Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Annoying, Barking Mad Genius of Morgan Warstler

As many who read this blog (if any section of this blog's readership can be usefully called "many") probably already know, there is a person out in Internet-land who calls himself Morgan Warstler.

He's a blogger for the odd, ugly, and mostly useless righty politics site Big Government (full name: "Andrew Breitbart presents Big Government featuring editor in chief Mike Flynn," and no I am not making that up). He's a gadfly on several well-known economics blogs including Scott Sumner's The Money Illusion, but most of my dealings with him have been at Yglesias' place over at ThinkProgress.

All in all, the guy is a nutcase, and I really don't recommend listening to him, reading him, or talking to him at all. It will just make you angry and confused.

That said, the Warstler may well be a genius. He's fallen in with the wrong people and has couched his policy recommendations in politically toxic, morally bankrupt packages. But the man is onto something.

I know, I know. Forty-two loyal Yglesias fans (the entire readership of this blog, sadly) just threw up a little in their mouths.

But Morgan's Guaranteed Income plan is sort of on to something. I'll explain later. Just wanted to warn you, sort of an econ version of the "trigger warnings" on sites that focus on social issues. I will be taking up a lukewarm defense of Warstler this week. Consider yourself on notice.


  1. i've seen talk about something akin to Guaranteed Income on MMT sites, but referred to intead as citizens' dividends, or something like that. AT some point when robots are ubiquitous we will have to divorce partially income from work.

    but everything else about warstler's scheme sucks. it assumes that the only thing preventing full employment is the minimum wage, which is neoclassical fuckery. it's also a complete political nonstarter. the left wouldn't want it because it removes the minimum wage (i think appreciation of the minimum wage is felt by all except libertarians), and i don't think the remaining libertarians would support the big ol' govt just straight paying people each year. plus he wants to shove workers into what is essentially a meat market for their labor. it's not going to happen

    i'd be curious about a scheme in which the gov't guarantees a job at some fixed wage for up to 40 hours per week then lets wages float around it. that is, if an individual chooses to, she can accept a lower wage to work a job he or she finds meaningful. generally these are the types of people who have income from elsewhere. i'd be thinking especially of students, who may want to pick up a job working at a non-profit or somesuch in order to build skills for later in life. or workers who want to split time working a regular more unpleasant job that will be fixed visavis the job guarantee wage, and something more enjoyable (this could be combined with a citizens' dividend). entrepreneurial non-profits generally have less ability to pay, and so they must just offer unpaid internships. the only individuals able to accept these are ones that already have income from elsewhere, so there's an unpleasant selection bias there, and of course also on the part of the employers, in that only firms/institutions flush with cash can afford to pay the minimum wage

    just food for thought. it would have to be a pretty awesome scheme for me personally to be willing to legally allow labor to be paid less than a minimum wage

    and all of this is couched in the ability of govts to consistently have meaningful work available. a program would have to be developed intensively. but bill mitchell has spent much of his career readying such schemes...

  2. Really, the whole appeal for Morgan of his version of GI really seems to be that it provides him with the means/justification to force members of the underclass to do whatever the hell he wants them to do. That sort of thing seems very important to him. Seriously, the way he puts it it sometimes sounds only a step or two removed from chain gangs.

    Of course, he touts it as being awesome for Joe and Jane Sixpack to be able afford to hire gardeners and such, but I'm pretty skeptical that the benefits to the Sixpack family of a market flooded with subsidized/cheap bad gardeners would outweigh the distortions it would introduce into the existing gardening market. Not to mention the downward pressure on the Sixpack family's own wages.

    Studentee's suggestion of a more coordinated work program that can combine otherwise idle labor with some economies of scale and organizational efficiency to produce public goods makes a whole lot more sense to me. It was good enough for FDR, right? And leave the gardening market to its own devices.

  3. This may be my new hangout! Traffic follows!

    You aren't getting it then yet Monty...

    There's nothing that keeps a city government from bidding - except that voters may think, "wait! they are over paying," and resent it. Right there on the bidding system.

    But as honest bidders, where the public sector desperately wishes to achieve more with less - like any good buyer does - the public sector can achieve marvelous ends.

    Psst... Keeping the cheap jobs here, is how you keep the capital here - without force.

  4. You aren't getting it then yet Monty...

    Well, what I'm getting is that Morgan Warstler has sex with his sister. The news that this is the case is all over the place at Yglesias' blog. Why does Morgan Warstler have sex with his sister? Shouldn't Morgan Warstler be writing posts for Andrew Breitbart's Big Government instead of having sex with his sister?

  5. Just got off the phone with the lawyers Dwight!