Saturday, February 4, 2012

I can't read these things


If opposition to the Job Guarantee is based on a rejection of full employment as a policy objective, the position seems difficult to justify on moral grounds unless at the very least an unconditional basic income were supported in its place.

I have to stop reading when I hit a sentence like that.

Moral grounds? The discussion is about full employment as a policy objective, and the straightforward approach which demands a job or income guarantee. No relevant aspect of this is moral.

The straightforward approach is overly simplistic, and the only guarantee it comes with is the guarantee that the policy will not work.

Or maybe I'm wrong about that; maybe the policy will work. Either way, the question is WILL THE POLICY WORK, or maybe CAN THE POLICY WORK. The question must never be: Is your objection moral?

People refuse to understand that the economy is a system, that it operates according to a set of rules, and that to ignore the rules is to abandon any chance of achieving success with economic policy.

No wonder we have so little success with economic policy.


Jazzbumpa said...

I think you have a blind spot.

Economics is what it is, and it's not a morality play, as Krugman put it. The utility of economics is to inform policy. But it is not the only information source.

What should policy do? My answer is that it should increase and promote the general welfare of the population.

Ignoring some segment of the population is a moral dilemma. To the extent that that segment is ignored, policy has failed on moral grounds. That is how morality should inform policy making.

Understanding economics should give some clue as to how the economy functions. Policy can then be geared toward the general welfare, as it was 50 years ago, or toward increasing the wealth of an already wealthy elite, as it is now.

i think the moral dimension is pretty clear.


The Arthurian said...

"Policy can then be geared toward the general welfare, as it was 50 years ago, or toward increasing the wealth of an already wealthy elite, as it is now."

If you want to design the economy to suit your specifications, that's fine with me. Better than fine. But if you want to make it happen, there are certain rules which *must* be followed. One studies the economy to learn these rules.

The reason people like me study the economy is so that people like you can use what we learn to create policies that give you the economy you want. But of course, you don't see things that way.

Jazzbumpa said...

Well, I'm in no position to make policy, though I do have some pretty firm ideas about what policy ought to be.

Tell me - what way do I see things?


Clonal said...


I would argue that life is a morality play, and nothing but a morality play. And therefore economics has everything to do with morality. What we transact, and how we transact has everything to do with morality and ethics. Without morality and ethics, there is NO economics. There is NO exchange, NO barter, and NO society.

The Arthurian said...

Jazz, you seem to think I disagree with your objectives. I only disagree on what are effective ways to achieve those objectives.

Clonal, what people do, they do for their own reasons and I certainly have no thought on how they should do things in a more moral way. However, their transactions affect accumulations of money, some circulating, some not; and these accumulations eventually change the economic environment -- the setting within which economic actors perform.

Oddly, when the economic environment becomes unfavorable, people tend to change their behavior and act in ways that give rise to moral objections in others.

The principles that guide economies are no more and no less moral than the principles that guide ships to the moon.