Another thought occurred to me after reading Arnold Kling quote from my previous post (as a reminder):
Today, we take specialization and trade for granted. We get ticked off when the government “fails to create jobs.” Yet the unemployed do not revert to growing their own food, sewing their own clothes, and dipping their old candles.
Not only do unemployed not revert to providing the basic necessities, but we really don’t expect much out of the unemployed in exchange for the money they receive. In fact, I can well imagine that the mere suggestion that those receiving unemployment benefits produce something of value in exchange for those benefits would be offensive to some.
I’m not sure exactly what that something of value might be. Perhaps it would be something structured like community work that doesn’t get done without volunteers or maybe it would be unstructured like knocking on doors and asking if anything can be done (“Hello! Do you need your windows washed or lawn mowed? It’s free for you today because I’m on unemployment.”)
But, just thinking through that makes me think of all the potential conflicts and complaints. Unions might bristle if any of the community service work overlaps with their job description and who’s responsible for shoddy work or worse?
Which gets back to the title of this post. We can afford to pay people not to work. That’s a sign that we’re pretty well off.