I have received a barrage of correspondence (a short Email) asking where I stand in the debate over the Job Guarantee (JG). Although the answer may be clear to those who have taken the time to read all my posts on the topic, it is becoming almost a full-time job just keeping up with the various MMT blogs. I thought I would provide a brief summary of my position.
The Email I received in part was as follows:
Just wanting to clarify a point.
Your opposition to the JG is because understanding monetary operations, you can move into a post-capitalist era rather than maintain a JG in the current capitalist paradigm. However you are not opposed to the JG per se within a capitalist paradigm.
Is that correct?
To be clear, I fully agree with Modern Monetary Theorists that a JG will automatically stabilize demand and provide the most effective nominal price anchor. I also agree that the psychological and sociological literature on the human costs of unemployment is overwhelmingly on their side. There is no question about that. If the choice is between what we have now and the JG proposal implemented in a manner that is close to the intentions of its proponents, I support the JG.
Now for the qualifications.
What I most favor is a Job or Income Guarantee (JIG). This would be a combined policy in which individuals choose whether they wish to participate in the JG, and are guaranteed placement in the program if they desire it, but will receive a basic income unconditionally irrespective of their choice.
As part of such a program, I like the JG component because I think if somebody wants a job in the formal economy, they should be entitled to one. After all, MMT demonstrates that unemployment is a government policy choice.
At the same time, I want the Basic Income Guarantee (BIG) to form the other component because I don’t think people should be compelled by existing property relations to sell their labor power in exchange for a wage or salary due to their lack of an independent income, and also because, over time, as production becomes increasingly mechanized, I think people should be liberated from the wage labor relation if that is their wish.
Ultimately, I am interested in a transition to a society in which people as much as possible are free to pursue their own productive and leisure activities either individually or in voluntary association with others. My view is that the JIG facilitates that transition more effectively than the alternatives.
If I had to choose between a JG implemented as intended by the Modern Monetary Theorists or a BIG, I am not sure which I would prefer, but I would certainly be supportive of the JG if it were the only option of the two on the table.
If I had to choose between a JG reduced to workfare or a BIG, I would prefer a BIG, even though I do think this would be problematic to the extent that the unemployed are not ready to embrace free time and still desire the order and external motivation of employment in the formal economy.
In making a transition to a post-capitalist society, I think the JIG is clearly better than either a JG or a BIG. However, a JG would not necessarily scuttle such a transition (even though I consider it a backward step in terms of separating income and labor time) provided a concerted collective effort is made to broaden over time the notion of what is socially productive.