trump term. I don’t frankly see any indication that coastal elites and Davos democrats are even a tiny bit inclined to start sharing the wealth, or the pain. We already know the GOP regards inequality as proof of virtue, the difference being they’re proud of their position whilst the Davos dem figures a guaranteed income, some form of free medicare and a good job as a barrista will suffice.
@64 Thanks for this. The distinction is critical.
@66 You’re right. Incremental change is improving the lives of many of the poorest. If we can convince significant subsections of the working classes that they’re actually valued as members of society, rather than objects of scorn, fewer might turn to crime and substances. Crazy, I know.

72

John Quiggin 04.29.18 at 6:54 am

@69 I haven’t made a paternalist argument. The post refers to reciprocity, and not to the claim about the dignity and psychological necessity of work which you present with quote marks, even though the quoted text appears nowhere in the post.

As you say, most people are voluntarily social but this activity is currently seen as radically different from formal work. Again, as you say, giving it bureaucratic status will break down that distinction, and therefore the resistance to giving financial support to those engaged in such activity.

Tactically, that seems to me to be a lot more plausible than “No ifs, no buts, no strings, no conditions”, but there’s no obvious way of deciding the issue other than trying one or both approaches out.

73

ph 04.29.18 at 12:13 pm

So, I’m watching the Netflix documentary of Robert Kennedy, a plutocrat. I’ve been struck several times with the parallels between Trump and Bobby, but perhaps nowhere more so than in the recent episodes in which Kennedy visits eastern Kentucky to bring attention to the plight of the rural white poor ignored by Democrats in Washington. I’m wondering why a Kennedy, who is from a Democratic family that’s as close to royalty as any in the US, understood the need to actually connect with those ignored by most, and so few Dems today can’t. It’s absurd, really. I watched the Trump rally today and, if anything, he’s more bombastic and narcissistic then ever. His balloon head is expanding with every success, ‘What did Trump have to do with Korea? – How about everything?’ But through all that he still can instinctively cut through the crap with ‘I just want to get the job done.’

It’s truly bizarre that we have Digby in Salon defending the heads of the CIA, the FBI, and the national security services as patriots, and maligning anyone who doesn’t s2ck donk22-d888 as racists. WTF happened to actually caring about those worse off than the rest to such an extent that a grifter like Trump is regarded as the best friend the American working class has in Washington? I would love to see Trump beaten in 2020 by a Dem who had a fraction of Bobby Kennedy’s concern for the poor, but instead it’s Russian collusion, porn-gate, and the piss-dossier.

Is it any wonder that Trump looks on track for re-election?

74

ccc 04.29.18 at 1:48 pm

@72: The quote is from FitzRoy & Jin. As I made clear in my initial comment (56 above, with quote context) after which I wrote: “Since you state agreement with the article I have two questions …”. Your initial post didn’t caveat your enthusiastic endorsement of the article so I assumed you agreed also with that paternalistic claim made in it. But I’m happy if you like me disagree with the paternalistic claim.

“As you say, most people are voluntarily social but this activity is currently seen as radically different from formal work. Again, as you say, giving it bureaucratic status will break down that distinction, and therefore the resistance to giving financial support to those engaged in such activity.”

I don’t think the decades of workfare policy have eased folk resistance to giving financial support to the poor. On the contrary, workfare policy seem to have normalized and fueled sentiments of prying, hostile suspiciousness about “undeserving poor” who should not “get something for nothing”.

Why think it would be different if the policy and its administrative system of inspections expands from workfare to work-and/or-social-fare? More prying, more aspects of poor people’s lives to administratively measure up. And for others to pass judgment on.

But perhaps I’m missing out on something re social activity conditionality. What is in your view the best proposal for how it should operate? Including how to administratively quantify and rule on individual cases.

75

engels 04.29.18 at 1:49 pm

most people are voluntarily social but this activity is currently seen as radically different from formal work

It _is_ radically different because there is nothing inherently pro-social about formal work. (For example, outcomes of your work may be socially neutral or even destructive, or you may over-compensated for your contributions towards a positive goal, meaning that you’re ‘taking’ from society on balance despite your effort.) Proposals like Atkinson’s reinforces the reactionary superstition that there is, which despite its prevalence doesn’t stand up to a moment’s reflection.

76

engels 04.29.18 at 2:03 pm

May I also point out that it is far from clear at this point in humanity’s history that having and raising children is a public-spirited act…

77

SusanC 04.29.18 at 9:30 pm

I thought the article’s main point was that basic income and a (government provided) “job offer” aren’t mutually exclusive options, and you could potentially do both. So, Ok, I can see that.

I can believe that basic income could be made to work, for example along the lines of: unemployed people get roughly what they do now, as the BI replaces their existing payments; working people also get roughly the same they do now, because their somewhat increased income tax takes away what they gain in from the basic income; and the number of unemployed people doesn’t change much.

On the last point: the gap between the BI and the income in a typical job is large enough that (hypothesis) not many people will want to give up their job and live on the BI even if they have the opportunity to do so; and even if some do, there are people without jobs who would like to be employed, who would take up the job vacancies thus created.

