Governments must guarantee jobs and fair wages: Richard D Winfield
Richard D Winfield, professor in the department of philosophy, University of Georgia, Athens, US, is a philosopher who has penned 20 books, covering social justice, economic opportunities and political and civil rights, among others.lucknow Updated: Aug 31, 2017 12:47 IST
Richard D Winfield, professor in the department of philosophy, University of Georgia, Athens, US, is a philosopher who has penned 20 books, covering social justice, economic opportunities and political and civil rights, among others. He is also planning to run for the US Congress as a Democrat candidate from the GA 10 district (in Georgia) in 2018.
A thought leader and public speaker, Prof Winfield was in Lucknow on Tuesday and Wednesday to address events organised by the Lucknow Management Association and the department of English and modern European languages, Lucknow University.
He also visited HT office and spoke about his planned election campaign, issues close to his heart and his India connect.
A philosopher running for a political office…how did you decide to make this switch?
Yes, there are not too many philosopher-politicians. It will be a challenging experience. The good part is that my family is supportive. I was born in New York in 1950…my grandparents were Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. My family made the US its home. I firmly believe in equal opportunities for all people, including all political and civil rights in the American constitution. Unfortunately, not everyone in my country gets to avail of these rights in full. This is what has led to the civil rights struggles that you see. For me, a primary right is the right to work and earn fair wages. It needs to be a part of the American Constitution. The government needs to step in and ensure jobs for people…provide what profit seeking firms cannot. I have chosen to run for a political office to make a difference… to give a voice to this issue among others. I look forward to presenting a new social bill of rights.
How do you see India’s policies in this regard?
India is one of the few countries that have taken steps towards providing guaranteed employment to its people. Of course, such schemes need to be worked on, but the root idea is the same – people should have government-provided job security.
How do you view the policy of providing reservation in jobs?
Reservations can never bring in a complete solution. And there are problems that come with it. First, there’s no guarantee of a fair wage. Just getting a job is not enough. Also, in most cases, they seem to benefit only very small groups from among all the disadvantaged people of the society. There’s also the problem of resentment…those groups that are not benefiting from the reservation policy will start resenting those who are.
Talking of resentment, how do you view the whole discussion around Indians taking away American jobs? Do you think that tightening visa norms will help Americans get their jobs back?
The solution I have in mind doesn’t have to do with profit seeking enterprises. My idea is that these jobs need to be created by the government for the people. Then the question of someone taking away American jobs does not arise. For instance, infrastructure has a lot of scope for job creation.Back in the 1930s, in the face of the Great Depression, a lot of work was done in the field of infrastructure development. And it helped people get employment.Once you work towards eliminating unemployment, the consumer’s purchasing power goes up and the economy gets a boost.
What are some of the other issues close to your heart?
Basically it’s about equal wealth distribution. Job security is a part of that. Today, the US is more unequal in wealth distribution than it ever was in the past 100 years. Just as there must be jobs for the young, there must also be social security for the elderly and the disabled – and comparable to what constitutes a fair wage – which for me is $20 an hour. We also need non-managerial representation in the board of directors of corporations everywhere in the world, including the US and India. Otherwise, the decisions taken by the board hardly reflect the concerns of the workers. We also need to empower employees, increase their rights, such as, access to adequate maternity / paternity leave.
How are you preparing for the campaign?
The Congress has 435 representatives. I will propose my name to run as a Democrat. While GA 10 is traditionally a conservative district, it also has a liberal pocket - Athens. The Republican incumbent traditionally runs here with no opposition at all, and the Democrat candidates, whenever they choose to run, find no outside support. So, it will be quite a challenge. The primaries will be in May 2018, and if I win, I move on to the electoral contest (against the Republican candidate) in November 2018. My daughter Kalindi is a political consultant and she is advising me. I plan to propose my name in January and that’s when I will go on leave from my teaching job at the university.
Do you often come to India and Lucknow?
To India, yes. My wife Sujata Gupta is from Kolkata. I met her in the US when she was there for her brother’s treatment. As far as Lucknow is concerned, this is my second trip in three decades. My son Rasik works here and I have come to meet him.
First Published: Aug 31, 2017 12:47 IST