Define Employment, if you would

Before the Garage Death Match that was the contretemps between SA Premier Jay Weatherill and Federal Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg (as it might have well have been given the way it consumed all available journalists  for days), something else noteworthy happened in Adelaide.

Former Treasurer Wayne Swan gave a very thought-provoking speech at Flinders University where he argued that full employment needs to be an active strategy for governments, not a passive one.

As usual, this was met with howls of “government interference in the markets”, make-work schemes, communism, end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it and so on. This particular example is fairly typical:

What a ridiculous idea, you may as well employ people to dig up holes and then fill them in again, employment for the sake of employment, similar to countries like the USSR and other command economies. The problem is that this involves siphoning money away from the private sector which could be used to create new products and services that improve living standards.

I never cease to be amazed by the lack of imagination on display in comments like this. Why must government provided employment be make-work?

Just take a walk around your community, and ask yourself what could be done to improve the place if there was a standing army of people willing and able to do them? If your local council had the human resources (paid for by the federal government) to call on to provide services to the community, what would they be able to achieve?

Virtually anything that the private sector wouldn’t touch because there’s not a quid in it is a candidate for a Job Guarantee Programme. Think big.

Because the fact is every single unemployed person is already on the government’s payroll. It would make so much more sense to pay them a living wage to do something useful than pay them a miserable pittance to do nothing.

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