Monthly Archives: August 2019

A job guarantee is dead on arrival

Chalk me up as someone who thinks a job guarantee (JG) won’t work. The idea has surface appeal but it rapidly unravels once specifics are considered. See Jamie Hall for an excellent implementation critique, and Matt Bruenig (linked in Hall’s piece) for countless more.

In addition to the policy challenges, I don’t see how a JG could work politically. Sure there’s some evidence from polls that folks say they like a JG, but “jobs guarantee” is a slogan, not a policy. Everyone likes “jobs”. They like the word. But it’s a word that excites very different impulses in different people.

Those on the left imagine “good jobs”, with security and worker empowerment.

For the right, it’s Protestant work ethic stuff, curbing idleness and setting people to task.

These alternative dispositions lead to fundamentally contradictory conceptions of a JG.

For leftists, to satisfy “good jobs” criteria, the conditions would have to be significantly superior to a lot of jobs that people already have in the private sector. On the right, it’s widely believed that anyone who truly wants a job can already get one, implying that a guaranteed job is little more than formalising existing opportunities. Any fallback job provided by a government welfare department would likely resemble something like work for the dole: unpleasant and inferior to comparable ‘real’ jobs in the private sector.

The two contradictory impulses underlie the political impossible dilemma at the heart of the JG:


  • Workers can be fired – in which case it’s not a guarantee


  • Workers cannot be fired – in which case it’s not a real job.

The first “JG” (right wing JG) is workfare. In Australia’s social security system, people who reject work get kicked off the dole, so participation in this JG would be mandatory. Should workers be fired it would be equivalent to being suspended from welfare. Australia’s Bill Mitchell goes so far as to promote abolishing unemployment benefits altogether:

My personal preference is to abandon the unemployment benefits scheme and free the associated administrative infrastructure for JG operations.

The concept of mutual obligation from the workers’ side would become straightforward because the receipt of income by the unemployed worker would be conditional on taking a JG job.

The no firing version of JG – which the left would prefer – is really a type of basic income combined with an optional volunteering program.

In addition to the implementation challenges, these political contradictions are why JG advocates have an unusually high rhetoric to policy content ratio. The moment details are provided, the advocates are forced to declare their hand on their political philosophy, destroying the very ambiguity that enabled the cross-spectrum support.

My view is that folks who support a basic income with an optional volunteering component should just lobby for it directly. Any strategic ambiguity gained from pretending it’s a “job” will be exposed well before the policy ever gets implemented.

Finally, let me just register how weird I think it is that so many leftists have latched onto the JG. I always thought a fixation with work for work’s sake was a conservative pathology.

The JG will involve a Centrelink-style bureaucracy assessing hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people and finding/creating/administering for each them something called a “job”, supposedly based on their individual needs and capabilities. No one’s too sure exactly what these jobs will be, but most likely something like pretending to rake leaves. When the job doesn’t pan out – for a vulnerable person coming out of long-term unemployment, disproportionately beset by illness and trauma, the odds of this are high – they’ll be tossed off their welfare and onto the streets. Their compliance with the job program will be monitored by the bureaucracy, the folks currently running robodebt and work for the dole. What could possibly go wrong!

None of this necessarily means opposing public sector job creation initiatives altogether. But these jobs should be grounded in project cost benefit analysis, and cleanly demarcated from welfare policy. The former should be a relationship of obligation, and the latter a relationship of entitlement. Blurring these concepts will only end in tears.

There is no magic primary share needed for Federal Labor to win

There’s some chatter within the political class about Federal Labor needing a minimum primary vote share to win – say 38%. This is clearly not the case. A magic number just doesn’t exist.

In a compulsory preferential system, a party wins not by achieving a certain primary vote but by a larger number of voters placing them above the other major party on the ballot paper than the converse. Hence a major party will win if they receive more than 50% of the two party-preferred (2PP) vote. The caveat here is an assumption of uniform voting across seats. Obviously this is a fictional assumption, but there’s no way of escaping it if you’re trying to predict an electoral outcome from a single statistic at this level of abstraction.

The primary vote share statistic on the other hand will not tell you whether you will win an election. You cannot divine any kind of “magic number” you need to win an election. Unless a party’s at over 50%, it will always depend on preference flows.

