Theophillis Goodyear: Conceptual Road Blocks to Common Sense

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Theophillis Goodyear

Conceptual Road Blocks to Common Sense

Two major economic problems have been: 1. Unemployment, 2. the Housing Bubble and resulting financial crisis. But there were two ways of reducing the damage of both crises that no one seemed to think of because of conceptual road blocks to that way of thinking.

Some people have been collecting unemployment benefits for years. Meanwhile, employers can’t afford to hire new employees. So money keeps getting paid out to people who remain idle through no fault of their own. If someone had thought of temporarily rewriting the rules so that people could volunteer to work for free while they were collecting their checks, then they could pool their labor and offer it to employers who desperately need it.
This would be a very difficult arrangement to organize. That’s undeniable. First, it could easily put Temporary Employment Companies out of business, and that wouldn’t be fair. So the system would have to be designed to protect those companies. Second, the unemployed would have to be allowed to pick their jobs according to what employers thought they were qualified to do. Third, there would have to be some way of making it worth their while: a certificate of service to their county for their future resume, perhaps extra money for gas if they had to drive a long way, etc. There would have to be some kind of incentive. Then it would be a matter of employers signing up for the program and giving employment agencies a list of what jobs were open. None of this would be easy, but it would mediate the cost to the economy of unemployment payments, and it would help employers get through tough times. To what degree it would help would depend on how many people participated. But it would help. The more who participated, the more it would help.

The housing bubble resulted in mass foreclosures. Because their mortgage payments went up, many people could no longer afford to keep making their payments. So they were evicted from their homes. Seas of unoccupied houses were the result. But many of them could have afforded a cheaper mortgage. If there had been a program that helped to match them up with other, cheaper foreclosed houses, everyone could have moved down a notch instead of putting everyone out on the street and leaving all those houses empty and mortgages unpaid. This probably would have been a much easier program to arrange than the above jobs program. But they both would be common sense ways to try and help mediate the effects of these two related crises. However, people are trained not to think that way, so no one thought of it.

I’m not saying that either of the above ideas would be easy to implement, only that they would have been a common sense approach to the twin problems. If we are ruling out common sense, then we have a problem.

We need to learn to see beyond these conceptual and ideological road blocks if we are to work together as citizens of nation that loves to call itself “United.” When crises occur, we need to look beyond narrow ways of thinking so that we can make the most efficient use of our resources.