Political Ideology

Job Insurance - The Public/Private Issue (Part 7 in a Series)


This is a cross-post from The Realignment Project.

For earlier parts in the series, see here.

One of the largest ideological barriers to establishing Job Insurance, just as was the case with Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid, is that it would in a fundamental way reshape the composition and relations of the public and private sectors. This more than anything else is what terrifies Republicans (it’s the reason why the GOP has targeted the public option especially) because it undermines one of the most important justifications for anti-statist and pro-corporate ideology. If the public sector and the private sector are not diametric opposites – if in fact, the public can do things that the private can, instead of the private sector being the only repository of competence and efficiency (and thus, capable of replacing the public sector) – then there is no practical argument against government intervention in the economy, and increasingly fewer philosophical arguments against it.

And so the argument will be made that this is socialist, that it’s un-American. And none of that is true.

Virtues of the Public - Part 2 (Absence of) Profit Motive

Note: this is a cross-post fromThe Realignment Project.

“A term like capitalism is incredibly slippery, because there’s such a range of different kinds of market economies. Essentially, what we’ve been debating over—certainly since the Great Depression—is what percentage of a society should be left in the hands of a deregulated market system. And absolutely there are people that are at the far other end of the spectrum that want to communalize all property and abolish private property, but in general the debate is not between capitalism and not capitalism, it’s between what parts of the economy are not suitable to being decided by the profit motive. And I guess that comes from being Canadian, in a way, because we have more parts of our society that we’ve made a social contract to say, ‘That’s not a good place to have the profit motive govern.’ Whereas in the United States, that idea is kind of absent from the discussion. So even something like firefighting—it seems hard for people make an argument that maybe the profit motive isn’t something we want in the firefighting sector, because you don’t want a market for fire. “
— Naomi Klein


As I discussed in part 1 of this series, “Public Virtues” will examine those areas in which the public sector has an economic advantage, and compare and contrast those where the private sector is supposed to have an advantage. And where better to start than the profit motive, the first principle of capitalism that’s been held up, not just as an explanation of why corporations get better and better at making widgets if people give them money, but why the public sector is inherently and unalterably inefficient, technologically stagnant, and uncompetitive. The profit motive, as everyone knows who’s lived in the capitalist world, basically holds that because people want to make a profit, they are pushed towards the maximization of their resources, and thus seeking to make profits, they make the system as a whole more efficient and productive.

However, most honest thinkers, i.e those not professionally involved in proving that capitalism is infallible, admit that the profit motive only spurs innovation and efficiency where it actually exists. Where it doesn’t, you wind up with market failures.  And where the market fails, that’s the natural place for the public sector. The debate, however is how often and where this happens.

“Rough Equality of Means” – Reversing Economic Inequality

Note: this is a cross-post from The Realignment Project. In order to not clog up the front page with lots of re-posts, I'll just mention that I have additional posts out this week that are on a similar topic - one on the abolition of poverty (a similar, but different object from ending inequality), and the other on the establishment of a Fisc - that might interest people here at Economic Populist.


A recent paper by Professor Emmanuel Saez of U.C Berkeley provides further evidence for something that we've sensed already - economic inequality has never been greater in American history. We have finally succeeded in accomplishing that most dubious of accomplishments: we are now officially more unequal, more elitist, and more disproportionally in-egalitarian than the benighted America of 1929.

In 2007, the top 10% of Americans received 50% of the nation's wages. That number, the sheer unreality of the idea that a tiny fraction of the population should have the sheer unmitigated selfishness to claim every other dollar in wages paid out, pales before an even more troubling figure. The top 1% of Americans captured 2/3rds of income growth and 1/2 of economic growth from 2002-2007. At the same time that the rich have gotten even richer, the rest of us have not fared as well - indeed, even before the recession, the average working-age household lost $2000/year of income since the year 2000.

Can this state of affairs continue? And how can we stop it?