One type of objection to the Job or Income Guarantee (JIG) that has been expressed concerns its potential effects on the level of productive activity. In particular, there has been some concern that without a requirement of reciprocity, the JIG would enable some people to obtain an income without doing anything for society in return, and this would be unfair or at least perceived by many as unfair. My view is that the net effect of a JIG would be to promote socially productive activity, and that the extent of true free riding – in the sense of contributing nothing to society – is not likely to be significant.
Some critics of a JIG seem to be focusing almost entirely on the likelihood that, at least initially, some people might opt for the basic income and decide to do nothing at all that is socially productive (if that is possible). In these cases, it may be true to say that the basic income recipients would be producing less of social benefit than those who chose to participate in the voluntary Job Guarantee (JG) program. Even if the JG merely compelled a person to rake leaves rather than watch TV all day, for instance, there would be some small social benefit along with perhaps an appeasement of societal resentment.
But there are also likely to be cases where a compulsion to participate in the JG would prevent a person from doing things of more social benefit. Somebody might be compelled to rake leaves rather than care for family, organize social gatherings, invent, create, perform, volunteer, program freeware, etc. Even in cases where a person initially intended to do nothing productive, this might not last indefinitely if boredom and a desire to be more productive set in.
Part of the motive for suggesting a JIG is that capitalists and governments do not necessarily do a good job of determining socially productive activities. It seems likely that there will be many instances where individuals would be far better placed to identify ways in which they could contribute positively to society. Joe Firestone made this point more clearly than I have in a previous comment:
[T]he problem with this is to define who is contributing and who is not. There are many people who are very well-paid in nominal terms, but not only do not contribute; but contribute negative well-being. This has always been the case; yet if [their] activities are not illegal we allow them to practice those activities and to extract resources from people who [come] under their sway. Apart from these cases, and considering a society which offered private employment, a job guarantee, and also an income guarantee to those who did not want to take the job guarantee; what makes us think that those who were using a formal job guarantee program would be contributing more than others who were using the income guarantee program? We can easily conceive of situations where someone using an income guarantee would produce greater value for society than someone using a job guarantee.
For example, let’s imagine that Germany around the turn of the 19th century had both types of guarantees, and Einstein felt he would be better off practicing physics if he relied on the income guarantee rather than the job guarantee, and that, in fact, there was no job guarantee role he could have occupied that would have provided as much time to do physics as the income guarantee. In a situation like that, having hindsight, of course, would we be prepared to say that it was better for society to have Einstein take employment as a patent office clerk, or to take a job guarantee as an elder care provider, rather than having him live off the income guarantee, and be free to spend his full time generating the Special Theory of Relativity?
There also seems to be a view with some critics of the JIG that many (most?) people would opt for a guaranteed basic income rather than seek higher incomes in regular employment. Although that would not bother me if true, I find it hard to believe considering the materialism of our time. Given the current state of consciousness, how many people are likely to be satisfied with a basic income when it is possible to earn much more in regular employment?
My guess is mainly two types of people would make this choice:
(i) those who have very limited options when it comes to formal employment and also care little about societal disapproval;
(ii) those who are driven to pursue a particular vocation irrespective of the meager financial reward or societal disapproval.
One way or another people in group (i) need to obtain at least a basic income. Whether this is through a wage labor requirement (JG), a basic income payment or a fringe job in the regular economy, if assessed in narrow monetary terms their productive contribution is likely to be measured as small. It may well be the case that such a person would be more socially productive just being a happier, more financially secure friend and family member.
However, my guess is that this first group is tiny, because people down the lower end of the income scale are probably more sensitive to social prejudice and inhibited by societal expectations than those in higher socioeconomic brackets with more education and/or independence. To the extent people with limited employment options tie their self-image to holding down a job, they will be more likely to opt for the JG. The exceptions are probably mostly those people who have become accustomed to long-term unemployment under the current system, in which case there would be little change in their productive contribution in moving from the current system to a JIG.
People in group (ii) would be enabled by the JIG to make greater contributions than if they were forced to take less meaningful, less socially productive wage or salary employment.
One other aspect I haven’t considered in previous posts is that, currently, there are many people who cannot get as much employment as they would like (i.e. the underemployed). Far from most people wanting less paid employment, they want more. That means there is currently substantial scope for an expansion of output in the regular economy even allowing for the likelihood that under a JIG some people would opt out of the labor force altogether. To the extent the basic income payment added to demand, it would enable an expansion in production in the regular economy. For a given level of resulting demand, the choice by some to opt out of the labor force would leave more employment for those who wanted it.