I’ve followed Neil Wilson‘s blog on and off for some time. He is radical and interesting and, like me is not an economist! But I cannot agree with him on the Job Guarantee. He sings the praises of the transformative properties of the Job Guarantee and says it would help to ensure jobs are available everywhere. And that a job gives people a sense of worth and social contact that helps to bind the community. So far so good.
But then he turns to an example and suggests a new convenience store could be created in an area where there isn’t one and appears to be a need. If successful, this could even be sold on as going concern.
I’ve had experience of running shops and it is not as easy as it looks. And yet people on a job guarantee are going to be dragooned or supervised into shopkeeping. Where on earth are these skills to be found that will be able to set up and operate a shop? He seems to imply it will be from the local authority – a source of shopkeeping skills hitherto unknown to me. Do the local authority provide the capital for the venture? And suppose it turns out not to be successful after all that money has been spent on refrigeration, racking and a scanning system? Or if it is so successful that all the shops within 10 miles complain about the competition?
It seems to me to be fraught with difficulty and far from proving how flexible the job guarantee is, it proves that once you have decided that the job guarantee will not be rock breaking on Dartmoor, how extraordinarily difficult to organise it would be in practice.
It makes the case for a Universal Basic Income stronger than ever. The RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) has done a lot of promising work on the concept.
Supporters of the Job Guarantee are convinced (presumably by their Protestant upbringings) that a Universal Basic Income would lead to a nation of layabouts. I feel that greater social engagement would be the result of a bit less work being required by all of us and society is likely to be kinder when a job is not the be all and end all of life. Once we have a Universal Basic Income some could then get back to the working hours of the 14th-century England, where peasants might often work for only 150 days a year.
Isn’t that what is called progress?