The value of a major party’s primary vote as a performance indicator is also limited. Let’s assume at some point in time Labor increased its primary vote from 36% to 39%. It makes a world of difference whether these votes came from the left or the right. If they came from voters who previously supported parties to the right of Labor, it may propel Labor to victory. If they came from the Greens, gains will be next to zero.

For this reason, simplistic primary vote targets are a bad idea. They promote wasting resources on campaigns against the Greens that do little to help Labor win Federal elections (as the Green votes would have flowed back to Labor in preferences anyway). Of course, one might get more sophisticated and compare Labor’s primary to the primary of the other parties, and then estimate whether Labor is likely to be up or down after the flow of preferences. Yes this would be sensible indeed – this is what 2PP statistics do!

There is obviously no minimum share of the primary vote required to win. If minor parties whose voters preference Labor (like the Greens) do well, Labor’s required primary will fall. If minor parties whose voters preference the Coalition (like One Nation) do well, Labor’s required primary will rise. There is nothing politically contentious here, just arithmetic.

The above is not to say the primary vote share statistic is useless. It can be used in concert with the 2PP to provide valuable information.

If you’re losing the 2PP you can turn to the primary vote to help understand what’s going on. If the primary is unusually low and the other major party’s is high, it suggests you’ve lost votes to the other major party.

If the other major party’s primary is not unusually high, and if minor parties’ primaries are high, it suggests votes are going to minor parties who aren’t preferencing you. What you can take away from this information is still limited. Take last election for instance. It’s commonly suggested that Labor needs to address a specific problem of votes bleeding to One Nation. This interpretation is based on the fact Labor lost primary votes while One Nation primary votes increased, particularly in Queensland. However, this evidence is not enough to prove the interpretation. There are a few possibilities, including:

  1. Labor votes swung to the Coalition while Coalition votes swung to One Nation.
  2. Some Labor votes swung to One Nation but these voters were among the minority of One Nation voters who preferenced Labor anyway.
  3. Labor votes swung to One Nation, but they would have swung to the Coalition anyway were One Nation not to have run. Their ballot preference for the Coalition over Labor reflects a genuine move towards the conservatives.
  4. Labor votes swung to One Nation, and in doing so there was some sort of metamorphosis whereby they became persuaded or tricked to preference the Coalition even though would otherwise have voted Labor were there no One Nation candidate.

The first theory supports a conventional centrist, median voter theory strategy. The appropriate response to the second theory may be nothing. The appropriate response to the third theory is a bit tricky and needs more information. Only the fourth theory clearly implies a need for an unconventional strategy to fight One Nation on first preferences. What combination of the above theories drove what happened at the 2019 election? I have no idea, but it’s important to understand the limitations of all macro-level statistics, whether two party preferred or primary vote.

In summary the principal statistic for the outcome of elections in a compulsory preferential system is 2PP. Any push to focus simplistically on the primary vote is misguided, as it fails to distinguish gaining votes from the right (useful) as opposed to the left (largely useless). Examining the primary vote share in concert with the 2PP can provide some useful information, but it’s important to understand the limitations of any statistic at this level of abstraction.


Solidarity with the Hong Kong students

It’s a tragic feeling to see hundreds of thousands of students desperately protesting for their rights, democracy and self-determination, knowing you can do very little to help them. Each day the dark foreboding of impending doom seems a little bit darker.

Perhaps this is why the protests have garnered so little attention in Australia, and from western liberal democracies more generally. People naturally want to protect their emotions, not invest them in a hopeless cause.

However, I happen to agree with Robert Kennedy’s famous 6 June 1966 speech in South Africa:

Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.

These brave students know the risks they face, and they’ve decided that their cause is worth it. We owe them our open-hearted solidarity. Sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel can’t be seen, and brave people have to keep hope alive – sometimes for generations – against what seems to be insurmountable odds.

Activism is not only about others — it’s about ourselves

But standing up against injustice is more than about solving the victims’ problems. Speaking out against injustice in another society helps to advocate or reinforce similar values in your own society. The act of speaking out signals that certain moral values matter; it’s “virtue signaling” if you like.

We live in an age of social media activism, in which perceived virtuous or unvirtuous behavior can garner thousands or millions of interactions all over the world. Usually, we are powerless to reward or punish the original behavior, but this is not really the issue. A strong response to the offending (or commendable) behavior helps to strengthen group solidarity around the norms we wish to promote.

