Guard Labor « unsettling economics

More on the concept of “guard labor” as an unproductive use of resources in a private property economy with strong inequality of income/wealth.  This is from Perelman’s blog, Unsettling Economics

My article on Guard Labor is in the new issue of Dollars and Sense. It is extracted from my forthcoming book, The Invisible Handcuffs.

The article begins:

Guards are everywhere in a capitalist economy. A few are dressed up in uniforms, so they are easy to spot. But most do not look like guards at all. Some sit in comfortable offices; others work on assembly lines in factories. James O’Connor, a prolific sociologist from UC Santa Cruz, describes one familiar set of guards whom we do not usually think of as guards:

Consider the labor of the ticket seller at a movie house. The seller’s task is merely to transfer the right to sit in the theater to the movie-goer in exchange for the price of a ticket. But it may not be immediately obvious that it is not the lack of a ticket that keeps you out of the theater … The ticket is actually torn up and discarded by a husky young man who stands between the box office and the seat that I want.

These guards are a central feature of capitalism. Capitalists depend upon guard labor to protect their commodities, including the goods and premises they own, but especially the labor-power in their employ. Capitalism’s reliance on guard labor deforms the entire productive process, not only wasting labor, but also snuffing out badly needed creativity.

via Guard Labor « unsettling economics.

Inequality Matters and Redistribution of Income Helps the Economy

Inequality matters, and contrary to much “conventional wisdom”, income redistribution can and does work in man countries.  In fact, the evidence is that it results in faster growing and more productive economies. (Hat tip to Mark Thoma for this summary.  I strongly urge readers to go to  Born Poor?, by: Corey Pein:     and read the full original profile of Bowles, or his Wikipedia profile.

Inequality and “Guard Labor”

This is from a profile of Samuel Bowles:

Born Poor?, by: Corey Pein: …Bowles’ most recent paper … examines how wealth is transferred from parents to children in hunter-gatherer societies versus agricultural societies. That might seem distant… But everyone can relate to his chosen subject: inequality. …

Bowles’ course was set in 1968, when he was an assistant professor at Harvard, and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came to his department looking for advice on the next stage of his social justice campaign.

“We were just elated that we could use economics, which we had so painstakingly learned, to answer questions that Dr. King thought were important,” Bowles tells SFR. “We were also extremely angry that we were totally unable to answer the questions on the basis of having gotten a PhD at Harvard.”

King’s assassination that year cut short the equality movement. …

Most economists in 1968 thought of inequality as “somebody else’s problem,” Bowles tells SFR. “I actually was denied the right to teach a graduate course in inequality because it was said not to be economics.” It wasn’t always thus.

“The founders of the discipline of economics, almost to a man—and they were only men—thought that the problem of distribution between classes—they used the word classes—was the key to understanding why nations grew or not,” Bowles says. What Bowles sees as the essence of his profession [is] problems of wealth distribution…

Continue reading

History: Job Creation by President

The Bush tax cuts didn’t really do much to “stimulate” the economy, contrary to the claims of many.  In fact, they really didn’t do anything other than run up the deficit.

From Angry Bear:

those who thought Bush did a good job and want to repeat his policies sure have some explaining to do. Even Carter created some five times as many jobs as Bush in only four years.