Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Structural Cruelty

Those who think unemployment is a personal and social catastrophe are countered by those who talk of structural unemployment: a rate built into the system, and not, in and of itself, requiring action.

Calling it 'structural unemployment' makes it a feature rather than a bug, a small price to pay for capitalist abundance. Full employment, as we all know, is inflationary, causes a rise in wages in excess of corporate profit, implies featherbedding, excess union influence and government make-work, and is altogether a Bad Thing.

So, stock prices don't really shift much with unemployment figures. A corporation's stock often, even, rises if it cuts jobs: a step toward higher profit, regardless of social cost.

The root cause of all this crap, restricting the discussion to economics for a bit, is the balance sheets which exclude negative externalities. Unemployment lowers tax receipts, consumer spending and savings rates. Unemployment insurance payments rise. Fewer have health insurance, so they get catastrophically sick more than get primary care, and the hospital, docs and public eat it. Hospitals cost-shift to cover it, raising costs for even the employed with insurance. Bankruptcies rise, lowering or eliminating the asset value of debt. On and on and on.

Then there's the social cost. One or two more folk resorting to theft or the drug trade. Policing costs more. Incarceration horrifically expensive even solely in dollars and cents. Blighted families, kids getting less parenting and education, themselves more likely to perpetuate social pathology than solve it. Increasing racism and intolerance, as everyone looks for someone to blame, and is told to blame other poor folk rather than the rich and powerful.

Not good, any of that stuff. Accepting unemployment as the cost of doing business, or even celebrating it as the creative destruction of capitalism and a necessary vincentive goading the parasites to work, requires a limitation of view that is breathtakingly narrow and short-sighted even in solely economic terms.

Then there's the fact that real people suffer, and shouldn't if there's an alternative. Maybe. Someday, the thought will become part of the public discourse. Maybe. Meanwhile, the radar sweeping the skies over Schloss Wombat has yet again failed to disclose pigs violating its airspace...

5 comments:

BlakNo1 said...

But...but...Cadillac welfare moms! Shiftless lazy brown people!!! Luckie duckies!!!1111ELEVEN!!!!!

ProfWombat said...

And they all have cell phones, smoke, put diamond-studded gold caps on their teeth and fry their Twinkies in trans fats...

JR said...

You Marxist, you. :)

ProfWombat said...

That covers a lot of ground. As a matter of fact, you cover a lot of ground...

JR said...

Heh. as one of the few living beings that has read Grundrisse voluntarily, yeah, Marx covers a lot of ground.

I have a bad habit of not making my points in excrutiating detail, and of using throw-away lines, in internet comments sections. The medium doesn't encourage commitment to the craft comments sections, that is.

Maybe I should start my own blog... get back into the practice of writing more than a snarky paragraph at a time.