Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- François Côté-Vaillancourt suggests a greater focus on redistributing wealth and income to ensure a secure standard of living, rather than seeking primarily to put people to work:
(I)nstead of fighting job losses, I would suggest that maybe the most important thing we could do would be to raise taxes on the rich. What does taxes have to do with unemployed workers? Well, in our example, the gain of producing slightly more tractors with less expenses is clearly not received by the 50 who have lost their jobs, nor the 150 workers left (the real income for most workers have stagnated over the last decades despite significant growth). Instead, it goes to the owners (whether a single person or multiple stock-holders). But here is the thing: the owners are not necessarily working longer than before, having better marketing strategies or more genius insights. They have simply been allowed to capture all the benefits from our society’s efficiency gains.

This is why taxes and redistribution are essential, and now more than ever. We must make sure that the owners still get a share of the efficiency gains, but the same goes for the workers who continue to work, and perhaps more importantly, we must make sure that those who are displaced from the workforce are not left with nothing for their sacrifice. For they are, in a very real way, sacrificing themselves for the benefit of the whole by no longer working.

Politicians on the right have long argued that redistribution toward the unemployed promotes laziness and weakens the country, but actually, more and more, our gains in efficiency in the industrial sector force people out of work in a way that has nothing to do with their will to work or their talents—and the same was true in past centuries in the farming sector. Full employment might not be a coherent goal after all. We probably should not have everybody producing goods and services on the market, since there is a point at which the consumers do not need 2 more tractors each, or a new phone every week. In other words, our efficiency is so great that it must now manifest as less work rather than evermore output. And thus, unemployment, if handled correctly, could be a good sign for all of us, rather than an indicator of economic, political and ethical failure.
It is time to take the pulse of our times, and to fight for massive wealth redistribution and against the idea that anyone who does not work is lazy and undeserving. Right now, too many of us blind ourselves into blaming China or trade for unemployment in the industrial sector, thus demonizing an external enemy while chasing the mirage of full employment, without realising all the good our efficiency gains could mean for all of us if, and only if, wealth redistribution was keeping up with our economy.
- But Liz Alderman notes that Denmark is generating more jobs than it can fill while collecting a fair share of public revenue. And Chris Dillow examines the relative effects of neoliberal and social democratic policies, and finds that the latter have led to superior economic development.

- Meanwhile, Matt O'Brien highlights how the effects of austerity have been even worse than anticipated across Europe - including by increasing exactly the debt levels which were supposed to be reduced.

- The Star and the Globe and Mail each offer their support for a national pharmacare program (starting with a list of commonly-prescribed drugs).

- Finally, Tory Gillis reports on the impact of Regina's Housing First program - concluding that it has improved outcomes for the people able to participate, but fallen far short of reaching as many people as it should due to a lack of resources. And Liz Barney discusses a proposal in Hawaii to allow doctors to prescribe a home where homelessness is connected to medical conditions.


  1. I find it amusing that the Denmark employment article is framed almost exclusively as a complaint: Near-full employment as a horrific bugaboo that makes it hard for firms to hire, and may lead to (shock!) spikes in wages. Why, what if generalized worker prosperity were to break out, then where would we be?

    It was with no surprise that I realized it was a New York Times article.

  2. Yes, that part was rather sad. But still best to identify what policies are actually improving employment and wage levels - even if they're being spun as insufficiently biased toward business.