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Why Has Labor Not Demanded Guaranteed Employment?

Author

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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, family dissolution, and suicide. 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 only rarely resulted in a demand for guaranteed employment. The primary reason has been the overpoweringly seductive ideology serving the interests of the owners of the means of production. Capitalist ideology has blamed the unemployed for their fate, creating hostility to the very idea of guaranteed employment.

Suggested Citation

  • Jon D. Wisman & Michael Cauvel, 2017. "Why Has Labor Not Demanded Guaranteed Employment?," Working Papers 2017-09, American University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:amu:wpaper:2017-09
    DOI: 10.17606/m09p-ae18
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    File URL: https://doi.org/10.17606/m09p-ae18
    File Function: First version, 2016
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    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.
    2. Claudia Goldin & Robert A. Margo, 1992. "The Great Compression: The Wage Structure in the United States at Mid-Century," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(1), pages 1-34.
    3. Mathew Forstater, 1998. "Flexible Full Employment: Structural Implications of Discretionary Public Sector Employment," Journal of Economic Issues, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 32(2), pages 557-563, June.
    4. 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.
    5. 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.
    6. William Mitchell & L. Randall Wray, 2005. "In Defense of Employer of Last Resort: A Response to Malcolm Sawyer," Journal of Economic Issues, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 39(1), pages 235-244, March.
    7. 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.
    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. 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.
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    11. 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, December.
    12. L. Randall Wray, 1997. "Government as Employer of Last Resort: Full Employment without Inflation," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_213, Levy Economics Institute.
    13. 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.
    14. Spengler, Joseph J., 1968. "Right To Work: A Backward Glance," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 28(2), pages 171-196, June.
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    Blog mentions

    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

    More about this item

    Keywords

    right to employment; employer of last resort; unemployment; worker struggles; ideology;

    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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