2017-09 Why has labor not demanded guaranteed employment?
Unemployment has almost always been traumatic for its victims. In earlier times, it threatened extreme privation, if not starvation. Still today, it dramatically decreases its victims’ standard of living, human capital, social standing, and self-respect. It is associated with poorer health, family dissolution, and suicide. Unemployment also entails considerable costs to society such as lost output, increased crime, decayed neighborhoods, and when extreme, political unrest. Why, then, is it tolerated? Why, especially, have workers and their advocates not demanded that employment be guaranteed to all? This article explores why what has always been foremost to workers’ interests – security of employment – has only rarely resulted in a demand for guaranteed employment. The primary reason has been the overpoweringly seductive ideology serving the interests of the owners of the means of production. Capitalist ideology has blamed the unemployed for their fate, creating hostility to the very idea of guaranteed employment.