As those who have taken sociology 101 might remember, this is close to Emile Durkheim’s theory of punishment. For Durkheim, society’s application of punishment is not really about any immediate utility, such as whether it makes this or that offence less likely, or whether it rehabilitates this or that offender. Rather, it’s about reaffirming social solidarity in the face of contradictions to it.

From this point of view, our relative disinterest in the plight of the Hong Kong students says something about us – and perhaps our lack of passion for our own society and its professed values.

No doubt the lack of interest in Hong Kong is a combination of many factors. A lack of identification with the students, a feeling of helplessness, a desire not to offend those with different views, and self-interest in staying in good with CCP interests. But it might also be ambivalence towards our own liberal democracy, a concerning attitude on the rise in surveys, particularly among young people.

It has been suggested to me that leftists have avoided the Hong Kong protest issue because it might associate them with cold war warrior types. This is an incredibly bleak way of looking at the world: withholding solidarity from students being crushed by an authoritarian state because right wingers have reportedly latched on to their cause.

Well if it’s the conservatives and not the left going into bat for these brave and vulnerable students, that is to the conservatives credit and the leftists enduring discredit. The segments of the left that supported (or failed to oppose) Soviet imperialism have never lived it down.

Australia’s universities must be bastions of free inquiry and activism

One area that Australia can tangibly do better in is putting up a stronger defence of our own democratic freedoms, including their application to Chinese students and pro-Hong Kong protesters at Australia universities.

On Q&A last week (12 August), the panellists were asked a question by a University of Queensland student, Drew Pavlou, who protested on campus in support of the Hong Kong students. The young man presented as having been assaulted by five pro-CCP counter-protesters in response to his peaceful speech. He said he received dozens of death threats online, and that the university was of little help. To the contrary, the university implied it could expel him for his activism he claimed.

The response from the panellists was weak. The first responder was Li Shee Su, who was the unofficial CCP sympathiser I suppose. He said Western public support for Hong Kong protesters was due to media bias. He associated them with “terrorists” and said they were led by foreign intelligence.

In Australia, when we catch people with bombs in their garages and homes, what do we call them? Terrorists… In Hong Kong, when you catch them with bombs and bomb-making material, what do we call them? Pro-democracy protesters.

Okay then… The terrorism card seems a tad incendiary in the context of an apparently peaceful protester assaulted by thugs, but none of the panellists challenged him on it. Nor was he challenged on the assertion that the protesters were led by foreign intelligence.

Tony Jones and the panellists (with the exception of AC Grayling) generally veered towards a limp “both siderism”. Sure there is always the risk that Drew Pavlou wasn’t telling the full story, but if someone presents as the victim of political violence and death threats, you take them at face value and caveat if necessary. On the contrary, Tony Jones ploughed right into blame the victim territory, implying that Pavlau was at fault because he reportedly insulted his aggressors.

Robust challenges to Li Shee Su, on the other hand, were conspicuously lacking, strange on a show that trades on outspoken and direct argument. Individual civil liberties, Li Shee Su said, are a western concept that are culturally inappropriate in Asia or Africa (try telling the “Asian values” story to Amartya Sen). Even in Australia, Li Shee Su said that democracy was not a true goal of politics – just a means to an ends. None of this was robustly argued against.

Li Shee Su openly acknowledged that Chinese students were being monitored by Chinese agents, claiming it’s “not different” from what the Americans do with their citizens. Remarkably, this comment just flew by, as though it were unremarkable. A massive foreign surveillance machine inside Australian universities is just normal.

It is not normal.

Universities must protect academic values and the liberty of all students on campus, including Chinese students. Universities need to take a tough line on students who violently bully peaceful protesters, including by expelling them.

If a student dobs another student into any foreign intelligence service due to peaceful protest activism or legitimate academic discussion, they should also be expelled. This may be hard to police, but the existence of the rule sends a message.

Political leaders must condemn pro-CCP hate speech and intimidation

Meanwhile, at pro-CCP protests in Sydney and Melbourne today (17 August), mobs yelled hate speech and threatened violence towards Hong Kong protesters. Twitter reports from the Sydney demonstration:

Australia’s political leaders must condemn this political intimidation and hate speech without equivocation. No “both sides” bullshit, which is a slur on the victims. This is a test of political credibility. We can’t do much for the Hong Kong students in Hong Kong, but it’s on us to protect them while they’re here. And more than that, it’s a test of whether we care about human rights and Australia’s democratic institutions.

