Wednesday, September 07, 2011
Facing the realities of a changing economy:
E.D. Kain writes about how we should deal with it:
Jobs, Welfare, and the Human Economy
... What we need right now, in the immediate term, is a series of massive public works projects. Kevin Drum wants $1 trillion in infrastructure spending over five years. I suspect we’d need more like $1 trillion per year for the next five years.
There’s an old saying that a job is the best form of welfare. “Teach a man to fish…” and all that. This is true enough for what it’s worth, which is not really all that much. Yes, you can have too much welfare and too much dependency on the state. But in a market economy some form of non-job welfare or state provision of services is simply necessary.
For one thing, in a market economy there will be constant adjustments in industry, and the demand for one skill set will quickly be replaced with demand for another. Entire labor pools can become irrelevant overnight. Jobs disappear through no fault of anyone at all. New demand, new technology, globalism – these are the culprits, and there’s nothing we can do to stop them because we’re all a part of it. Jobs may indeed be the best “welfare”, but if those jobs simply disappear, a lot of people are left without too many options beyond actual assistance. This is especially true during a bad recession.
Jobs are great, but welfare should be used to thwart the inherent economic uncertainty of a capitalistic, global society. People should not lose their insurance just because they’ve lost their job. Universal healthcare would go a long way toward allowing people to be more independent, more entrepreneurial, and less risk-averse in their private ambitions. I think that in the emerging service economy – with more and more people working outside of the normal constraints of office and industry jobs, as freelancers and contractors – this will become even more important. Far from discouraging work, the right kind of welfare can do just the opposite.
This is so reasonable, in fact so self-evident, that it's amazing that it even needs to be said.
It will, of course, be totally ignored. By everyone.