Sunday, 28 August 2016
Pedro Da Costa thinks Minsky thought up the “Government as employer of last resort” idea.
That’s in this Reuters article of his which starts “The concept that the government should serve as an employer of last resort in times of economic stress was first floated by the late economist Hyman Minsky."
Well now much the biggest set of employer of last resort (ELR) schemes in the last century in the US came (unsurprisingly) in the 1930s – at which time Minsky was a teenager! I rather doubt he had a decisive influence on the WPA and other ELR schemes in the thirties. And of course in Germany in the thirties there was something similar: autobahn building, etc.
Going back a bit further in history, there were the work houses in Europe and America in the 1700s and 1800s. Those were ELR of a sort.
And going back still further, two and a half thousand years ago: Pericles in Ancient Greece set up an ELR scheme. In reference to Pericles, Plutarch’s book “The Lives of the Nobel Grecians and Romans” (p.192) says “….it being his desire and design that the undisciplined mechanic multitude that stayed at home should not go without their share of public salaries, and yet should not have them given them for sitting still and doing nothing, to that end he thought fit to bring in among them, with the approbation of the people, these vast projects of buildings and designs of work, that would be of some continuance before they were finished, and would give employment to numerous arts, so that the part of the people that stayed at home might, no less than those that were at sea or in garrisons or on expeditions, have a fair and just occasion of receiving the benefit and having their share of the public moneys.”