Tuesday, 31 August 2010


Full employment as a notion sounds lovely cos its not just employment, its FULL employment. Yeah, everyone has a job! Except while common sense and a big dod of reasonableness would leave you thinking that’s what it means, in practice it doesn’t actually for basically snidey reasons, in fact full employment is weasel words!

A certain degree of unemployment is unavoidable what with frictional unemployment i.e. people moving between jobs with ideally a contract in the post and a month or two to chill. However, alongside this is the Non-Accelerating Inflation Rate of Unemployment or NAIRU beyond which so many people have jobs and start buying things and taking advantage of tight labour market conditions to bid up their wages prices start rising. Hence in practice a debated degree of unemployment is considered acceptable, necessary even by our lovely policymakers, which is kinda unfortunate given the links between unemployment and crime, poor health, poverty and so on and so on. But, hey ho its all good if it lets people claim full employment has been achieved even if there’s still however many poor sods on the rock’n’roll.

Except, unemployment is also an irredeemably social, moral and consequently political issue as opposed to being simply a technocratic one. To give an example, am sure a “dole scrounger” being interviewed down the broo as to why they’re unemployed won’t score any brownie points by claiming they’re doing their bit to ensure inflation stays on target.

And then there’s that lovely class-dividing line between us and them at which point me getting a stonking great pay rise is an inflationary threat and as such to be avoided whereas you getting an even bigger one is a necessary incentive to ensure those who create wealth are attracted and retained. Except if we are to believe Sir Fred Goodwin, named Global Businessman of the year in 2002, when he told the Treasury select committee that “it is just too simple if you want to blame it all on me. If you want to blame it all on me and close the book, that will get the job done very quickly, but it does not go anywhere close to the cause of all of this", then individuals, even when they are the great and the formerly good, don’t necessarily make much of a difference (for a different and more wide ranging example of the irrelevance of CEOs see here).

And this isn’t even touching on the long-term structural issues affecting labour markets like gender pay inequality, that piss all over any notion that the labour market as a whole is anything even approximating an efficient market. So for me anyhow the labour market, that place where we sell our time in return for status and cash is a tad more complex than even the fanciest econometric formula can imagine.

Hence reading some Labour leadership contender’s commitment to full employment I thought what a twat. More generally if unemployment is a price worth paying to avoid inflation, cut the deficit and misquote the former Tory chancellor Norman Lamont, I always wonder if those doing the bulk of the actual paying mebbe deserve something concrete and tangible in return if only because so many o fthe people who caused the current mess are sat on piles of cash and/or in the case of John Thain have new, multi-million pound a year jobs.

As a P.S. that's the various Japanese pornographer/cultist comments gone. They were just waaaaaaaay too creepy

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