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Back to Full Employment

Back to Full Employment

Robert Pollin
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Back to Full Employment
    Book Description:

    Full employment used to be an explicit goal of economic policy in most of the industrialized world. Some countries even achieved it. In Back to Full Employment, economist Robert Pollin argues that the United States--today faced with its highest level of unemployment since the Great Depression--should put full employment back on the agenda.There are good reasons to seek full employment, Pollin writes. Full employment will help individuals, families, and the economy as a whole, while promoting equality and social stability. Equally important, creating a full-employment economy can be joined effectively with two other fundamental policy aims: ending our dependence on fossil fuels and creating an economy powered by clean energy.Explaining views on full employment in macroeconomic theory from Marx to Keynes to Friedman, Pollin argues that the policy was abandoned in the United States in the 1970s for the wrong reasons, and he shows how it can be achieved today despite the serious challenges of inflation and globalization. Pollin believes the biggest obstacle to creating a full-employment economy is politics. Putting an end to the prevailing neoliberal opposition to full employment will require nothing less than an epoch-defining reallocation of political power away from the interests of big business and Wall Street and toward the middle class, working people, and the poor, while mounting a strong defense of the environment. In the end, achieving full employment will be a matter of political will: Can the United States make having a decent job a fundamental right?

    eISBN: 978-0-262-30184-8
    Subjects: Economics, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
    (pp. IX-XIV)
  4. 1 The Centrality of Full Employment
    (pp. 1-14)

    In the aftermath of the 2008–09 Wall Street collapse and worldwide Great Recession, employment conditions in the United States have been disastrous, worse than at any time since the 1930s Depression. Over the first three full years since Barack Obama entered office in January 2009, the official unemployment rate averaged 9.0 percent, representing nearly 14 million people in a labor force of about 153 million. By a broader definition, which includes people employed fewer hours than they would like and those discouraged from looking for work, the Labor Department calculates that the unemployment rate has averaged almost twice that...

  5. 2 Is Full Employment Possible Under Capitalism?
    (pp. 15-36)

    In seeking to answer the question posed in this chapter’s title, we should begin by defining three distinct types of unemployment.Voluntaryunemployment occurs when people are out of work because they choose to be.Frictionalunemployment occurs when people are between jobs, receiving job training, or relocating.Involuntaryunemployment occurs when people are making a significant effort to find work, but have been unsuccessful. In principle, the first two types of unemployment are relatively benign. Unemployment only becomes a serious concern when it is involuntary. But as we will see, the distinctions between the three categories are not always...

  6. 3 Globalization, Immigration, and Trade
    (pp. 37-64)

    In examining the effects of globalization on the viability of full employment policies in the United States, Sweden, or anywhere else, the most relevant concern is not the pattern of increasing economic interconnectedness between countries per se. It is rather the neoliberal policy framework that has defined the process of globalization for the past 35 years.

    In the U.S. labor market, the neoliberal policy framework has exposed working people to increased competition from workers in poor countries—it has meant, effectively, an expansion of the reserve army of labor for the jobs done by U.S. workers, despite the fact that...

  7. 4 Digging Out of Recession
    (pp. 65-98)

    After Wall Street hyper-speculation brought the global economy to its knees in 2008–09, economic policymakers throughout the world—including the United States, the countries of the European Union, Japan, South Korea, China, India, and Brazil—all enacted extraordinary measures to counteract the crisis.

    In the United States, the first large-scale policy move was the notorious bailouts of the big banks, aimed at preventing them from collapsing altogether and thereby risking a 1930s-style depression. They also included Federal Reserve monetary policies that pushed the target short-term interest rate—the “federal funds rate” at which commercial banks can borrow—to near...

  8. 5 Building a Sustainable Full Employment Economy
    (pp. 99-142)

    How do we create a sustainable full employment economy over the long run? I focus here on four crucial areas:

    1) Dramatically increasing investments in the areas of clean energy and education, and correspondingly reducing spending on conventional energy sources—including fossil fuels and nuclear power—and the military. This shift in investment priorities will generate a major expansion of job opportunities at all levels of the economy. These major employment benefits will be in addition to the intrinsic benefits of controlling climate change and increasing educational opportunities.

    2) Industrial policies to undergird the clean energy transformation and, more broadly,...

  9. 6 If Not Now, When?
    (pp. 143-162)

    Creating an economy with an abundance of decent employment opportunities—a “full employment economy,” as I have used the term—is a matter of basic ethics. Without full employment, the fundamental notion of equal rights for everyone—the core idea emanating from the Enlightenment and advanced further in both the liberal and socialist traditions—faces insurmountable obstacles in practical implementation. How can we claim that everyone in society has equal rights when those who are unemployed are not able to participate on a solid footing in the life of their community? The unemployed, as the historian Donald Sassoon has eloquently...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 163-168)
  11. References
    (pp. 169-174)
  12. Index
    (pp. 175-186)
    (pp. 187-189)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 190-191)