Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Douthat discovers Sweden

Ross Douthat had a surprisingly interesting column the other day arguing that unemployment is a corrosive social ill and that it is the unavoidable result of technological progress, not the result of laziness.
Unusually for Douthat, who usually finds a way to accommodate a bit of cruelty in his moralism, he readily acknowledges the progressive implication of his argument:
Many of the Americans dropping out of the work force are not destitute: they’re receiving disability payments and food stamps, living with relatives, cobbling together work here and there, and often doing as well as they might with a low-wage job. By historical standards their lives are more comfortable than the left often allows, and the fiscal cost of their situation is more sustainable than the right tends to admit.
The implication is that we need a far reaching program of public employment. We already do a pretty good job of massive public employment with our military, which moves us towards full employment in a way that is hugely popular as long as it is couched in militaristic terms so as to get support from supposed haters of socialism. We should divert that money into government-subsidized employment in non military areas, like education, elder services, the arts and infrastructure. In other words, become more Scandinavian. Why not have a monthly home visit by a masseur be something every American is guaranteed?

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