Employer of Last Resort?

Posted: 1 August 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I don’t have a dog in this hunt. But I do have a suggestion.

The hunt I’m referring to is the current spat between Thomas Palley and Randall Wray over Modern Monetary Theory, especially the idea of the government as Employer of Last Resort for unemployed workers.

Fine, battle it out, you two.*

What I want to suggest is it’s a mistake to limit the debate to fiscal and monetary stimulus versus direct government hiring. What about allowing workers to use unemployment benefits (perhaps supplemented by technical advice and additional capitalization) to form worker-owned cooperatives? That way, unemployed workers would be able to get back to work, earn a decent living, and collectively make decisions to help themselves and others in the surrounding community.

As I understand it, it’s the kind of solution behind Italy’s Marcora Law. It might be worth a try in the United States in the midst of the Second Great Depression. We’ll call it the Not-Palley-or-Wray Law.

*Although I do have to remark that it’s a bit of a cheap shot for Palley to use the ConDem government’s punitive scheme to force the long-term unemployed to work unpaid for six months as an example of what is wrong with the kind of policies advocated by Wray and other Modern Monetary Theorists.

Update

I just found out [ht: gh] that my own senator, Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), has just introduced legislation that would expand employee ownership of businesses in Vermont and throughout the country. The announcement doesn’t explicit mention unemployment but it does include funding to states through the Department of Labor to establish and expand employee ownership centers and the creation of a U.S. Employee Ownership Bank to provide loans to help workers purchase businesses through an employee stock ownership plan or a worker-owned cooperative.

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Comments
  1. I love the idea of “allowing workers to use unemployment benefits (perhaps supplemented by technical advice and additional capitalization) to form worker-owned cooperatives.” This isn’t an entirely new idea, as you know (e.g., Italy’s Marcora Law, which you cited).

    Coops have reduced unemployment from Argentina (http://www.ipsnews.net/2011/08/argentina-worker-cooperatives-reduce-hard-core-unemployment/) to the South Bronx (http://wagner.nyu.edu/wocpn/blog/2011/11/28/from-coast-to-coast-low-wage-workers-counter-unemployment-with-co-ops.html) to Andalusia, Spain (http://www.malagahoy.es/article/empleoafondo/1298374/la/unica/alternativa/desempleo/son/las/cooperativas/trabajo/asociado.html).

    As far as using unemployment benefits…John McNamara proposes that Wisconsin “[a]llow workers to pool their unemployment benefits in a lump sum to start a worker cooperatives (http://www.cooperativeconsult.com/blog/?p=737; also seehttp://www.cooperativeconsult.com/blog/?p=688). And there have been calls for “a UK equivalent of Italy’s Marcora Law” (http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/d9e2403c-4107-11e1-b521-00144feab49a.html).

    Interesting times!!

  2. [...] The hunt I'm referring to is the current spat between Thomas Palley and Randall Wray over Modern Monetary Theory, especially the idea of the government as Employer of Last Result for unemployed workers.  [...]

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