I’m much more sceptical about who the “job offer” could possibly work.
The proposal in the paper seems to be that the government be given an exemption to minimum wage legislation. Won’t this have the negative effects that minimum wage legislation is intended to prevent? And if it won’t, why not just abolish the minimum wage [given that with BI, everyone has enough to survive on] for all employers, not just public sector employers?

Additionally, will the government be able to find enough jobs to offer to people? Even if you’re paying less than minimum wage, you can run out of jobs that the available people are able to do (unskilled labour) and are economically viable.

There’s a hint, I think, of the idea that having _other_ people working is a good in itself. To put it really bluntly, that there is an “other regarding” preference such that if person A who is employed is given a choice between (I) person B gets paid BI and does nothing; (II) person A pays additional tax in order for the government to create a job with negative productivity — it consumes more value than it creates — which person B will do; then person A will vote for the political party that is promising to implement (II). i.e. knowing that person B is working has positive utility to person A, such that person A is willing to give up some tangible things in order to have the pleasure of knowing that B is doing some work. Well, maybe…

78

ccc 04.30.18 at 7:58 am

@77 SusanC:
“There’s a hint, I think, of the idea that having _other_ people working is a good in itself. To put it really bluntly, that there is an “other regarding” preference such that if person A who is employed is given a choice between (I) person B gets paid BI and does nothing; (II) person A pays additional tax in order for the government to create a job with negative productivity — it consumes more value than it creates — which person B will do; then person A will vote for the political party that is promising to implement (II). i.e. knowing that person B is working has positive utility to person A, such that person A is willing to give up some tangible things in order to have the pleasure of knowing that B is doing some work. Well, maybe…”

Where is the step from other regarding preference to good in itself here?

Some people might be so entrenched in the “no poor person should get nothing without doing something” mentality that they would feel a warm nice feeling and have a preference satisfied if a poor person was forced to dig up and refill holes for 8 hours as a condition for basic needs provision. That would be the other regarding preference.

Now, *if* one accepts a theory of wellbeing where *any* warm nice feeling or any preference satisfaction whatsoever (no matter its hierarchical or sadistic source/nature) is part of what is good in itself for a person A then forcing other poorer people B to dig holes would in one way be an instrumental good for A. Though not a good in itself. The good in itself would be the (cause/content agnostic) preference satisfaction or pleasant feeling in A.

But that theory of wellbeing seems implausible precisely because of its admissions to hierarchical sentiments. I think very few on philosophical reflection would find reason to accept it.

To the extent some people have such other regarding preferences I’d argue that they, not the poor, are the problem. As we move further into a tech reality where it takes less and less total work for everyone to thrive, if we just allow it, getting people to get over the extreme work ethic mindset that until recently has been so crucial is a big challenge. Perhaps we should force those stuck in that mindset to dig holes for 8 hours a day until the experience in their aching bodies, and the feeling of humiliation in their minds, inform them that useless hole digging and refilling isn’t all that great.

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Daddio7 04.30.18 at 4:58 pm

So do we lock down the border so we don’t get several million “refugees” a year seeking asylum and a comfy safety hammock to siesta in?

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nastywoman 05.01.18 at 6:44 am

and here – zum ”Tag der Arbeit” (1.May) the latest from German Unions:

“Menschen mit einer Stillhalteprämie aufs Abstellgleis zu stellen, weil ihnen keine Perspektive in der Erwerbsarbeit angeboten werden kann, ist keine Lösung”,
(“Providing people with a standstill bonus because they can not be offered any perspective in paid work is not a solution”) said DGB-Vorsitzende Reiner Hoffmann – and I-Metall-Chef Jörg Hofmann declared:
“Humans are not happy if they have to sit at home – being alimented”.

81

ccc 05.01.18 at 5:07 pm

Two recent JG skeptical articles that fit nicely with my comments above

Matt Bruenig on job guarantee and the “dignity of work” argument
http://peoplespolicyproject.org/2018/05/01/only-1-in-3-americans-work-full-time/

“The upshot of all of this is that good jobs are better than being unemployed, but bad jobs are worse than being unemployed … Of course advocates of a job guarantee will insist that they are going to provide good jobs. But, given all the constraints the program has to operate under (low capital, low skill, countercyclical, etc.), this is a little hard to believe. … the weird thing about the job guarantee in particular is that its very design requires that the tasks be unnecessary, meaning that we can go without them being done. So there is a very real risk in all of this that we end up offloading people into unpleasant and unnecessary jobs that actually make them less happy than simply being unemployed and receiving a decent benefit income.”

Chris Schoen on Who Has A Right To Leisure? and Why the Job Guarantee Is Anti-Poor
https://medium.com/@underverse/who-has-a-right-to-leisure-b32e5bc97ff2

“This is not to say there is no dignity in work whatsoever. It is simply to caution against treating all “work” as equal, and then feigning beneficence when offering a choice to others that we would not accept for ourselves. In the end providing temporary, unskilled work at subsistence wages serves no social function that would not be better served by providing an equivalent cash benefit (which if anything would cost the government less than providing both wages and employment infrastructure), bestowing the most marginalized populations the same right to quotidian leisure that those of us in the professional class take for granted.”

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engels 05.01.18 at 5:40 pm

Humans are not happy if they have to sit at home – being alimented

Maybe, but they don’t starve to death
https://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/feb/28/man-starved-to-death-after-benefits-cut

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engels 05.01.18 at 6:09 pm

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