Civil Discourse Now

Where the far left and far right overlap for fun and enlightenment

People prefer to work, not to simply draw a thin check for unemployment.

   Yesterday's blog drew interesting responses. One observed "nothing is more convincing than a good personal anecdote," and provided a link to the Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. I followed the link. I expected to read a recent entry about unemployment benefits and a summary of peer-reviewed studies of the effects of unemployment benefits. Instead, I read an article written in 1992. We are on our third President since the article was written. The internet was developed. NAFTA was signed. Two military actions mis-characterized as "wars" have been fought, and Wal-Mart has done its part to shift manufacturing from the United States to such lands of liberty as China. The author of the item in the Concise Encyclopedia of Economics assures the reader some of the data have changed since the article was written in 1992, but the structure of unemployment insurance remains the same. 

   I looked for peer-reviewed studies, in which protocols are set, studies are conducted, and results are disclosed. That a study is peer-reviewed is no guarantee of its validity, but I thought implicit in yesterday's criticism was the notion of something like a peer-reviewed study or group of studies would be superior to my own experience and interpretation of what that experience means. Otherwise, to what would such observations as those of which I wrote yesterday be compared? The alternative, aside from such things as peer-reviewed studies, would be opinion.

   Instead I read that Harvard economist  Martin Feldstein suggested in 1973 that subsidized layoffs would cause more layoffs, and "the evidence indicates that he was correct." A University of Chicago economist provided "estimates" of what would happen if certain actions were taken.

   There is a work that suggests a scientific approach to the topic. In 1990, Bruce D. Meyer, then a professor at Northwestern University, wrote an article that suggested it was based on scientific principles. In 2007, however, Dr. Meyer, by then having moved his office, if not his home, south to the University of Chicago, characterized his 1990 work as "quasi-scientific." The other "study" cited by the 1992 piece in the Concise Encyclopedia, was by Lawrence Summers and Kim Clark. Their work proceeded from a theory and worked through statistics to reach a result.

   Correlation does not in itself establish causation.

   I would direct attention to a 2013 study by Jasn Eichorn, a sociologist at the University of Edinburgh. He analyzed from 15 European nations to determine the effects of unemployment benefits on long-term unemployment. His results were consistent with those of a 2011 study issued by Congress's Joint Economic Committee. People who have greater unemployment benefits have a greater ability to go out and look for employment.

   Individual experience in situations is a valid means of establishing a point one makes. A link to a piece at least 22 years old (date of publication, not necessarily date of research and writing) is hardly evidence to support one's point.

   The basic points I make are: (1) Uninsurance benefits are so low and the experience of application and renewal so demeaning as to discourage people from the wanting to be on unemployment; (2) People want to work---both Freud and Emma Goldman said the only two bases of existence are work and love---but at meaningful jobs; and (3) When we remove welfare benefits for large corporations such as Wal-Mart, various military contractors, oil corporations, and the extremely wealthy, I may reconsider my position. Otherwise, I stand by the blog I wrote yesterday.

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