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Why Has Labor Not Demanded Guaranteed Employment?

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  • Jon D. Wisman
  • Michael Cauvel

Abstract

Unemployment has almost always been traumatic for its victims. In earlier times, it threatened extreme privation, if not starvation. Still today, it dramatically decreases its victims' standard of living, human capital, social standing, and self-respect. It is associated with poorer health, suicide, and family dissolution. Unemployment also entails considerable costs to society such as lost output, increased crime, decayed neighborhoods, and when extreme, political unrest. Why, then, is it tolerated? Why, especially, have workers and their advocates not demanded that employment be guaranteed to all? This article explores why what has always been foremost to workers' interests -- security of employment -- has not remained one of labor's foremost demands. It finds that the reasons have been complex and varied over time, including degrading work houses, workers' focus on alternatives to capitalism, the fact that unemployment typically is suffered by a small portion of the workforce, the local character of most worker demands, the eventual provision of safety nets, and most importantly, the dominance of ideology that blames workers for their unemployment or holds that full employment is impossible to attain.

Suggested Citation

  • Jon D. Wisman & Michael Cauvel, 2016. "Why Has Labor Not Demanded Guaranteed Employment?," Working Papers 2016-02, American University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:amu:wpaper:2016-02
    DOI: 10.17606/b3c2-2727
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    File URL: https://doi.org/10.17606/b3c2-2727
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Jon D. Wisman & James F. Smith, 2011. "Legitimating Inequality: Fooling Most of the People All of the Time," American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 70(4), pages 974-1013, October.
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    3. Jon Wisman, 2010. "The Moral Imperative and Social Rationality of Government-Guaranteed Employment and Reskilling," Review of Social Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 68(1), pages 35-67.
    4. Jon Wisman & Aaron Pacitti, 2014. "Ending the Unemployment Crisis with Guaranteed Employment and Retraining," Journal of Economic Issues, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 48(3), pages 679-706.
    5. Daniel Kostzer, 2008. ""Argentina--A Case Study on the Plan Jefes y Jefas de Hogar Desocupados, or the Employment Road to Economic Recovery," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_534, Levy Economics Institute.
    6. Ruth Ellen Wasem, 2013. "Tackling Unemployment: The Legislative Dynamics of the Employment Act of 1946," Books from Upjohn Press, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, number tu, january-j.
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    8. Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson, 2000. "Why Did the West Extend the Franchise? Democracy, Inequality, and Growth in Historical Perspective," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(4), pages 1167-1199.
    9. William Darity, 2010. "A Direct Route to Full Employment," The Review of Black Political Economy, Springer;National Economic Association, vol. 37(3), pages 179-181, September.
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    11. Vickrey, William, 1992. "Chock-Full Employment without Increased Inflation: A Proposal for Marketable Markup Warrants," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(2), pages 341-345, May.
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    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Why not full employment?
      by chris in Stumbling and Mumbling on 2016-04-23 17:03:57

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    right to employment; employer of last resort; unemployment; worker struggles; ideology;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • J38 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Public Policy
    • H10 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - General
    • N30 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - General, International, or Comparative

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