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John Henry: A Conservative Defense of a Jobs Guarantee Program

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By John Henry, Professor of Economics at UMKC. Originally published at New Economic Perspectives.

John Locke is the “father” of property rights theory, and continues to be referenced in defense of private property. In the second volume of his Two Treatises of Government, Locke specified the conditions that must be satisfied in order for property to be deemed legitimate. Initially, any property taken from “the commons” (public or collective property) had to be based on one’s labor that was expended to improve that property. (While Locke focused on landed property, his argument applies more generally.)

But, there were two further conditions that had to be met, labeled the “prejudice” and the “spoilage” constraints—and these were seen as moral constraints. Essentially, the prejudice constraint means that no one can be disadvantaged by another’s appropriation of property; all must benefit, though some may benefit more than others. The spoilage constraint connotes that none can seize property beyond that which can be used by one’s own labor. If either constraint is not satisfied, two options are proposed: the disadvantaged have the right to revolt and overturn a private property regime, or government has the obligation to step in to rectify the situation in the interests of the community at large.

Now, it is clear that any large property holdings—giant farms, the modern corporation, etc.—violate the spoilage constraint. Locke himself was aware that there was a problem in his formulation in that, if adhered to, the capitalist accumulation process could not proceed. (He tried to wiggle out of his self-imposed dilemma by arguing that the accumulation of money—gold for him—was morally permissible as it didn’t violate either the prejudice or the spoilage constraints; anyone could accumulate money, and money (gold) didn’t spoil. For a critical evaluation of Locke’s proposed solution, see Bell, Henry, and Wray 2004.) The main issue addressed here is whether unemployment violates the prejudice constraint, thus calling the continued adherence to a private property regime into question. If so, from a purely Lockean standard, then government must undertake a program to guarantee full employment in the interests of society as a whole—and this is a moral obligation.

It must be noted that Locke was arguing from what is now a politically conservative position. In his day, Locke was considered something of a radical, but with the passage of time, private property has become ingrained in our institutions and our habits of thought that it might be said to have become sanctified as a necessary condition for our very existence—the essence of “freedom.” So, from a modern conservative position, what follows should be seen as consistent with Locke’s defense of property, and, again, Locke continues to be called on as a seminal reference point in current debates.

It is clear that in a modern capitalist society, most of the non-propertied segment of society—overwhelmingly the majority of the population—is dependent on the private (propertied) sector for employment, thus income, thus well-being. There is, however, nothing in the arrangements of a modern economy to guarantee that the private sector will offer enough jobs to satisfy the needs of the non-propertied for work. (Nor, for that matter, that the wages offered will satisfy the needs associated with well-being.) Indeed, the normal case is that there is always some amount of unemployment; “full” employment (however determined) is exceptional and conventionally attendant to large-scale wars—when a goodly part of the labor force is sent out to kill and be killed.  As the non-propertied (workers) are dependent on the propertied to provide them with employment, and if that employment is not forthcoming, then workers are “prejudiced” by the existence of private property: the “social contract” between the propertied and non-propertied has been violated; not all are advantaged by the arrangement.

This also calls into question the issues surrounding the spoilage constraint. Should some acquire property that is more than they can use in exerting their own labor, if he “. . . took more than his share, and robb’d others” (Locke, p. 318), others were denied the use of the spoiled output resulting from privatization and were thus “prejudiced.” Spoilage offends “. . . the common Law of nature,” and the property owner “was liable to be punished” for “he had no Right, farther than his Use called for . . .” (Ibid, 313; emphasis in original). Locke, if consistent, would oppose large-scale holdings. A Lockean solution to this issue would be the imposition of a Jeffersonian-style democracy where all would be independent small farmers, artisans, etc. But this is not capitalism, in which a class of property owners hires a class of non-propertied workers. (Indeed, we seem to be moving in a direction quite the opposite of that which Locke would find legitimate. Recent rulings which permit private oil and gas companies to use eminent domain in their own interests and cause great “prejudice” to be heaped on the non-propertied as well as those with small property holdings—the environmental, health, and other forms of damage inflicted by “fracking,” the construction of pipelines, etc.—represent an abrogation of the moral responsibility of government. See http://readersupportednews.org/news-section2/328-121/13067-oil-and-gas-companies-can-take-your-land.)

Now, while this raises the specter of revolt, let me focus on the more “reasonable” alternative—a jobs guarantee program. For Locke, should the two constraints be violated, government has the moral obligation to oversee the correction to the problem. One solution would be a very generous unemployment benefit that would at least equal the wage one could earn if employed. In addition to this payment, though, the benefit would have to include a sum that would compensate for the psychological costs of being unemployed, loss in skills as a consequence of not working, perhaps an additional amount to compensate for the social stigma usually attached to the inability to secure a job. All this would be necessary to override the Lockean “prejudice” caused by those with property who possess the ability to hire workers who do not do so in a sufficient amount. Clearly, this is unworkable as the compensation package would be considerably larger that the wages paid to the employed and many would find this a more satisfactory alternative to working. Wages would probably be driven up, causing costs in the private sector to rise and the propertied segment of the population would resist—mightily.

The other approach, and the only one that is feasible, is a jobs guarantee program. Governments have the ability to operate employment programs that do not compete with—indeed, may well complement—jobs in the private sector. Given their ability to spend without facing a profit constraint (one important aspect of so-called Modern Money Theory), governments can organize programs to employ all those who want a job, and, if properly structured, provide useful output for society. The rebuilding of infrastructure in the U.S. and elsewhere comes readily to mind. And such a program would clearly benefit the private sector. That is, it would not conflict with extant property rights. The list of projects is extensive: schools, hospitals, and so forth. And, one should not forget various service-sector possibilities including public arts projects. A short check of Works Progress Administration ventures of the 1930’s will confirm that government can undertake and has undertaken useful activities that enhance personal and societal well-being. And it can to this efficiently (though efficiency in the cost-minimizing or revenue-enhancing sense should not be the objective).

