In a recent article for the popular left-wing magazine Jacobin, economists Mark Paul (Duke University), William Darity Jr. (Duke University), and Darrick Hamilton (New School for Social Research) argue that the United States government should provide a Federal Job Guarantee (FJG) for all Americans who want to work.

Before laying out their arguments for an FJG, however, Paul, Darity, and Hamilton describe the rising popularity of Universal Basic Income (UBI), which they claim “makes sense,” especially in the given the threat that automation poses to many jobs. Despite this, the authors provide five reasons to prefer an FJG to UBI:

1. An FJG would lead to greater immediate economic gains for the least well off, since minimum earnings from a full-time job under the program would exceed those of the most common basic income proposals.

2. An FJG would help fill existing demands for workers. (As the authors note, “The robots haven’t taken over yet.”)

3. Jobs can offer benefits beyond income — such as social structures and sense of purpose and meaning — that a UBI alone cannot guarantee.

4. The authors point out that while a UBI would create the financial freedom to volunteer, to care for sick relatives, to start small businesses, or to stay at home and engage in care work, jobs created under the FJG could provide important goods and services. They offer such examples as repairing America’s crumbling infrastructure, developing cleaner energy sources, or  providing high-quality childcare and elder care.

5. An FJG would provide greater economic stabilization effects: “During economic downturns, it would expand and hire more people; it would then shrink during economic boom periods as people move from public to better-paying private employment.” A UBI, in contrast, does not possess such counter-cyclical features. (During an economic downturn, as the authors put it, “basic incomes provide no automatic stabilizers to right the sinking ship.”)

Paul, Darity, and Hamilton conclude,

Not only would a federal job guarantee bring justice to the millions who desire work, but it would also address the long-standing unjust barriers that keep large segments of stigmatized populations out of the labor force. Finally, it would reverse the rising tide of inequality for all workers. By strengthening their bargaining power and eliminating the threat of unemployment once and for all, a federal job guarantee would bring power back to the workers where it belongs.

A UBI, they claim, has no comparable benefit.


Read the full article:

Mark Paul, William Darity Jr., and Darrick Hamilton, “Why We Need a Federal Job Guarantee,” Jacobin, February 4, 2017.

Reviewed by Russell Ingram

Photo CC BY 2.0 Metropolitan Transportation Authority of the State of New York

About Kate McFarland

Kate McFarland has written 512 articles.

Former lead writer and editor of Basic Income News. Now with The Ecological Citizen.