I’ve been reading David Graeber’s “Bullshit Jobs” which I got into after reading his essay on it a few years ago (here). At the time I was struck by the comments from Keynes (Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren – here), who believed that in 100 years, technological developments will be such that all activities will be conducted by machine’s and so humans would only choose to work around 3 hours a day. Keynes believed that people would still choose to work a little amount – witnessed by the fact that at the time, the wives of the very rich, often spent some time doing charitable work – so that we have a sense of purpose and because some jobs are enjoyable. [...]
The classical consumption models (Modigliani’s Life-Cycle hypothesis and Friedman’s Permanent Income hypothesis) tell us that consumption is dependent on life-time income. This is based on the assumptions of credit market access (so we don’t have liquidity constrained individuals) and certainty. In short this means that consumption will only change if income changes, and a temporary income change will cause consumption to rise by less (i.e. MPC is low) than a permanent income change (i.e. MPC is close to 1).
Due to the theory of consumption smoothing – whereby individuals prefer to have similar incomes over two periods (or a lifetime) than extremities in either period – we would expect change in consumption to be low over a lifetime. [...]
The advent of the neoclassical approach to establish economics as a science, led to the disappearance of many psychological insights already made by economists, for example Smith says “we suffer more… when we fall from a better to a worse situation, than we ever enjoy when we rise from a worse to a better.” And Edgeworth points out that one agent’s utility can be affected by another agent’s payoff. One development of neoclassical economics was the formulation of the expected utility framework which makes precise assumptions that can be falsified, it assumes stable and consistent preferences, the ability to perform complex computations, and an ability to memorise a large amount of information. [...]
Labour matching models stem from the fact that when a worker becomes unemployed, he needs to look for a job and such a process is not instantaneous. He cannot simply occupy any vacancy, but has to search for a job in a certain area, in a certain profession and which matches a list of criteria such as wage, hours of work and subjective factors like “would I enjoy working here”. This all takes time and requires effort. Before such matching models were devised, economists assumed in their models that unemployment could instead be modelled by looking at the number of unemployed and the number of vacancies and then working out how many of the unemployed could take these vacancies. [...]