Would John Locke approve? If one takes him at his word, the answer is an unequivocal “yes.” When unemployment is seen as a “prejudice” resulting from the normal behavior of a propertied regime, government has the moral  obligation to rectify the problem. And this is a politically conservative position.

 

References:

Bell, S., Henry, J, and Wray L. “A Chartalist Critique of John Locke’s Theory of Property, Accumulation, and Money: Or, is it Moral to Trade Your Nuts for Gold?” Review of Social Economy, LXII, No. 1, March 2004.

Locke, John. Two Treatises of Government, edited by Peter Laslett. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1967.

 

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75 comments

  1. YankeeFrank

    The neoliberal capitalist system is so incredibly inhumane and unjust it is morbidly fascinating how many of our brutish human comrades violently support it. Oh shit, I said “comrade”, I’m a commie!

    1. miklos

      That is why the system is regulated im
      most of the countries . Cause it is passe
      in many ways.But untill we find someting that works beter have to live with it with regulation.

    2. MattR

      Yes, so inhumane! How could we use a system that has brought billions out of poverty! I mean, some people get richer than other people! What an absolute disgrace!

      We should just tax everyone 100% and let the government decide who needs the money. This would be much fairer. Pretty sure it’s never been done either and if it had, I’m positive it would have been a great success.

      1. Stephen Gardner

        Millions out of poverty? That’s rich. Tell it to the millions of formerly middle class people that have been plunged into poverty. You people who continue to propagandize for the 1% are a sorry lot.

    1. digi_owl

      Not surprising, if one know the guy started out as a merchant.

      I think he also had some passages on the evils of debt.

  2. Warren Celli

    There is another fantasy approach, equally as feasible; just be real good and write a letter to Santa and ask for two things;

    1. A law that will prevent people from calling gang raping Xtrevilist corporate sociopaths ‘capitalists’.

    2. A fair government that is not owned by the gang raping Xtrevilist corporate sociopaths that have tilted conditions well beyond anything Locke could have imagined.

    Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

  3. Klassy!

    I think the mistake is in believing that there is any true conservative with hands on the levers of power. We have reactionaries and we have the neocons who seem to be indistinguishable from neoliberals.
    There should be no reason why a conservative would object to a guaranteed jobs program. It is a humaniatian crisis that so many cannot find employment and there are so many projects that could be tackled. And, it would be cheaper to accomplish these tasks now.
    Instead we prefer punitive, convoluted carrot and stick programs that the neos can coalesce around. The main difference with those calling themselves conservatives it that they would prefer that these programs be totally privatized (but look to the Dems to help accomplish this!) The conservatives are only too happy to let taxpayers subsidize low wage work.
    But, then again– hasn’t the goal always been to have a docile workforce that blames themselves when they fail? During times of higher employment this was accomplished by keeping the populace in debt. Now we have higher unemployment+debt– a real winning combination if you happen to be in the 1%.

  4. WSmith

    In “Capitalism”, George Reisman discusses the dynamic whereby accumulated wealth is functionally at the service of both consumers and workers.
    “People have not grasped the profound insight of Mises that, in a market economy, in order benefit from privately owned means of production, one does not have to be an owner of the means of production. This is because one benefits from other people’s means of production — every time one buys the products of those means of production.

    One benefits from other people’s means of production not only in one’s capacity as a buyer of products but also as a seller of labor. Other people’s means of production, other people’s capital, are the source both of the supply of the goods one buys and of the demand for the labor one sells. The greater is other people’s accumulation of capital, the more abundant and less expensive are the products available for one to buy in the market and the greater is the demand for the labor one sells in the market and thus the higher the wages at which one can sell it. Abundant and growing capital in the hands of one’s suppliers and potential employers is the foundation of low and falling prices and of high and rising wages.”. George Reisman, “Capitalism”

    Recapsulating:
    1) Socialist redistribution of wealth theories fail to appreciate that consumers do not need to own the factors of production to derive the benefits of the property owned by capitalist entrepreneurs. Redistribution overlooks the need for individual cooperation and customer satisfaction implicit in an economy characterized by free markets and private ownership. Therefore, redistribution of income and property is not required for social good to be accomplished.

    2) Redistribution removes assets, such as money otherwise available for investment, from the hands of the entrepreneurs and places it in the hands of people with less proven ability to provide new jobs, new products and increasing productivity to capital. In a freely competitive market place entrepreneurs are sifted and sorted based only on their ability to profit from satisfying customers. They cannot be as well chosen by government decree. Therefore, spread the wealth theories ignore the naturally occurring division of labor which creates a demand and place for entrepreneurially talented men and women to direct private assets into the projects best suited to satisfy consumer desires. Redistributionist policies carry as their lost opportunity costs the jobs not created, the productivity increases delayed and the production lost by virtue of the unfulfilled visions of entrepreneurs.

    1. JEHR

      I’m sorry to burst your bubble, Mr Smith, but take an example of the so-called “free market” that is Wal-Mart. You say under the enterpreneural auspices of the Waltons, that wages will become higher. Not so. But it is true that products are lower in price but that is because of the pressures put on the wholesalers to sell for less or not be able to be marketed at the Wal-Mart stores. The wages do not rise above the minimum because that is the way Wal-Mart does its business. When the employees try to unionize, the store either gets rid of the “trouble makers” or closes its premises.

      Formerly, government was for, of and by the people which meant that its actions were for the good of all. The private sector does not exist for the benefit of all, but for the benefit of profit. Government does some things better than the private sector; for example, education and healthcare. Again, the private sector is for profits, profits, and more profits.

      Our free market is not free anymore. It is run by the moneyed class that live a life far apart from the average human being. The billionaires seem only interested in making money even when they already have enough money to live 14 lifetimes over! Love of money has taken over entrepreneurship, politics, justice and banks and every other thing as far as I can see.

      We human beings are not just “consumers.” I don’t sit around wondering what I can “consume” next or whether Wal-Mart has any cheap “consumables” today. I am a thinking, living, intelligent person who would like to see more cooperation in making life better for everyone and not just for the already rich. Wal-Mart is not part of that vision.

