I'm sorry, Dave, I can't let you do that
I don't know how many of you have seen the movie Dave, but towards the end of it the title character promotes legislation to give a job to everyone in America who wants one and is legally allowed to work. The other day, I started considering that as a possible alternative to the welfare system. Instead of giving money to people who aren't working, the idea is to find jobs for them - not necessarily what they want, but some kind of employment.
There are two real questions for everyone: (1) Is this a good idea? (2) If so, how would we go about doing this?
Personally, I'm doubtful on the first point on general principle. We would need to create incentives for employers to create positions. Because of the guarantee of employment, would-be workers might get a job, but they have no incentive to do well, as being fired means they would have another job provided somehow. Similarly, employers have incentive to fire people, because there is no guarantee that employees get to keep their job once they have it, and there is always a better worker on the market somewhere.
On the other hand, I'd rather have someone working because of government support than someone who is paid not to work, as the current welfare system seems to promote. (I'm generalizing here; I've known people who used welfare only as long as necessary to get back on their feet, and I've known people who take advantage of the system just like their parents and grandparents did. The former have my admiration, and the latter have my spite.)
What thoughts do the rest of you have? How would you go about creating such a system without creating skewed incentives?