Notes on a Theory…

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Posts Tagged ‘Matt Bruenig

Predistribution, Public Opinion and Unilateral Executive Action

with 5 comments

The Market St Quentin

A market, which exists, unlike “the market” which does not. (St Quinton Saturday Market by M Hobbs)

Matt Bruenig has a good post on predistribution, “measures governments take to reduce or eliminate inequality in market incomes” as “the most viable way to give a boost to low-income workers.”

As far I am concerned, there is no moral or political difference between the two. Predistributive institutions and redistributive institutions are both just institutions. What matters is achieving greater economic equality, not so much the precise institutional regime that we use to get there. If anything, I tend to find so-called redistributive institutions more attractive because they are easier to fine tune and strike me as more liberating.

I certainly agree on the ‘no difference’ point.  Why is it more viable?

But, as Hacker correctly points out, my view is almost certainly an outlying one. For cultural or other reasons, Americans tend to be more supportive of equality-producing measures that get baked into paychecks than they are of equality-producing measures that go through more overt government channels. As a result, the US has a very stingy welfare state and delivers much of its government spending through opaque, submerged mechanisms like tax credits.

Read the rest of this entry »

Pluralism and Narratives, Left and Right

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Matt Bruenig has an interesting post addressing the problem of pluralism in the left project.

The left is a massively pluralistic segment of the political spectrum. There is no single or even dominant moral and political framework that leftists utilize. On the economic side of things alone, there are people who are primarily interested in decommodification and people who are primarily interested in distrbutive justice, among others. These are very different frameworks. The things you would say to create a decommodification narrative are very different from the things you would say to create a distributive justice narrative. So which ones do you use? Do you talk about the horror of having human interactions funneled through market mechanisms or do you talk about the horrors of inequality and want?

These two narratives are generally compatible (though not always), but the problem is that they are not unified. And that’s just two of them: there are dozens more. Conservatives have basically been saying the same unified thing for decades. It’s silly and jokish, but there is message discipline. While a pluralistic left is not that problematic in theory, when it comes to spinning a political and moral narrative in order to win, it presents a serious obstacle.

To start, I agree that it’s a serious obstacle. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by David Kaib

January 24, 2013 at 12:39 pm

What Would a Real ‘Right to Work’ Look Like?

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I just asked this question on Twitter, and realized I wasn’t going to be able to explain it  in 140 characters.  So I thought I’d elaborate here. First, the question:

There has been a lot of talk about how we need to reframe the horribly inaptly named “right to work” laws, which essentially require unions to represent workers who refuse to join or otherwise support the union in any way.  Since no one is ever required to join a union, this whole framing in nonsense, a cover for a policy designed to weaken unions that can’t be defended on the merits.

‘Right to work for less’ is a common one, but it is fairly clunky.  I like the idea of ‘loafer laws’ or even better, ‘freeloader laws’ (that one is from Matt Bruenig) which emphasize the free rider problem here.  I also like ‘no rights at work’ law.  Regardless, the question I’m asking is a different one.

What would a real right to work look like?  Instead of reframing the right-wing policy with a different name, we could attach a different policy to the name (in fact we could and probably should do both).  Rhetorically, we’d respond to the call for a ‘right to work’ by saying, ‘absolutely we need a real right to work, which would mean X’  There are, as I see it, two options.

The first is the one I mentioned in my tweet – just cause employment laws.  These laws, which presently exist only in Montana, require employers to have a legitimate reason before firing an employee.  This is opposed to at will employment, where employers can fire for any reason or even no reason, as long as they don’t run afoul of various anti-discrimination laws. (It’s worth pointing out that because outside of these laws employers can fire at will, enforcing such anti-discrimination laws is more difficult). In essence, such laws ensure a basic level of due process, and reduce the arbitrary authority of employers while leaving intact legitimate authority.

Another way to reframe right to work would be a federal guarantee of a job, along the lines that Sandy Darity has proposed.  “His National Investment Employment Corps does that, he says, by creating real jobs that pay a minimum of $20,000 a year and $10,000 in benefits, including medical coverage and retirement savings,” along the lines of the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression. This is a quite literal ‘right to work.’

Does that make sense? And if so, what do you think?

[Update] Richard Yeselson was tweeting about the first question, and offered “right to shirk.” I like that.

Written by David Kaib

December 10, 2012 at 11:15 pm

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