Different approaches to alleviate the Great Recession’s intransigence have been suggested. Repeatedly, policy approaches have been examined, only to be jettisoned, based on whether they concur with their own political ideologies. To combat this, we examine a few academic studies that offer views tested by more than mere opinion.
One study suggests that industrial policy could offer a possible remedy, policy that fosters sustainable industrial practices. Through a system of rewards and tax subsidies, academic scholars from four different universities including Harvard and UCLA argue that this approach could stimulate long-term growth. They argue that these tax policies could foster “sustainable growth or maximize intertemporal welfare [and]…in the case where the inputs [i.e. resources used in production] are…sustainable, long-run growth can be achieved with temporary taxation of dirty innovation and production.” In other words, tax policy can encourage manufacturers to use sustainable resources along with clean innovation and production. This would stimulate the economy while simultaneously encouraging practices that are sustainable using resources that are neither exploited nor exhausted.
Of course, there are those who reject the use of industrial policy as too much government interference. Yet the fact is that unemployment is still a trenchant problem that has long-lasting effects. And unemployment is the direct result of a lack of economic growth. Until those issues are addressed, unemployment will remain a problem. Another study investigates the long-term effects of extended unemployment. The authors found that those who lose their jobs in a weak economy experience a 20% lifetime wage loss over those who lose their jobs during a strong economy. They also examine the efficacy of extending unemployment benefits during weak economies. Extending UI (unemployment insurance) is considered beneficial under a specific set of circumstances, towards the goal of reducing the grinding poverty many of the long-term unemployed are experiencing, as well as increasing consumption and resultant demand. Here in the U.S., President Obama has taken note and proposes to extend emergency unemployment benefits.
These issues are all important for those in the architecture industry to understand since its unemployment rate is still hovering at, with modest estimates, almost twice what the overall unemployment rate is. Of course, this statistic does not count those who are not licensed architects, those who are underemployed, nor those who have been unemployed for longer than two years and are no longer officially recognized sby the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some estimates put the unemployment rate for those in architecture profession to be as high as 40%.
So what can those in the architecture profession do? First, they must stop simply immersing themselves in a narrow vision of the profession as merely one of buildings, spaces, and aesthetics. They must understand the larger context of both their national and the global economy and how the architecture industry is shaped by those forces. And they must be involved politically. In the famous words of Frederick Douglass, “Agitate, agitate.” A collective voice of both the unemployed and employed in architecture would prove powerful indeed.
Sherin Wing is an independent scholar. She received her Ph.D. in the Humanities from UCLA. She has published articles on issues and subjects ranging from the economy and architecture to social and cultural history. She is also a frequent contributor to Metropolis, Architect Magazine and other publications. Follow Sherin on Twitter at @xiaying.
Sherin Wing, Ph.D., is a social historian who writes on architecture, urbanism, racism, the economy, and epistemology (how we know what we know by researching and examining the agendas inherent in our sources of information) to name a few issues and topics. She is dedicated to exploring issues in ...