      1. WSmith

        Wal-Mart employs tens of thousands of people who voluntarily go to work every day and freely exchange their leisure time for the salaries Wal-Mart provides. The fact that unions need to depend on crony political and regulatory structures in order to harass companies like Wal-Mart and Boeing while destroying the auto industry and numerous city governments will not burst my bubble.
        As to Wal-Mart’s low prices being Wal-Mart’s gift to its customers and those low prices coming from Wal-Mart’s negotiating on behalf of its customers, again my bubble is intact. In fact, “Thank you, Wal-Mart.”
        Profits are what fund capital accumulation through savings. Productive capital, accumulating year after year, has created the tools and techniques which have resulted in the increasing productivity of labor which makes life more comfortable and more long lived in nations which most closely approach the capitalist ideal.
        Why would any investor, job seeker or customer take capital goods out of the hands of Steve Jobs, Sam Walton, Bill Gates and turn it over to Barack Obama, Harry Reid or Timothy Geithner? Do we need growing business enterprises, newly created jobs and products which freely attract customers and job seekers or do we need more zombie auto manufactures, crony banking collapses and failed Solyndras?
        All that bubbles up around government mismanagement is unemployment and deficits.

        1. Gizzard

          Boy Mr Smith that koolaid must be real strong

          “Wal-Mart employs tens of thousands of people who voluntarily go to work every day and freely exchange their leisure time for the salaries Wal-Mart provides.”

          Riiiiiight its a simple “voluntary” choice of trading leisure for minimum wage unappreciated work. And if you pray hard enough and hold your tongue juuuuuuust right God will give you all you want.

          “Profits are what fund capital accumulation through savings. Productive capital, accumulating year after year, has created the tools and techniques which have resulted in the increasing productivity of labor which makes life more comfortable and more long lived in nations which most closely approach the capitalist ideal.”

          Capital accumulation is not necessary for investemnt to take place. There is nothing inherently wrong with accumulating capital aka “saving” but its absolutely true that if everyone decides to spend less then their incomes at once then eventually no one will get the income they desire, unless debt makes up the difference. Its simple accounting.

          “Why would any investor, job seeker or customer take capital goods out of the hands of Steve Jobs, Sam Walton, Bill Gates and turn it over to Barack Obama, Harry Reid or Timothy Geithner?”

          Investors can invest where they wish today as any other day no one is taking investors money anywhere. Taxation is not “taking” investors money. For the record I dont support raising taxes on anyone personally, however we are insisting for some inane reason on having balanced budgets. For that to occur taxes WILL need to be raised….. significantly. Lets get off the balanced budgets train and Ill fight for no new taxes with you. But if we insist on staying on that path I’ll call for the most penal taxes on the rich I can get away with.

          “Do we need growing business enterprises, newly created jobs and products which freely attract customers and job seekers or do we need more zombie auto manufactures, crony banking collapses and failed Solyndras?”

          As a point of logic, a private enterprise is always looking to reduce labor. Doing the most with the fewest amount of people is, and should be, their goal. They will never be able to hire all who seek employment. Its a logical inconsistency. And whats wrong with a failed Solyndra? Are all startups to succeed? Has every new company started with private funds been a smashing success? We would not have most of the things that make your life as easy as it is today without govt making maaaaasive investments into technologies over the last century……. and no there WERENT the private funds to do it.

          You are part of the problem sir because you have been programmed by whatever it is that programs you cretins to see the world in black or white, govt or private enterprise terms. It is and always has been way more nuanced and complex than that. You bots dont do nuance.

          Too bad for you

        2. F. Beard

          “Wal-Mart employs tens of thousands of people who voluntarily go to work every day and freely exchange their leisure time for the salaries Wal-Mart provides.” WSmith [emphasis]

          Leisure time? Are you insane? The rich have leisure time; the non-rich have to work to survive.

          But if the capital in the US was evenly owned then yes, everyone would have more leisure time to freely exchange.

          1. WSmith

            Nothing I have said is uniquely Austrian, but Austrian works just fine here.

            Labor is by definition an exchange of idle or liesure time for productive effort. There are impediments to full employment such as poor skill sets, legal constraints on wage levels ( minimum wage) or licensing regulations. Basically, political hurdles and individual shortcomings.

            There is never any lack of work to be accomplished. Most work is quite a bit less appealing than idle time. This is why work is paid for by employers. Every employee, whether working for Wal-Mart in an entry level job or for JP Morgan in an executive position, feels underpaid. There is no “fair share”. The revenue generated by the position limits the pay grade

            No one is more focused on raiding the payroll than public unions. Government over pays for needles effort only because government does not create wealth but rather taxes wealth from its true producers.

            Capital can only be created by savings.

            You guys are great! Let me guess: you are unemployed, never created a job opportunity for yourselves or any one else? By the way Wal-Mart has a tie-dye Che T-shirt and some nifty sandals, ask mom to buy them for you. Well earned.

          2. F. Beard

            Labor is by definition an exchange of idle or liesure time for productive effort. WSmith

            Starving is usually not considered “leisure time.” Yet, without land or other capital including access to common ground where one might forage that is the only option besides charity to working for someone with capital.

            Give everyone a basic income guarantee (BIG) and then we can honestly talk about “leisure time.” Otherwise you are talking about wage slavery.

          3. F. Beard

            Capital can only be created by savings. WSmith

            Wrong. In many cases capital already exists; it merely needs to be organized. It would be stupid indeed to wait for mere money to be accumulated for that capital to be put to work.

          4. UnlearningEcon

            “You guys are great! Let me guess: you are unemployed, never created a job opportunity for yourselves or any one else? By the way Wal-Mart has a tie-dye Che T-shirt and some nifty sandals, ask mom to buy them for you. Well earned.”

            Shit, he got us! I guess libertarianism is right, guys. Everyone stop posting.

