Chapter 7: Labour: The Battle Against Unemployment
7. Labour: the battle against unemployment But the absurdity of labour being from time to time totally unemployed, in spite of everyone wanting more goods, can only be due to a muddle, which should be remediable if we could think and act clearly. ‘Currency policy and unemployment’ (1923-21, p. 113) The paradox is to be found in 250,000 building operatives out of work in Great Britain, when more houses are our greatest material need. It is the man who tells us that there is no means, consistent with sound finance and political wisdom, of getting the one to work at the other, whose judgement we should instinctively doubt. The Means to Prosperity (1933-2, p. 336) The outstanding faults of the economic society in which we live are its failure to provide for full employment and its arbitrary and inequitable distribution of wealth and incomes. The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money (1936-1, p. 372) The word ‘labour’ has always been associated with the idea of effort, fatigue, even punishment. History, we are told, started in Eden before God condemned Adam and Eve to earn a living through toil after tasting the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. St Paul preached to the Thessalonians: ‘this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat’ (2.3.10). The Greek citizen managed to escape this malediction, as slaves were employed to provide for their master’s material needs. Aristotle justified slavery by arguing for the...
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