It’s time for Bill Clinton to face his reckoning

Trump has caused a stir by retweeting a claim that Bill Clinton killed Jeffrey Epstein. This is of course irresponsible and not grounded in evidence – par for the course for Trump.

It is also a very easy troll.

Democrats have taken the bait, rushing to defend Clinton from the smear.

If you knew a random bloke in your street was an alleged rapist (case settled with money), had a string of sexual harassment allegations (settled with money), was proven to have engaged in sexual impropriety on the job, AND was a good mate of a pedophile ring leader… you’d assume he was a creep.

This is a legitimate and rational assumption.

You’d talk to your neighbours about the risk in your street. You’d keep your kids well away. You’d worry if he loitered around too long.

This man is Bill Clinton. But instead of being shunned and stigmatised, he lives a life of wealth, power and social acclamation.

Democrats show more interest in rushing to Bill Clinton’s defence over a scurrilous tweet than about confronting their hero’s genuinely sleazy, nasty history.

What Epstein and Clinton share is the benefit of a dual moral order in society: one for common folk, and one for the elite. Back in 1759, Adam Smith wrote:

We frequently see the respectful attentions of the world more strongly directed towards the rich and the great, than towards the wise and the virtuous. We see frequently the vices and follies of the powerful much less despised than the poverty and weakness of the innocent. 

Bill Clinton was a great moraliser when it came to the impoverished and weak.  According to Clinton, the poor had character problems and welfare was to blame. As such, his 1996 welfare reform law promised to “end welfare as we know it”, with provisions like sweeping cuts to food stamps for kids.

Bill Clinton famously rushed off the campaign trail in 1992 to oversee the execution of a lobotomised man. It was important, Clinton said, to “no longer feel guilty about protecting the innocent”.

Given Clinton’s obvious passion for protecting the innocent, it is very bewilerdering how he seems to have so many bad mates.

It’s hard to believe Clinton had no idea what was going on. The Clintons spread deep into the capillaries of elite circles; as top politicians they would have ears finely tuned to scandalous gossip.

Even in the age of #metoo, Bill Clinton has somehow managed to escape serious denunciation from within the centre-left.

Now the big question is why he was good mates with a man who led a pedophile service on an industrial scale.

Banerji High Court case is a blow for democracy

The High Court’s decision against Banerji — a public servant from Immigration — is another deep blow to freedom of political communication in Australia.

It is true that Banerji is a rather extreme case. She harshly criticised her own department and its policies in hundreds of online posts. It’s not unreasonable to expect that public servants should exercise caution when discussing their own area of work.

Public servants know they trade off some free speech in relation to the policies they are entrusted with. A public servant actively organising against their own agency’s policies would raise concern within the community about whether the public servant could be trusted to be professional and impartial about these policies on the job. It would also raise questions about whether the criticism is grounded in privileged access to confidential information.

Some types of political engagement, however, pose low risk. Consider a junior to mid ranking social services department worker who engages in a clean energy campaign in their local community. This includes distributing leaflets to promote changes to government policy, such as introducing a carbon price. It’s a long bow to suggest this is undermining confidence in public administration. Providing the activist maintains common sense — for example, avoiding harsh criticism of the government and not linking their activism to their government job — it should not be a problem. What is needed is to take public servants’ freedom of political communication seriously, and apply a risk-based approach to its limitations.

A good decision in the Banerji case would have explicitly balanced competing priorities — the right to political communication versus public servants’ legislated duty not to erode public confidence in their work. The ruling would be tightly contextualised to the specific details of the case at hand.

Instead, the majority of judges delivered a sweeping judgement with significant implications for free speech across the public service. In short, there is none.

The judgement explicitly defines the implied freedom of political communication in the constitution down to a bare minimum. According to the judges, the implied freedom does not in fact apply to individuals. It simply requires some vague existence of political deliberation in the wider community.

Thus, the micro level is allowed to be unfree as long as there is macro freedom. This is sloppy and confusing. What percentages of micro unfreedom does it take before the macro switches from freedom to unfreedom?

What about if the unfreedom share is roughly 16% of Australia’s workforce? That’s how many Australians — two million — have been disenfranchised as a result of this judgement.

But that’s not all. The private sector too is steadily encroaching on their employees’ freedoms through intrusive 24/7 codes of conduct.

It is deeply distressing to see the freedom of political communication eroding before our eyes.

Anyone who does not own enough capital to be independently wealthy needs a job to survive. This is a relationship of dependence, of subordination — hence the importance of regulating the relationship to ensure it does not damage society.