        3. LucyLulu

          Wal-Mart employs tens of thousands of people who voluntarily go to work every day and freely exchange their leisure time for the salaries Wal-Mart provides.
          This is where your logic fails. When a person must do something in order to survive he’s not really free to do otherwise, is he? That’s the distinct difference and advantage the capitalist has over the worker and eventually can’t resist exploiting. Hence we have American workers who lose their jobs if they don’t agree to non-living wages to foreign employees who jump out windows. If you don’t play living wages, pray tell, who will buy the products? Wages have fallen another six percent (inflation-adjusted) for the middle class since 2009. Why do you think there is no consumer demand now? And exactly what do you think is driving this recession? All the small business owners I know say they don’t need more tax cuts, they need customers!

          Your theories may sound good on paper but we have never had a “free market” and we never will. It’s as improbable as a civilized nation with regulation provided by the people instead of laws. You may find studying history to be more illuminating as it tends to repeat itself when lessons have not been learned.

        4. Rob

          That is a bunch of hollow logic.walmart is a poor example of anything,except of an abusive corporate actor.Since at least the 90′s when Hillary Clinton was on the board and the George HW Bush and bill Clinton were selling,signing NAFTA and getting china favored trade status and allowing tariffs to go by the wayside,to allow a business model that was geared to the seller and not the manufacturer…..,they started to blaze thru the country and put out of business the little guy competition….as they paid low wages,too low to live on.but the local gov has to pick up the medical payments of their workers,and pay for all the things they can’t afford.While at the corporate level getting incentives from every municipality the occupy.
          so,the taxpayers subsidize their business model to make up for everything they don’t pay…all to get what?A bunch of low quality crap that is filling up our landfills…oh yeah… Taxpayers pay for that too.
          If you could comprehend specifics,you would see these crony capital adventures are a result of friends in gov’t…….You don’t take money from these corporate elites and give it to Reid,or Geiger,or whoever….they are part of the same problem.The corporate hero’s can’t do what they do today without gov.types allowing then to abuse the people in this country and avoid paying taxes,when it is all done….
          And capital is created all the time without savings… Most of the money supply was created out of thin air…thanks to fractional reserve banking rules and nevermind the derrivatives market or all the other financial Arrangements that allow “job creators” to buy thing with other peoples money and money made from nothing.
          The viewpoint of textbook business models,that really don’t translate to the real world is the garbage being taught to the right wing parrots who support the garbage economics of the last 40years…Reagan was a hack and greenspan was too.
          My guess is that people who can sit back and be so disassociated from the meaning of labor,never really worked for a living…they thought getting up in the morning in some white collar job in middle management,and getting a paycheck,was working…when there was no actual metric of their proficiency.these people made a living off of other people working.These people have constructed a system that is a house of cards.and showing up is good enough.they confused the momentum of wall st for their own worth.rather than seeing they were just part of a swindle.

        5. Death to Fascism

          Unions and government fight for a better quality of life for everyone. Unions and governement are what helps hold people accountable and sharing of profits and dignity in the work place.
          I have no problem with companys making a profit just don’t destroy everyone and everything in the process.
          Walmart is the example of the worst of capitalism exploiting labor and running mom and pop stores out of business. Teaching their employees on where to sign up for food stamps and to go to the county Hospital when they or their family get sick. Walmart is just wrong it is hurting all of our quality of life.

          As far as Steve Jobs is concerned I can’t imagine running a company Where the emplyees throw themselves off the roof. I don’t believe I could live with myself if that was happening and I will not buy their products as long as that is happening. You try and make a choice with what you buy or invest in by trying to buy things that do not cause too much harm to people and the environment.

          I do not believe the United Autoworker is holding the Auto Industry Hostage. I believe that when you sign a contract with a company everyone needs to work to fulfill that agreement. If the courts continue to let companys not pay their employees what they agreed to pay in a contract then I see the end of capitalism coming sooner than later.

    2. UnlearningEcon

      We don’t ‘fail to appreciate’ your Austrian drivel, we REJECT it. There is a big difference and you should never assume your opponents are simply unable to understand your position.

      The quoted paragraph is full of assertions and simply disproved by current events:

      “One benefits from other people’s means of production not only in one’s capacity as a buyer of products but also as a seller of labor.”

      No mention of working hours or conditions – you are simply ‘selling’ your labour, as if it is a piece of property external to your being.

      “Other people’s means of production, other people’s capital, are the source both of the supply of the goods one buys and of the demand for the labor one sells.”

      How? Demand for labour is created when there is demand for goods and services. The ‘capital’ itself creates no demand.

      ‘The greater is other people’s accumulation of capital, the more abundant and less expensive are the products available for one to buy in the market and the greater is the demand for the labor one sells in the market and thus the higher the wages at which one can sell it.’

      Wow! Holy non sequitur batman. He doesn’t justify any of this – what about monopoly positions?

      Also, the greater and more concentrated accumulation of capital, the more the labourers need the capitalist. As Adam Smith noted, capitalists can survive on their own stock, whereas those who do not own the means of production depend on those who don’t to subsist.

      “Abundant and growing capital in the hands of one’s suppliers and potential employers is the foundation of low and falling prices and of high and rising wages.”

      On the other hand, all of recorded history. Look at profits versus wages for the past 30 years.

    3. F. Beard

      IF the common stock of ALL large corporations were nationalized and redistributed equally, I don’t see how that would adversely affect production. Why should it?

        1. F. Beard

          I advocate a universal bailout till all credit debt is repaid and a BIG so people would NOT be so desperate to sell their shares.

          Also, the shares could be made inalienable such as agricultural land in ancient Israel was; the shares could only be leased out for 50 years max.

    4. reason

      So to summarise,
      involutary unemployment can’t happen. And all negotiations are between equal parties with no differences in power.

      OOPS!

      1. reason

        I’m very puzzled why you chose to quote von Mises here. He is an anti-empiricist, and as such on the losing side of the history of science. And this argument looks currently very empirically challenged – by as other people have mentioned the static level of wages and the climing share of capital income. And his argument, simply ignores the existance of the joint stock company and the possibility of everybody benefiting from capital that they all own. Your faith in all this, suggests a very unenquiring mind.

        1. F. Beard

          And his argument, simply ignores the existance of the joint stock company and the possibility of everybody benefiting from capital that they all own. reason

          Yep. Mises seems to want to enslave people via a single government enforced monopoly money supply (gold) and usury. But common stock as private money requires neither PMs nor usury. Common stock as private money “shares” wealth and power while at the same time it consolidates capital for economies of scale.

