Professor Guy Standing from The School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London was a founding member of the Basic Income European Network (in recent years renamed the Basic Income Earth Network). Standing, for many years a senior economist with the International Labour Organisation, is perhaps best known for his book The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class published in 2011. His latest book is entitled The Corruption of Capitalism: Why Rentiers Thrive and Work Does Not Pay looks principally at the way neoliberalism has developed in capitalist societies in recent years.
Tim Dunlop, a Melbourne academic, journalist and author, has an abiding interest in the future of work. Recently he published Why the future is Workless. It is at times a rollicking good read and contains some amusing antidotes. For instance, at page 41 he writes "Last year, my wife was invited to a breakfast meeting, scheduled to start at 6.30 am on a cold Melbourne morning. The subject of the meeting: work-life balance"! He quotes, at page 14, from the English Poor Act of 1552:
If any man or woman, able to work, should refuse to labour and live idly for three days, he or she should be branded with a red hot iron on the breast with the letter V (presumably short for vagrant) and should be judged the slave for two years of any person who should inform against such idler.
Not surprisingly Dunlop spends much of the first two chapters pointing to the deeply ingrained nature of the work ethic. At page 21, he notes that employment, which in ancient Greece was considered the duty of slaves, has become in capitalist countries "the defining characteristic of human worth". At page 42, he declares:
We hold ourselves and others to impossible standards of participation even as 40 odd years of market liberalisation, technological development and growing inequality have made it plain that the system is not rewarding the average person in the way it once did. It is almost a psychosis, this elevation of work to the centre of our existence.
Hand in hand with this analysis he obliquely refers to Hockey's 2013/14 pronouncements that "The age of entitlements was over " by noting "These were not 'entitlements' as it is now fashionable to label them, but the material expression of what most citizens saw as the whole point of government."
Standing, at page 12, makes the point that:
At the heart of neo-liberalism is a contradiction. While its proponents profess a belief in 'unregulated' markets, they favour regulations to prevent collective bodies from operating in favour of social solidarity. That is why they want controls over unions, collective bargaining, professional associations and occupational guilds. …Neo-liberalism is a convenient rationale for rentier capitalism.
In Australia, the stated grounds for seeking a double disillusion election in 2016 were a perfect example of Standing's point. Dunlop, at page 209 says: "The big lie of neoliberalism is that it wants a small state, the truth is, that it wants a compliant state."
At pages 29-30, Standing notes that in Western countries:
...rising productivity used to be matched by rising average wages…But, since the 1980s higher productivity has not led to higher wages. For instance, real wages in the USA have stagnated for over three decades while productivity has risen steadily.
Towards the end of Chapter 1, Standing considers the con of austerity economics, elaborating upon Dunlop's point about "entitlements". Standing returns to the downsides of austerity economics for the less affluent many times throughout his book.
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