Progressing away from the Job Guarantee

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?


  1. Bill Kruse -

    I’m against the idea of any kind of Job Guarantee as it reinforces the laughable notion that paid work is somehow normal. It isn’t, and it was introduced here for the masses as a means of increasing demand for money, which had ceased to be simple gold and silver as previously and had become the actual product of the banks. The banks, like any manufacturer, wanted to see profits from greater take-up of their product, which conveniently was what the peasantry would need to trade with and for to live if they were forced off the lands. Forced off the lands they duly were. We live now with the consequences in a period of aberration, not normality, and I’m against any practice or notion that reinforces any impression of the latter.

  2. Peter May -

    An interesting point of view. I’ve much sympathy with your sentiments but is there evidence that paid work was introduced as a means of increasing the demand for money? Surely the clearing banks came about as a result of the industrial revolution rather than the other way around.
    And I would have thought that early money was much more about tally sticks than gold and silver.

  3. Ralph Musgrave -

    I agree that Neil Wilson is pretty clueless on JG, as are about 95% of those who advocate the idea. Unlike that 95% whose ideas haven’t a cat in Hell’s chance of being implemented, the ideas I was advocating on JG 20 years ago have actually been put into effect in the UK in the form of the Work Programme (not that I’m suggesting the Work Programme is anywhere near free of faults). More specifically, I advocated first, that JG work should be with EXISTING employers rather than in the form of specially set up projects, as was the case with the WPA in the US in the 1930s. Second, I advocated that JG work should be with BOTH public and private sector employers. My latest thoughts on this subject, which will be a mile above the heads of the above 95%, are here:

    The 20 year old item referred to above is here:

    1. Peter May -

      Many thanks for the interesting links. But I’m now going to be rude. As we still have about 1.5 million unemployed the Work Programme cannot be considered much of a Job Guarantee can it?

      1. Ralph Musgrave -

        I don’t classify that as “rudeness”….:-) Anyway: I’m very thick skinned.

        You’re right: the Work Programme is clearly not a “job guarantee” in the sense of “guaranteeing everyone a job”. It’s far too small scale for that. But then no other JG type scheme (and there have been dozens in Europe and the US over the last 50 years) has ever guaranteed everyone a job. My main point was that the Work Programme incorporates two ideas which were novel 20 years ago, i.e. 1, that JG jobs should be with existing employers, not on specially set up projects, and 2, that JG jobs should be with all types of employers: private as well as public.

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