The power of employers to censor the community via the employment contract helps capital have disproportionate influence over public discourse. This power is being cemented by bad legal judgements.

We are heading closer to a world in which the top 1% dictate who speaks and what is spoken.

Sit down money for the capitalist class

Scott Morrison’s “work harder to earn more” invokes the conservative notion that prosperity under capitalism is fundamentally about hard work. This is a bogus position given 40% of society’s income goes to capital – work-free reward that disproportionately benefits the top 1%. Capital’s income share has doubled in recent decades and this trend shows no sign of abating. Innovative policy is needed to prevent a future of insurmountable inequality that would be an existential challenge for functional democracy.

Emma Dawson has a good piece in the Guardian demolishing Scott Morrison’s suggestion that people doing it tough just need to work harder.

Of course the connection between hard work and wealth is tenuous at best. A worker’s compensation depends not only or even primarily on how long and intensely they work, but also by the value the market puts on their occupation. Aged care workers have a brutal job, but no matter how hard they work they are unlikely to earn as much as a well-connected elite who sits on some boards, working a few dozen days a year.

Further, these market values can have little connection to what’s good for society. Does anyone seriously believe society needs aged care workers and research scientists less than bankers and corporate lawyers? Less than tobacco executives?

We need some bankers to provide the credit and investment a modern economy needs to function, and we need some lawyers for a functioning rule of law. But at the margin bankers and lawyers don’t produce any new output at the societal level, they just rent-seek: manipulating the system to capture and redistribute existing output. Both the IMF and the OECD have said that the financial sector in advanced economies has become too big. Society should be dissuading, not encouraging, workers into this sector. In the case of tobacco executives, the societal harm is self-evident. Job success for these folks means getting people addicted to something that will kill them.

But there is, I contend, a more fundamental critique to be made. The elephant in the room in discussion about work and inequality under capitalism is that a large share of society’s income is awarded for no work at all. Indeed this work-free income is at the heart of capitalism. Literally it is capital income.

Roughly two-fifths of the national income is capital income – obtained for ownership, not work –  including dividends, rent and interest. Even this is likely to be an underestimate, as it excludes income from unincorporated businesses. (Income from businesses like sole traders is a fudge of both labour and capital income, so the ABS categorises it separately as “gross mixed income”.)

The capital share has been rising for decades – nearly doubling from 22% in 1961 to 39% in 2019. The graph below comes from the RBA’s March 2019 Bulletin on the topic:

Correspondingly, the labour share has been falling.

In large part, this is not some kind of perversion of capitalism; it is a natural and normal state of affairs under capitalism. As Piketty and others have argued, it appears to be capital income, rather than inequality in labour income, that drives long-run growth in inequality. Capital income is far more unequally distributed than labour income, so any shift in favour of the former will increase overall inequality. If Piketty’s central thesis is right, growth in capital share will continue indefinitely. Branko Milanovic calls this a “quasi-inevitable trend to higher interpersonal inequality that rich countries will face if capital share in GDP keeps on rising – as many economists assure us it will”. The depressing implication is that barring a massive structural shock such as world war, revolution or other policy upheaval, we are headed towards “patrimonial capitalism”. This back-to-the-future society will exhibit Victorian Era levels of inequality and have similarities to aristocracy. Such great disparities in societal power will undermine functional democracy.

Meanwhile, back in Australia. As the graph below shows, stand out drivers of the growth in capital share are financial sector profits and house prices.

Although the top 1% and top 0.1% have gained the most from the rising capital share, some of the middle class has also benefited through appreciation in the value of their superannuation and particularly their homes. (Investment properties attract rental income, while the gains to owner occupied homes are reflected in the income statistics through rent imputation.)

Growth in housing prices is largely a zero-sum game as it harms families who do not own their own homes. These “losers” in the game must divert more of their wages to existing owners, whether they are renting or buying their first home. Over the past few decades, our society has thereby set up a massive reverse redistribution scheme, known as “the property market”, which redirects the proceeds of work and gives it to the owners of soil and buildings for no work at all. Through large taxation concessions for property investment, our conservative governments enthusiastically promote this anti-work redistribution scheme.

So a large share of prosperity in Australia – particularly for the top 1%, but also for the middle class – has nothing to do with work. It is simply ownership.