    5. craazyman

      You sound like you might have money to burn.

      Other people may want to charge you $35,000 or even $40,000 per year to let you philosophize about economics for them. The market clearning price is minus $35,000 per year, because that’s where the supply and demand curves intersect.

      The supply curve starts high but crosses the x-axis at 40 jobs worldwide because that’s all there are at any price above zero. And the demand curve starts at zero at 100 jobs (meaning 100 people would philosophize about economics free of charge) and goes up and to the right.

      It makes it hard to make money, unless you’re a clever philsophizer.

      I will offer you a deal. I’ll listen to all your ideas and debate you, cordially and intelligently, for an above market price of only minus $25,000 per year, billable to you monthly on retainer. If you show up with an “assistant” or any “friends”, I’ll be on to your game. If there’s two of you, your price goes to minus $50,000! There’s only so much I can take!

      1. craazyman

        oops. I think I reversed the supply and demand curves. It was a careless typo, but nevertheless, just for that, I’ll give a 10% discount if you sign up by midnight tonight!

        1. LucyLulu

          I’m asking -$24,950 for the same services as C-man in case you’re taking bids. I’m not asking for any benefits but get the kids if I jump.

  5. c

    While it’s impossible to disagree with philosophical underpinnings of this argument, it sadly asks too much of our reality. “Conservatives”, in the American formulation aren’t concerned about the “moral obligations” that governments or individuals have to society.

    Modern conservative thought, paired with “free-market capitalism” are a philosophical repudiation of morality. They excuse the individual from responsibilities towards others, more specifically they place the individual in an antagonistic position towards society. They don’t envision the role of government, and particularly democratic government, as having any domain in the preservation of justice unless that “justice” reinforces established power relations.

    So to make a conservative argument for any progressive position is at best futile. At worst it puts you in continued engagement with those 30% of Americans who have take the crypto out of crypto-fascists and are making the most blatantly racists, illiberal, corrupt and autocratic bid for power since 1861. We don’t need to engage this people or convince them they are wrong. They know, they don’t care.

    1. RupanIII

      “Conservatives”, in the American formulation aren’t concerned about the “moral obligations” that governments or individuals have to society.”

      Apropos quote comes to mind: “there is no such thing as society” – Thatcher

  6. craazyman

    A Dream Come True!

    It may seem discouraging at first to hear the market for philosophers of economics clears at -$35,000 per year, since nobody except the idle rich could afford to practice such a profession. But something occurred to me this morning, while I was wasting time, and I realized how limited was my initial thinking.

    All you need to do is find about 4 or 5 philosophers of economics who will pay you to listen to them philosophize for you. You can even give them discounts to the market clearing price, and charge only $20 or $25G. That way, you can clear $70, $80 or $90,000 fairly easily — after you pay $35,000 to your employer. It won’t get you rich, but at least you can have a career.

    The dude you’re philosophizing for may get nervous if he finds out what you’re up to. He may say “I can’t take on another philosopher for what you’re paying me!” That’s easy to handle. All you have to say is “This isn’t another philosopher, it’s just my assistant.”

    The next time, when you show up to philosophize with 2 or 3 assistants, you can say to your employer “Don’t worry. These are just some friends who wanted to listen in.” But you have to shut up long enough to let them get their ideas on the table, because they are paying you, after all.

    I figure you could make a business with up to about 5 or 6 philosophers. After that, it would get to be like girlfriends. Eventually one or two would want to dominate your attention with their nonsense, and they’d want you to actually believe it.

    If the government wants to get into this, that would be great! If the government wanted to pay 4 or 5 philosophers to pay me to listen to them, I would do it for sure. I think it would be better for everybody than most real jobs. They suck, frankly. Most of them, anyway. And even though economics is mostly nonsense, I’d rather listen to somebody philosophize about it than have to do what most other people call “work”. I mean really. What a true waste of time most of it is.

  7. LeonovaBalletRusse

    The_fake “justification”_for .01% Lebensraum–and its Rentier Extraction Capitalism processes/procedures/”laws”–is BUSTED, hereby.

    The Oligarch Universities of Chicago, Yale, Harvard, etc. should be put to shame.

  8. Hugh

    This seems like an argument ripe for Ockkham’s razor. The whole citation of Locke is superfluous and is really nothing more than a rather tortured appeal to authority.

    Locke’s view of property was problematic in his own time and is completely irrelevant in our own. For most people nowadays, private property is only a temporary rental of a space. Mortgage plus taxes or just taxes must be paid on it. In general, the only ones capable of multi-generational “rental” are the rich as a class and corporations. This automatically confers a relative advantage to them, a spoilage as it were, but not spoilage of property but instead spoilage of a rental.

    The social contract is also invoked. Now I am not arguing against the concept of a social contract, but it is important to understand it is an idea from the Enlightenment. Liberalism, capitalism, and Locke’s notion of property are based on the invention of an idealized population of autonomous, relatively equal actors guided by enlightened self-interest and the decisions they make concerning government (liberalism), the economy (capitalism), and property (Locke).

    Now what is tricky about all this is that the same criticisms that you can make of how this Enlightenment concept of an idealized population applies to capitalism or property also apply to liberalism, and this is the basis of our form of government. The Founders and Framers were fully aware that while their model was ideal the world they lived in was real. So they did two things. As significant property owners, they advantaged the propertied against the unpropertied and they built in multiple checks and balances to make it more difficult for any one group of property owners to gain disproportionate power over the others.

    It is these issues that lie at the heart of our economy, government, and society that are far more interesting and fundamental than a stray application of Locke.

  9. F. Beard

    I be lazy so I’ll repost my original comment from “New Economic Perspectives”:

    “If so, from a purely Lockean standard, then government must undertake a program to guarantee full employment in the interests of society as a whole—and this is a moral obligation.” John Henry

    “Baloney. If a man can’t work because he doesn’t have land then instead of being given a job on Pharaoh’s pyramids, he should be given land.

