Institutional Economics and Chock-Full Employment: Reclaiming the 'Right to Work' as a Cornerstone of Progressive Capitalism
83 Pages Posted: 11 Jan 2019
Date Written: January 1, 2019
Today in the United States, the “right to work” is associated with preventing workers from being required to join a labor organization or pay union fees as a condition of employment. However, the term originally referred to a progressive call for the right to employment. For example, from the perspective of John R. Commons, the right to work included “the right of the unemployed to have work furnished by the government.” For Commons, the right to work was a logical outgrowth of Americans' constitutional rights to life and liberty: “the next great human right.” After outlining my perspective on the economy and economic research, this paper traces calls for a job guarantee in the institutionalist literature and in U.S. policymaking circles; then it explains the need to reclaim the “right to work” as a cornerstone of progressive capitalism.
This paper, completed in December 2018, provides the basis for his presidential address to the Association for Evolutionary Economics, delivered in Atlanta, Georgia, on January 5, 2019. An abbreviated version will appear in the association’s Journal of Economic Issues in June, 2019.
Keywords: job guarantee, John R. Commons, right to work, public service employment
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