This is a hard fact for the centre-left to grapple with. Occupational inequality sounds more manageable a problem. Addressing capital income can seem like leaning against the fundamental trajectory of the economic system. You’re standing in front of a Mac Truck and trying to push back.

Consequently the mainstream left prefers simple and tangible targets like highly paid workers – CEOs, lawyers and bankers – even though the share of national income going to elite workers is much lower than the share going for no work at all.

Notwithstanding the difficulty in addressing capital, we should not bury our heads in the sand. We cannot pretend to understand – let alone address – the global growth in inequality if we ignore its major driver. This means venturing beyond the economic and political mainstream.

There are two ways to try to tackle the rising inequality associated with a growing capital share. One way is to try to pull the share of national income back to labour, the other way is to make capital income more equally distributed.

From the latter approach, the most conceptually sound proposal in my view is Matt Bruenig’s Social Wealth Fund for America. The idea would see the government construct a giant managed fund that buys up shares in the private sector through market transactions. The fund’s management would be modelled on Norwegian national wealth funds.

What is distinctive about Bruenig’s plan is that all adult citizens would each hold one share in the fund and receive regular dividend payments. It would be like a retail managed investment fund, but the proceeds would be equally distributed. The effect would be a kind of universal income. This approach to universal income circumvents the common objection that a universal income provides money without work. Bruenig’s scheme does not, in fact, invent any new unearned income; it simply makes the economy’s unearned capital income more evenly distributed.

According to data available from the World Inequality Database, the average adult in the Australian top 1% receives capital income that is more than triple the total average adult income from all sourcesWhile everyone else is slogging away, they’re receiving triple the amount for doing squat. Let’s call it a UBI for the top 1%. If the capitalist class can have a UBI, why can’t everyone else? Bruenig: “If passive income is so destructive, then the income situation of the 1% surely is a national emergency!”

It’s a smart argument and a very elegant proposal. If we ever get socialism, Bruenig’s market socialism is how it should happen.

Unfortunately, the funds required for a meaningful dividend payment are eye-wateringly large. A fund of $1 trillion, with a dividend yield of 2.5%, would mean only around $1,290 per Australian adult. If the investment is not funded by new revenue, it would nearly triple the Australian government’s gross debt, which is currently $560 billion (although the fund could be configured to avoid increasing net debt). It would take in around a tenth of Australia’s national wealth, and would roughly double the government’s share of national wealth. Such an investment is financially risky and politically hard to imagine, for a payment rate that is hardly going to be a game changer for societal wellbeing. The more meaningful the payment, the more massive the investment required.

But we should be careful about dismissing possibilities out of hand. Today’s orthodoxy was of course yesterday’s radical heterodoxy and so on and so on. The scope of our present welfare state would seem unthinkable 80 years ago. In fact, the Norwegian government owns 59% of its national wealth –  76% if homes are excluded, largely through wealth funds. So we have a real life example of a massive, highly effective state investment scheme, proportionately far larger than the $1 trillion example above. This isn’t just about the oil fund either. Norway owns multiple funds and held 40% of the national wealth – four times the government share in Australia – before the oil fund was even established.

There will be no magic bullet for tackling the inequality brought about by rising capital share. We will need to consider a combination of multiple levers, such as establishing a social wealth fund, strengthening unions’ bargaining power, establishing wealth and inheritance taxation, broadening land taxation, promoting workers’ co-ops and reinvesting in public corporations (even nationalising firms embroiled in extreme misconduct). Ending the obsession with privatising profitable assets and not proceeding with company tax cuts are straightforward proposals. International cooperation to impose higher company taxes should also be prioritised. On the success side, compulsory superannuation has meant that capital income is less concentrated to the top than it otherwise would have been.

On a rhetorical level, it is vital that social democrats tackle conservative myths about work and prosperity under capitalism. There is an obsession with the rhetoric of work when it comes to the welfare state; social security is considered to be tainted, chronically under suspicion for providing unearned income; recipients are expected to go to extreme lengths to prove they are working or trying to work. The government maintains a wasteful surveillance bureaucracy attempting to shove everyone into labour – paid or unpaid, appropriate or inappropriate, safe or unsafe. There is an ideology of work.

This ideology seems positively goofy in an economy that delivers nearly 40% of its rewards as unearned income. The ideology of work holds only for the weak, for the workers.

For the powerful, unearned income is not some kind of perversion of authentic capitalism. It is the point of it.

The time has come to challenge sit down money for the capitalist class.