Advances in Ecological Economics series
Chapter G.: Employment
The Full Employment Act of 1946 declared full employment to be a major goal of US policy. Economic growth was then seen as the means to attain the end of full employment. Today that relation has been inverted. Economic growth has become the end, and if the means to attain that end – automation, off-shoring, excessive immigration – result in unemployment, well that is the price ‘we’ just have to pay for the glorified goal of growth in GDP. If we really want full employment we must reverse this inversion of ends and means. We can serve the goal of full employment by restricting automation, off-shoring, and easy immigration to periods of true domestic labor shortage as indicated by high and rising wages. In addition, full employment can also be served by reducing the length of the working day, week, or year, in exchange for more leisure, rather than more GDP. Real wages have been falling for decades, yet our corporations, hungry for cheaper labor, keep bleating about a labor shortage. What the corporations really want is a surplus of labor. With surplus labor, wages generally do not rise and therefore all the gains from productivity increase will go to profit, not wages. Hence the elitist support for automation, off-shoring, and lax enforcement of democratically enacted immigration laws.
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