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Oren Cass on the Value of Work

Summary:
Beyond the day-to-day tussle in Washington and other capitals, one of the most important policy debates today is between advocates of universal basic income and advocates of government wage matching. Jason Willick makes a good case for wage matching. Whether and how people are employed—what their role is in society’s productive system—“is both an economic and cultural question.”Karl Marx speculated that workers with leisure time would “hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner.” He was wrong. People out of the labor force—especially men—are more likely to be “sleeping and watching TV”

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Oren Cass on the Value of Work

Beyond the day-to-day tussle in Washington and other capitals, one of the most important policy debates today is between advocates of universal basic income and advocates of government wage matching. Jason Willick makes a good case for wage matching.

Whether and how people are employed—what their role is in society’s productive system—“is both an economic and cultural question.”

Karl Marx speculated that workers with leisure time would “hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner.” He was wrong. People out of the labor force—especially men—are more likely to be “sleeping and watching TV” than hunting or fishing, Mr. Cass says. Unemployment, more than any of life’s other rough patches, leads to unhappiness and family breakdown. People want to “know what our obligations are, and feel that we’re fulfilling them,” he adds. When this foundation of society starts to crumble, political upheaval tends to follow.

Miles Kimball
Miles Kimball is Professor of Economics and Survey Research at the University of Michigan. Politically, Miles is an independent who grew up in an apolitical family. He holds many strong opinions—open to revision in response to cogent arguments—that do not line up neatly with either the Republican or Democratic Party.

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