    The banks have used our own stolen purchasing power (“loans create deposits”) to disposses us and concentrate wealth and power. Now consolidation of capital for economies of scale is good but the proper means to do that is with common stock as money, not stolen purchasing power via “credit creation” for the so-called “credit worthy.” ”

    I’ll add that just restitution for theft and abolition of the means of that theft is not negotiable. A JG requires that the victims of theft work for their restitution. How is that just? It isn’t.

  10. F. Beard

    Now, it is clear that any large property holdings—giant farms, the modern corporation, etc.—violate the spoilage constraint. John Henry

    No, it’s not. Economies of scale do exist but the problem is that giant farms and corporations are too narrowly owned because the so-called “credit worthy” have used their access to stolen purchasing power to make them so.

    1. scraping_by

      Yes, bro, economies of scale exist, but put them on a long term time scale and a lot of them turn out to be strip mining what should be nurtured.

      Much of the farm belt has been turned into sterile or near sterile stretches where the family farms kept the soil fertile, mostly out of self-interest and cheaper methods. Much of the grasslands of Oregon and the slurbia of Washington used to be rain forests. All done in by mechanical methods for biological systems.

      Corporations are only long-term in their PR campaigns. Families and governments have the capacity to look to the future.

      1. F. Beard

        You make some good arguments with regard to land usage and I agree. There is also the mono-culture risk. So yeah, let’s aim for the return of family farms. With modern farm machinery it shouldn’t be so hard to be a farmer.

        But for big industry we definitely need economies of scale; we can’t all make microchips at home, for example.

  11. getyourfactsstraight

    YOu and the author you quote are really just putting words in Lockes mputh. Your conclusions are wholey unfounds and your surmise of locke amounts to self-serving fiction,

    Goodness, even the Techo-maoist over at wikipedia are not so brazen (see here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Locke;

    From the “Limits” section of the wiki link above:

    Labour creates property, but it also does contain limits to its accumulation: man’s capacity to produce and man’s capacity to consume. According to Locke, unused property is waste and an offence against nature. However, with the introduction of “durable” goods, men could exchange their excessive perishable goods for goods that would last longer and thus not offend the natural law. The introduction of money marks the culmination of this process. Money makes possible the unlimited accumulation of property without causing waste through spoilage. He also includes gold or silver as money because they may be “hoarded up without injury to anyone,”[27] since they do not spoil or decay in the hands of the possessor. The introduction of money eliminates the limits of accumulation. Locke stresses that inequality has come about by tacit agreement on the use of money, not by the social contract establishing civil society or the law of land regulating property. Locke is aware of a problem posed by unlimited accumulation but does not consider it his task. He just implies that government would function to moderate the conflict between the unlimited accumulation of property and a more nearly equal distribution of wealth and does not say which principles that government should apply to solve this problem. However, not all elements of his thought form a consistent whole. For example, labour theory of value of the Two Treatises of Government stands side by side with the demand-and-supply theory developed in a letter he wrote titled Some Considerations on the Consequences of the Lowering of Interest and the Raising of the Value of Money. Moreover, Locke anchors property in labour but in the end upholds the unlimited accumulation of wealth.

    1. F. Beard

      He [Locke] also includes gold or silver as money because they may be “hoarded up without injury to anyone,”[27] wiki

      That’s contrary to the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30).

      since they do not spoil or decay in the hands of the possessor. wiki

      That’s also contrary to Scripture:

      Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten. Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure! Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. James 5:2-4 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

  12. be'emet

    libertarian paradox, Can a man freely sell himself into slavery? Beloved founding fathers, halcyon days of slaveholding.

  13. getyourfactsstraight

    A free market, capitalist system, is neither “brutal” or “inhumane”. Rather quite the opposite. Contrast with it precursors, fuealism and mercantilism, and its modern competitors, all forms of Ologarchical Collevtisim, it has by far griven the great wealth, freedom and dignity. To maintian otherwise, is to merely reflecivelt reguritage Marxist cant and the crpto-communist electioneering agitprop of the Democrat Party.

    Nothing could be fairer or more humane than to allow people to work for their own end based on the value they ad to a free market. Free Markets for free meen. Only the slavish and the Craven wish for the tryanny and false aristocracy of Collectivism.

    It is those who oppose the liberal, capiltaist order whoe are brutes and in is they who have a cruel and inhumaney vision of man. If you actually worked for a living at some sort of productive employ (and had something approaching a normal, fruitful life) you would know that.

    The nonsense about WalMart is a case in point. Walmart does no harm and does great good. That is why it is rewarded in the marketplace. It does not support the crimailorganization that are unions or, in the main, the parasitic and crimnal gang that is the Democrat Party. That is why it is a target (no pun intended) for the Left.
    Targets, business model is little dirrent, and it feed off the Walmart economy, but its spreads it legs wide for the Democrats and this is why you are spewing the standard cant about Walmart rather than about Target. Obviously, you know nothing about economics.

    There is nothing at all “brutal or inhumane” at all about WalMart, and, as history shows, Collectivism in all its forms has been the most brutal and inhumane systems in rcorded history, has the blody courses of Lenin, Stalin, Hitler and Mao well illustrate.

    Government coersion of Walmart would in fact be “brutal and inhumane”, at least to a degree, for it would reduce value to consumers, some of whom wuite need it, and reduce the ability to employ many retirees and/or their spouses who work there. as they would hae to be replacd with higher paid, lazy and immoral union employee who have manipulated the poplitical system to get thier jobs.

    The carping about WalMart is a sure sign that whoever is spoiunt it is either a shill or useful idiot for the Democrats.

    It is rather obvious which of those we see here: Puerile, psuedo intelletual loons who must cast the blame for their mediocrity and prospects on “Caplitalism”. Having lived is actually communist countries I can tell you that nitwits and losers far rudley more poorly in such a nation than you would in a caplitalist one.

    Go start a business; make something of yourselves.

    1. Carla

      @gyfs: One thing the free market apparently does not confer is attention to spelling or readability….

