Monday, November 23, 2009

Prosperity without Lumps

Ed Crooks reviews Prosperity Without Growth in the Financial Times:
Jackson, a professor of sustainable development at Surrey university, has thought hard about the subject. His prose is lucid and lively, and many of his policy prescriptions are sensible....

Yet for all these strengths, his argument is flawed...

His only idea that could put the brake on growth would be cutting working hours. Here he takes the economist’s famous “lump of labour” fallacy – the idea that there is only a fixed amount of work to do that has to be shared round – and suggests it should be a goal of policy. Yet in anything other than a perfect utopia, the idea that there is no more work that needs doing is ludicrous.
Indeed, the idea that "there is no more work to be done" would be ludicrous. But that's not the same idea as the idea that we need to make up wasteful things to do just to keep people in jobs.


Toby said...

That really is a frustrating criticism, as if only when there is absolutely no work (I assume he means labour) to be done, do you have no lump of labour fallacy. Either -- he seems to be saying -- there is enough work to be done to employ sufficient numbers of people for forty hours a week or so, or there is none. Anything in between is impossible, fantasy, a lump of labour fallacy. Because you can't get to zero work (who has that weird goal, exactly?), you can't reduce work. Sounds like a straw man argument to me. It certainly lacks logic.

Journalists don't think, they parrot received wisdoms with (mostly) good grammar. And what is a perfect Utopia? One in which there is no work whatsoever to be done!? What does that even mean? Why would that be "perfect?"

Aargh! I have to go and lie down. I take this stuff too seriously.

TheTrucker said...

Lets see now..... If you collect money from people who have a lot of it and send it out to people who don't have jobs while providing them with health care and food banks then pretty soon no one will see any advantage to working. That seems to me to be the opposite of the infinite amount of work fallacy.

I was very keen on the "infrastructure projects" as a better method than tax cuts as a stimulus (I always see Hoover dam as opposed to road repair). But the best stimulus is to tax those who are rich and getting richer from offshore production in order to give money to the people they have disenfranchised. As more and more people find it less and less advantageous to work then higher and higher wages will need to be paid to "draw them into SERVICE" (someone has to feed the polo ponies).

The retort is that the rich people will simply move to Bimini (to accept their incomes) and my rejoinder is ever the same: When the Bimini government nationalizes yer factory, rapes yer chickens, and steals yer women then we will say "not my problem". We enforce the laws and the intellectual property rights of stuff produced IN THIS COUNTRY because such SERVICE is financed by taxes collected IN THIS COUNTRY.