The Green New Deal promises not just to guarantee jobs to all Americans willing and able to work–but also to guarantee “economic security” for those “unwilling to work.”
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), a self-described Democratic Socialist, introduced the Green New Deal on Thursday. It outlines a plan to abandon the economic system that has dominated American society since its inception, fundamentally changing the patterns of industry output, employment, consumption, and the relation of government to the market.
One of its most radical proposals is issued almost in passing: a guarantee of “Economic security for all who are unable or unwilling to work.”
The U.S. has long had programs, private and public, to assist those unable to work. But it has never embraced the idea that the role of the government included guaranteeing economic security for those who are unwilling to work.
In fact, traditional American liberalism regarded full employment as its goal because of the importance of work to society and the individual.
Senator Eugene McCarthy wrote in his 1964 book A Liberal Answer to the Conservative Challenge:
The full consideration of unemployment must take into account the nature of work and its meaning to the human being. Neither unrelieved leisure activities nor idleness is the road to happiness. Man by nature needs more than satisfaction of his capacity to consume. He needs also to produce, to construct, to add some degree of perfection to goods or to provide services to other men.
This is not the Job Guarantee popularized by the recently trendy Modern Monetary theory crowd as a solution to mass unemployment. Neither is it the sort of Income Guarantee advocated by Silicon Valley executives who envision a future economy with very low employment but abundant consumption of technology products funded through government handouts, which critics have described as “serfdom without the work.”
This is far more radical. It a guarantee that the government will provide economic security to those who are unwilling to work. Presumably, this includes not just income but also healthcare, childcare, higher education, housing, transportation, and retirement benefits.
The economic effects are easily apparent. Workforce participation would fall as payments for not working would bid workers away from private and public sector jobs. Productivity would decline and economic growth slow. Many Americans, particularly younger Americans, would become dependent on the government for income and would not develop skills needed in the workforce.
Prominent Modern Monetary Theory economist Bill Mitchell, one of the most thoughtful advocates of a job guarantee, has written that income-without-work guarantees “signify a further withdrawal by the State from its responsibility to manage economic affairs and care for its citizens. Young people must be encouraged to develop skills and engage in paid work, rather than be the passive recipients of social security benefit.”
Even Karl Marx thought the economic system should require each of the comrades to supply labor “according to his ability” rather than according to his willingness to work.
Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal envisions a society in which anyone can choose to go without paid employment while still having income to consume the food and products of working citizens.