    2. reason

      It seems to escaped you attention that many people here who are not GOP supporters are actually in favour of capitalism. Just not capitalism of the brutal 1890s type, but rather capitalism of the social democratic type as practiced in America before 1980 and is still practiced in much of Europe. It seems to me, your black and white argument would struggle a bit if it made it’s counterpoints against more realistic alternatives. The problem with a concentration of wealth, is that it is also a concentration of power and this also is reflected indeed in a diminuition of the opportunity for the vast majority of people to indeed “Go start a business” given that most businesses require capital to start and even given that will most likely fail in the first couple of years.

    3. Septeus7

      Quote from ” getyourfactsstraight”: “Nothing could be fairer or more humane than to allow people to work for their own end based on the value they add to a free market. Free Markets for free men.”

      So why not allow people to sell all of their labor at once rather than rent it out for short periods of time? Why shouldn’t I be free to sign a voluntary contract for many years of slavery rather than just a day?

      Your claptrap about capitalist or evil marxist collectivism is total nonsense as many here are in Anarchists
      or Georgists.

      You claim to in order to be free I must be able to alienate my right to the products of my labor in exchange for a wage because labor needs assess to capital which is owned by the capitalist firm and therefore the capitalist gets both the managerial rights over production and products labor.

      You claim that I am a communist because I reject this argument. If my Boss tells to dump toxins in the river and I do as an employee the laws says I haven’t alienated my labor and am still liable for the damages but the corporation is protected. How can you claim that I have alienated my labor for a wage by selling it to a capitalism firm then turn around and claim that investors i.e. owners of the firm are protected under limited liability for the actions of the labor they brought. How is this rational?

      My final question for (can’t) getyourfactsstraight is why should labor be force to submit to capitalist management and contracts of subjugation in order to have access to capital? Why must labor be sold and treated as if it where a commodity unattached to a human being rather than capital being rented by the organization of labor?

      I believe that objects and tools should be rented to people not the other people rented to the “firm” of machines. Why does that make me a Evil Communist Marxist Collectivist?

      Why can’t capital be rented to co-op corporations of workers instead of a privileged and protected class of usually white male anglo American plutocrats?

      Historically the answer is the capitalist murder, corrupt, or criminalize any such efforts. If you deny this then haven’t got your facts straight.

      Fuck you and the slavist “Free Market” horse you rode in on.

    4. LucyLulu

      “allow people to work for their own end based on the value they ad to a free market.”

      Wages stopped correlating to the value added by labor back in about 1973. Since then, worker productivity has increased, corporate taxes paid have fallen while profits have increased, percentage of profits paid to employee wages/benefits has fallen, and workers’ compensation in constant $ have fallen.

      Before 1973, when profits rose, management would split the increase with employees. Your statement would have applied then. Forty years ago.

    5. LucyLulu

      So, any hint of government coercion of Walmart is baaad. But its okay for the government to provide food stamps and public housing to Walmart employees because their employees remain below the poverty level? In other words, government money should be obligated to subsidize the Walton families’ profits? Or do we allow the new working poor to starve? How does THAT fit into your John Galt world?

      BTW, I’m a staunch advocate of a primarily capitalist economy (not health care, govt has proven they do it better, and for less money). Capitalism with sensible laws and regulations, and non-discriminatory enforcement. Also, a progressive tax code that hasn’t been rewritten by special interest groups to grant the wealthy favored treatment (as well as a federal civil and criminal statutory code).

  14. kjr63

    “Now, it is clear that any large property holdings—giant farms, the modern corporation, etc.—violate the spoilage constraint. Locke himself was aware that there was a problem in his formulation in that, if adhered to, the capitalist accumulation process could not proceed.”

    I read until this point. I don’t see connection here. Why would capitalist accumulation process not proceed without owning land? Why can’t capitalist rent land?

    1. F. Beard

      Interestingly, agricultural land in ancient Israel could not be permanently sold but only leased for up to 50 years and it could be redeemed before then for a price equivalent to the number of crops remaining till the Jubilee Year.

    2. F. Beard

      Also, the agricultural land was initially distributed by lot as Caanan was conquered. It seems ole Locke was unacquainted with the Bible or chose to ignore it.

      1. MRW

        If you read Locke, he was acquainted, but perhaps not with the rewritten Bibles we’ve been forced to endure in the 20th C. with all the mythical nonsense about “Ancient Israel” added via Cyrus Scofield in 1906 and the Oxford Press inlater editions and as frequently as up to 1963.

        Israeli archeologists have uncovered it, however.
        “Deconstructing the Walls of Jericho.”
        http://www.historykb.com/Uwe/Forum.aspx/archaeology/3286/Deconstructing-the-Walls-of-Jericho

  15. scraping_by

    “Recent rulings which permit private oil and gas companies to use eminent domain in their own interests and cause great “prejudice” to be heaped on the non-propertied as well as those with small property holdings—the environmental, health, and other forms of damage inflicted by “fracking,” the construction of pipelines, etc.—represent an abrogation of the moral responsibility of government.”

    Note that includes the conversion of public property to private uses, usually with no or risable compensation, almost always with no or manufactured public consent.

    It’s a lawyer’s job to argue that up is down, right is left, black is white, dead is live, etc. The Mountain States Legal Foundation and others specialize in arguing that public is private. Also, that anything which exists is a ‘resource’, framing it as an economic good when many people see a spiritual or social good. In other words, everything’s for sale.

    Often not using something is the right use. Or at least, seeing the greater populace as a stakeholder as interested as the corporate employees in determining the right use.

    1. scraping_by

      And further, ever notice how many critics of governments call it out when it’s acting on behalf of private interests? That’s confusing the means with the motive.

      If government were acting against private grabs, would those same critics fault it for interfering in the marketplace? Acting on behalf of the citizen rather that the private interest is currently considered Socialism. Which is a good argument for Socialism.

      It would be interesting to hear a Randian defense of private corporations exercising governmental powers.

  16. kris

    I lived in a system that had a job guarantee embedded in its core.
    We called it COMMUNISM.

    Please stop piling up with idiotic concepts like this.

