I always come back from the annual Canadian Economics Association/Progressive Economics Forum meetings highly energized by the companionship of so many other fine committed PEF members, and our success in engaging with the broader profession. This past weekend's meetings in Calgary were no exception. A highlight, of course, was the third Biennial Galbraith Lecture delivered by Mike McCracken, CEO and Chair of Informetrica, Inc., who made a great personal commitment to travel to Calgary to receive his John Kenneth Galbraith Prize for Economics and Social Justice.
Mike's lecture, to a packed room (that included many luminaries from the mainstream of the profession), was titled "The Search for Full Employment: My continuing battle for the unemployed." It was a fine mixture of personal reminiscences of his work as an economist and adviser to governments over the last five decades, and a passionate, convincing argument for the continuing relevance of full employment (true full employment, not this NAIRU nonsense!) as the central goal for economic policy.
Mike mapped out a scenario in which Canada could achieve something approximating genuine full employment by 2020, with a sustained program of fiscal measures, government investment, and monetary and incomes policies. Using the Informetrica simulation model, he laid out the main features of this scenario as follows:
- Unemployment rate: 3.1 per cent
- Labour force participation: higher than base case by 4.5 points
- Employment rate: higher than base by 6.3 points
- GDP: Higher than base by $245 billion
- Government fiscal balance (all levels): higher than base by $38 billion
- CPI inflation: 3.1 per cent
Mike reminded us that by putting Canadians back to work (and taking advantage of Okun-type spin-off benefits) we raise our standard of living and eliminate deficits, to boot.
His lecture will eventually be published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. His stirring conclusion (I was writing it down as quickly as I could) went something like this: "I have accomplished little in the last 50 years, except to anger and annoy a lot of politicians. I want to leave you with the idea that full employment is a worthwhile goal. I suggest you embrace it, work on it, and build it. And don't forget to anger and annoy the politicians!"
Apart from his unjustified modesty regarding his own contributions, I agree wholeheartedly. Thank you Mike for making the trip out (and to Carole for helping make it happen), and for all you've done for our profession and for the planet!
Jim Stanford is an economist with the Canadian Auto Workers union. This article was first posted on The Progressive Economics Forum.