Monday, September 26, 2011

Human Suffering

While I at times argue detailed and lengthy economic points, my position is simple:
When nearly 1 in 10 people who counts themselves in the work-force is out of work, hiring people and giving individuals money with which to hire people will reduce unemployment and human suffering.  Further, I believe that when we have the opportunity to borrow that money at rates below the rate of inflation (meaning that in real terms every dollar spent today will cost less than a dollar to pay back when the loan comes due in 10 years), it is a moral imperative to feed the hungry now and pay for it when the economy is once again strong.

I can talk for hours about aggregate demand and sticky wages and macroeconomics, but the core of it is simple: People are hurting, and we can make it better.  Every day a child sits in an over-crowded classroom while last-year's teacher sits at home because they were laid off is a waste, pure and simple.  We can fix this, we can fix it now, and to do otherwise is a crying shame and a human tragedy.

To argue otherwise seems to requires at least one of three implicit assumptions:

1) In current conditions, government laying people off does not raise unemployment and government hiring people does not reduce it.


2) To make the suffering better with a borrow-and-hire strategy would have negative consequences that are worse than the current suffering.


3) The current suffering serves an important purpose moral purpose, and to subvert it would be to upset some natural order of things.

In times of full employment, number 1 has solid traction: crowding out through interest rates and labor costs is a real phenomenon.  With interest rates stuck at zero only because anything lower makes no sense, and employees scrambling for jobs already, these arguments hold little water.

Number 2 has many potential sub-types, but with current suffering so bad, and interest rates so low, its hard to find a reason to justify letting Americans go hungry.

As for number three: If you do not live in poverty (15% of the population, $15 per person per day for a family of four) then its not your morally righteous suffering to defend.

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