    1. Hugh

      I live in a system that has high unemployment embedded in its core.
      We called it CAPITALISM.

      Please stop piling up with idiotic concepts like this.

      1. kris

        The only perfect economic system I have read about is called HEAVEN. Anything that planet earth offers is deeply imperfect.
        Capitalism is less deeply imperfect. That is a fact.

  17. MattR

    A jobs guarantee is not only unworkable, it suffers from the same issue that you are trying to resolve. At any rate, this entire article is based on the fallacy that wealth is ‘taken’ from one person in order to be ‘given’ to another. I find it surprising that this idea is still alive as it is so clearly false you may as well be saying that night is brigher than day.

    If the role of a system is to ensure that nobody is disadvantaged by someone taking property then how do you resolve the fact that for a government to guarantee jobs they have to appropriate the wealth of it’s citizens?

    Example, business owner earns $100 a year. Unemployed person earns nothing. Government says “unemployed person should be taken care of, let’s take $5 from business owner and give it to unemployed person.” The unemployed person is advataged but the business owner is clearly disadvantaged. You then need to take out $1 for ‘administration’ costs and society doesn’t even benefit the full amount taken!

    Yes there are clear benefits to having a welfare safety net, but at the same time it needs to be very clearly limited as one persons welfare is another persons theft. If you start taking too much from the ‘propertied’ class then you will quickly find there is no ‘propertied’ class left and, due to the government guarantee of jobs, there is no tax revenue either!

    This is why communism failed, this is why free markets, with a small safety net, are STILL the best way to organise the resources of society and help the society grow.

    1. LucyLulu

      “one persons welfare is another persons theft”

      No. Paying taxes on one’s income, a portion of which goes towards the provision of humane living conditions for those too old, sick, or poor to provide for themselves, is a responsibility attached to citizenry and its attendant privileges.

    2. Rob

      Communism didn’t fail.ever heard of a little country called China?while I argue that china is turning fascist,it is still classified as communist.reagan didn’t beat communism..it just was in a state of flux.
      And capitalism too,has had many periods.this latest aspects of finance capitalism isn’t what all these right wing fantasy camp adherents think it is…
      Your example of an unemployed person recieving benefits.. Is just an example of a cost of doing business.Is there an expectation of the employer wanting to have nothing at stake…. As an employer,I don’t even think that is worth debating.
      The better point in this article,is the one of the gas fracking industry, which is relying on a gov’t NOT regulating it or asking any hard questions,while it tries to reap profits out of the common resources under our feet.this is really an issue.they are taking profits.What about the coming liabilities of the pollution that will surely follow?They have already discovered that the chemicals at e going to reach up to the water table faster than expected…just because that process is in flux,doesn’t mean it won’t eventually be an issue…this is a point.asking about having to pay unemployment insurance as a cost of doing business isn’t.Now if you asked why the IRS is able to demand an employer pay estimated quarterly taxes,before they are actually due….. Then I would say…. what the Hell?and then be able to fine you for getting your estimated quarterlies wrong…,while paying all taxes on time……this would be an argument of gov’t sticking it’s nose into private business….but when people make silly points about gov’t,it just shows their stripes and which side of the isle they are on… Which the problem with that is that BOTH sides of the aisle are wrong.. And someone arguing for one side over the other just doesn’t get it.

    3. Hugh

      Hilariously and rather frighteningly offbase. We do not live under a gold standard. We have a fiat currency. This means that taxing does not fund spending. What both spending and taxing do is distribute resources (what you call wealth) within our society. Your reaction to taxing being (gasp) used for redistribution of wealth in society is akin to expressing disbelief that a car would be used for transportation or that food was meant to be eaten.

  18. David Bracewell

    This is a great article but one of John’s main points is flawed. John sees corporate use of land as proscribed by the condition of spoilage which specifies that only land that can be used or worked by the man himself becomes his.

    However in that same chapter 5 (Property) Locke says one thing that contextualizes property as a class issue with different rules for different classes. Here is what he says:

    “Thus when my horse bites off some grass, my servant cuts turf, or I dig up ore, in any place where I have a right to these in common with others, the grass or turf or ore becomes my property, without anyone’s giving it to me or consenting to my having it. My labour in removing it out of the common state it was in has established me as its owner.”

    The turf becomes his – yet it was not he who cut it, but his servant.

    This implies that the possessor of labour may leverage it in order to claim land above and beyond his own ability to work it.

    The main argument stands: underutilized resources are a violation of the condition of spoilage. But the subsidiary one – that the existence of corporations in and of themselves violate the condition of spoilage – can not stand in light of this sentence. I wish it could.

    1. kjr63

      “This implies that the possessor of labour may leverage it in order to claim land above and beyond his own ability to work it.”

      Which is which? The possessor of labour becomes a land owner, or the possessor of land becomes “labour owner?” According to Henry George, the latter.

  19. WorldisMorphing

    [" The spoilage constraint connotes that none can seize property beyond that which can be used by one’s own labor."]

    …Lord knows we have long passed that fucking point…

    So now we’ve reached the point where the elite have way more wage-slaves than they need. The question now is the following:

    #1. Is self-perpetuating mediocrity for the masses the inevitable end result of the “allocation of scarce resources” in a system bent on maintaining that not caring how one becomes a ‘rentier’ is prerequisite for ‘Freedom’ ?

    #2. Is Darwinism applied through the intellectually sloppy prism of market fondamentalism a filter that will be desirable in the coming age ? Wouldn’t a social contract devoid of hypocrisy be a more a constructive solution ?

    In my mind however, for some reason, a genuine, honestly forged social contract implies an overarching universal human Purpose.
    Worry not, I am keenly aware that Reason suggests that my wanting one does in no way mean that there is one…

  20. WorldisMorphing

    I’m sorry, “mediocrity” should have been written with a capital ‘M’.
    My bad.

  21. kris

    I have a better solution.
    Why don’t we ban all elections and have government own all means of production and provide for everything?

    Something new, you know new ideas never tried before. Any feedback?

    1. kjr63

      Ever heard of “Soviet Union?” The real world is a mixed economy, combination of public and private wealth.

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