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Paul, Darity, and Hamilton, “Why We Need a Federal Job Guarantee”

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.

The views expressed in this Op-Ed piece are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the view of Basic Income News or BIEN. BIEN and Basic Income News do not endorse any particular policy, but Basic Income News welcomes discussion from all points of view in its Op-Ed section.


  • NoDifference

    What does “have haven’t” mean? As in:

    As the authors note, “The robots have haven’t taken over yet.”

    • Kate McFarland

      It means that even though every Basic Income News post is proofread before posting, our volunteer proofreaders, like all mortals, occasionally overlook typos.

  • NoDifference

    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.

    The authors state that UBI has no equivalent mechanism. But does UBI need an analogous method of achieving the effects as characterized in their quote?

    Since UBI would be enough for consumers (i.e., the populati0n; we are also human beings, let’s not forget!) to muddle through periods of overproduction (and even that is only an assumption, since maybe that problem disappears with a UBI policy anyway, but…), then it wouldn’t be necessary for a UBI policy to have such a mechanism. The same assumptions don’t necessarily hold.

    The other problem with the authors’ conclusion is that they are assuming that new technology will replace, pretty much 1 for 1, any jobs lost due to automation. That is a stretch of the imagination, and the real world seems to prove out that such a notion is not ordinarily the case in every evolution of technology.

    • NoDifference

      I should add, and maybe should have mentioned first and most important of all, is precisely what sort of jobs would the government create, and in such great number, as to make up for the shortfall in private sector positions?

      If they are just paper-pushing and bureaucratic jobs, this would lead to major waste in government, and moreover, waste throughout society at large! Just consider the additional traffic and demand on public transit to transport those who fill such jobs, the added pollution, competition for parking spaces, and so on. More electricity would be needed to run office and other equipment simply to “keep people busy.”

      And if the jobs are those which were needed in order to complete desperately-needed projects for the good of society, then why put these very necessary projects on hold until a cataclysmic economic downturn triggers the instantiation of FJG jobs? If they are important enough, then maybe society cannot be left without them, perhaps?

      Kate, if there is more information in that report, it would be wise to include it here. The conclusions of the authors don’t seem to follow given the few points you included in your article. It may, in fact, be unfair to the authors if you have left out salient points.

    • Kate McFarland

      This post, like everything posted on Basic Income News’s “From the Web” section, is meant to provide a short summary of the content of the linked article. It is not meant to reiterate everything in the linked article. For that, you must read the linked article. It is linked so that you can do just that.

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