Sunday, April 14, 2024

Economics for the working class

One of the great things, although not the only one, of The Economy, the free e-textbook of the CORE Project (in its 1.0 version and even better in the half-completed 2.0 one), is that it targets an audience of working class students, people that over their life will have employment and real wages as their main, but not exclusive, economic concerns. It makes sense, since it turns out that people who care about these things are a majority. Bringing a rigorous economics for the working class to the mainstream of the profession may be one of the greatest achievements of this Project. As Wendy Carlin, one of the leaders of CORE, once said, economics is not about shopping, is not about finance, it is about understanding and changing the world.

The e-textbook starts by analyzing the Industrial Revolution and how its exponential productivity growth was not translated into higher real wages until there were institutional changes that facilitated it, such as the labor movement and universal suffrage.

It presents the typical microeconomic model of constrained choice, not by analyzing the choice of bananas and apples, but the choice of working or studying hours by human beings like those in the classroom or their relatives. Next Bruno the boss and Angela the worker, two fictitious characters, are used to model the institutional history of labor relations, from slavery to the welfare state.

Before presenting markets in perfect competition in Unit 8, Units 6 and 7 analyze the firm as an institution. First, what happens inside the firm between owners and workers, how effort and salaries are determined. Second, using the relationship between the firm and its customers as a stepping stone for the aggregate labour market model, where Units 6 and 7 are put together to determine real wages and employment in the macroeconomy. 

The aggregate labour market model is then used to analyse short run fluctuations (positive and negative demand shocks) and how it is affected by fiscal and monetary policies. Inflation is described as a conflict among the claims on the value of output by capitalist owners and workers.

Unions are not one more interest group, but a critical institution that may affect the labor market equlibrium, including in a positive way (on employment and real wages) with the “union-voice effect.” The same aggregate labour market model can be used to analyze the effect of immigration in the short run and the long run. And alternatives to organizing work in the expanding fringes of the capitalist system, by worker cooperatives, are also addressed. 

No comments:

Post a Comment