Job sharing? Seriously?

Job sharing was a failure during the Great Depression. Why should it work now?

Seth Wenig/AP
Construction workers disassemble a temporary building on the beach that was set up for a surfing competition in Long Beach, N.Y. The author argues that job sharing, an idea being proposed by economist Dean Baker, is a proven failure.

Congratulations to “economist” Dean Baker, founder of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, for the worst remedy to our economic woes proposed thus-far — no small feat. His make-everybody-poorer job sharing plan is so outlandish and counterproductive, even the liberal arts major sleeping off a hangover in the back row of Econ 101 can recognize the absurdity. Mr. Baker’s plan is hardly new; both Hoover and Roosevelt implemented the same type of cockamamie schemes during the last Great Depression.

It is truly remarkable that this idea keeps resurfacing after its history of failure and refutation by most major schools of economics. Henry Hazlitt thoroughly refuted the idea, and all its inbred relatives, in Economics In One Lesson back in 1946, devoting an entire chapter to spread-the-work schemes and their unseen consequences. Here Hazlitt explains the ramifications of shortening the workweek from 40 to 30 hours without increasing pay (the outcome is much worse if the week is shortened and hourly pay is increased).

"Though more workers will be employed, each will be working fewer hours, and there will, therefore be no net increase in man-hours. It is unlikely that there will be any significant increase in production. Total payrolls and “purchasing power” will be no larger. All that will have happened even under the most favorable assumptions (which would seldom be realized) is that the workers previously employed will subsidize, in effect, the workers previously unemployed. For in order that the new workers will individually receive three-fourths as many dollars a week as previously. It is true that the old workers will now work fewer hours but this purchase of more leisure at a high price is presumably not a decision they have made for its own sake: it is a sacrifice made to provide others with jobs."

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