As we saw in the years following the 2008 recession, lots of business owners are frustrated by labor shortages. They argue that these shortages are caused by a lack of incentive to work, and propose to generate that incentive by making life more difficult for the unemployed. In this case, they argue for restoring work requirements for unemployment and eliminating the federal unemployment supplement enacted in the waning days of Trump administration. This is a highly punitive way of generating incentive, and those who support these measures often accuse our unemployed citizens of laziness. They could instead generate incentive by raising wages. A recent study from the Federal Reserve indicates that the vast majority of workers aren’t being discouraged. As long as workers anticipate that their unemployment benefits may eventually come to an end, they will accept work even when the work pays less than the benefits do. Only the workers at the very bottom of the wage distribution face an incentive problem. Today I want to discuss how the study works and what it means for the minimum wage debate.
Have you seen those Kwame Brown videos? Kwame Brown is a retired NBA player, and he’s been advancing a critique of the culture industry. Brown never went to college and he doesn’t work for anybody, so he isn’t bound by the usual rules of contemporary discourse. This means his critique has rough edges, but it is also free from careerism. Many commentators have focused on the rough edges, fixating on Brown’s tone or the norms Brown is violating. Brown himself has pointed out that no one in the media has discussed his arguments. I’ve been waiting days for someone to take a close look at the things Brown is actually saying, but no one is doing it. So it’s down to me…
I was really happy to be able to give proper emphasis to the background social conditions that play such a large role in Plato and Aristotle’s work. Many popularizations of ancient philosophy take too many of their cues from the Stoics, presenting virtue as attainable in a vacuum.
There’s an endemic debate over what people are saying when they refer to ‘the west’. Is the west defined by its whiteness, its wealth, its liberal democracy? Should we call it the ‘highly developed countries’, the ‘advanced economies’, the ‘first world’, or the ‘global north’? I think most of these terms misses what is distinctive about this set of places. The countries we think of as ‘western’ are all countries where Catholicism was once dominant but is now in varying levels of retreat. Western countries are ‘post-Catholic’.
The Biden administration has come out with a $2 trillion infrastructure plan. The United States is very behind on infrastructure spending–according to the American Society of Civil Engineers, the US faces a $2.59 trillion infrastructure shortfall over the next 10 years. Biden’s bill isn’t large enough to fill that gap, and a significant percentage of its spending is for other purposes. $400 billion is slated to go to nursing home services, a pressing need in its own right, but not one of the needs which the ASCE tracks in its reports. If you add it up, it looks like roughly half the Biden bill’s spending directly addresses the needs identified by our civil engineers, while the other half funds other projects. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this–it’s very normal for politicians to attach pet programs to popular bills that meet essential needs, and many of Biden’s pet projects have value. But it does mean that this bill’s infrastructure spending is less substantial than it initially appears. It will still leave us with a significant infrastructure shortfall. The more interesting issue–and the one I wish to discuss at some length–is the decision to pair this infrastructure bill with an increase in the marginal corporation tax rate.