Of the various criticisms leveled at a combined ‘job or income guarantee‘, ones appealing to fairness usually go along the lines that it would be unfair for healthy individuals outside the workforce to receive an income while others are occupied in jobs. In considering this objection, a number of points come to mind:
In some recent posts, a job guarantee has been considered within the income-expenditure framework. One post in particular suggested a possible conceptualization of the dynamics of the model. It was shown that these dynamics are consistent with the model’s steady state requirements. Demonstrating this took a fair bit of algebra, which may have obscured for some readers the simplicity of the actual model. Much of the algebra was only needed for the specific purpose of verifying that the suggested dynamics are valid. At least for the version of the model presently under consideration, this task has now been accomplished. It is justifiable just to focus on the basic model which is really quite simple while still allowing for somewhat complicated behavior. Below, an example of this behavior is provided. First, though, it seems worth putting things into context with a quick summary of the key variables and parameters.
The first section of the previous post outlined basic steady state relationships in a simplified economy with a job guarantee. There are various ways of expressing the same relationships that shed light on what is going on in the model. Here, a few ways of thinking about the levels of total income and job guarantee spending are noted.
A job guarantee would be a standing offer of a publicly funded job, with spending on the program adjusting automatically and countercyclically in response to take-up of positions. The likely feedback between spending on the program and activity in general is interesting and can be considered within the income-expenditure framework. In what follows, the standard model is modified to find the steady state levels and compositions of income and employment and other key variables. Attention then turns to how the system might behave outside a steady state. A way of conceptualizing the dynamics of the system is suggested and formulas developed to describe that behavior. The suggested dynamics are shown to be consistent with steady state requirements.
I’ve been thinking about the job guarantee as it is envisaged by proponents of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT). My focus has been on various quantity effects of the policy that can be considered using the standard income-expenditure model as a base (for preliminary posts along these lines, see here and here.) Since the income-expenditure model takes the general price level as given, it does not directly shed light on the aspects of a job guarantee that would pertain to price stability. To provide some context for a possible future discussion of quantity effects, it is perhaps worth summarizing how the job guarantee would moderate price pressures. Clear statements of the MMT position on the topic can be found in a billy blog post (here) and closely related academic articles by Bill Mitchell (here) and Warren Mosler (here).
A recent post considered one way of including a job guarantee in the income-expenditure model. Doing so makes it possible to represent various macro effects of a job guarantee within the model. An obvious effect is that the program would deliver a degree of demand stabilization. An effect that is perhaps not quite so obvious is the way in which a job guarantee would ensure supply-side changes in the economy automatically impact on demand, actual output and employment. Before illustrating a few of these effects, the modified income-expenditure model will be briefly outlined and tailored to present purposes. A fuller discussion of the model is provided in the earlier post.
Under a job guarantee, there would be a standing job offer at a living wage for anyone who wanted such a position. Anyone without employment in the broader economy, or unhappy with their present employment, could opt for a position in the job-guarantee program. Similarly, individuals with less hours of employment than desired could top up their hours by working part-time in the job-guarantee program. In principle, the program might be locally or centrally administered. But, irrespective of administrative details, it will be assumed that a currency-issuing government funds the program.
Regular readers will be aware that I would support either a basic income guarantee (BIG) or job guarantee (JG) as standalone programs, whichever happened to be on the policy agenda, but ideally would prefer a program that combined the positive elements of both into some form of ‘job or income guarantee‘. Much of my reasoning to date has been outlined in previous posts archived under the category Job & Income Guarantee. I won’t revisit those considerations in this post. The present focus is instead on which of the two programs — a BIG or JG — should be seen as primary.
Sometimes supporters of a basic income guarantee (BIG) argue for the policy on the grounds that it would increase “incentives to work”. This conclusion follows from standard neoclassical labor-supply analysis. Irrespective of the correctness or otherwise of the argument – and, if correct, it probably does have some utility as a negator of frequent neoliberal claims to the contrary – it is important to keep in mind obvious limitations of the argument and to go well beyond it. Two limitations, in particular, spring to mind.
Two policy proposals receiving increasing attention are the job guarantee (JG) and basic income guarantee (BIG). The first would provide everyone of working age with the option of a guaranteed job. The second would introduce an unconditional income payment. To be clear, I would support either of these as standalone programs, whichever happened to be on the policy agenda. Nevertheless, I think there are a few reasons to prefer a combined policy that integrates elements (perhaps all positive elements) of both programs. In its leanest form, a ‘job or income guarantee‘ (JIG) could provide everyone with the option of accepting a job-guarantee position or, by opting out of the labor force, a means-tested but otherwise unconditional income payment. In expansive form, a JIG could provide a universal and unconditional basic income as well as the option of a guaranteed job for anyone who wanted one. Other intermediate variations on the theme would, of course, also be possible. The expansive form would be ideal, but even the lean version seems to offer some advantages over a standalone JG or BIG.