Obama's Job Fetish

Why the government shouldn't view "creating jobs" as an end in itself

If, as widely expected, Barack Obama faces a recession when he takes office in January, many Americans will expect him to deliver on his promise to "create jobs." They probably will be disappointed, because Obama seems to view job creation not only as something the government does with taxpayers' money but as an end in itself. That's a recipe for wasteful spending that will divert resources from more productive uses, and ultimately for higher unemployment than would otherwise occur.

Obama says he will "transform the challenge of global climate change into an opportunity to create 5 million new green jobs," which he likens to the economic activity triggered by the personal computer. This rosy way of looking at global warming is a variation on the "broken window" fallacy dissected by the classical liberal economist Frederic Bastiat, according to which the loss caused by smashing a window is offset by the employment it gives the glazier.

By the same logic, Obama should view war, crime, and hurricanes as opportunities to create jobs. While all three generate economic activity, we'd be better off if the resources spent on bombs, burglar alarms, and reconstruction work were available for other purposes, instead of being used to inflict, prevent, or recover from losses.

Likewise, overhauling manufacturing, transportation, and power production to reduce the emission of carbon dioxide may or may not be justified, but the cost of doing so is properly viewed as a drag on the economy, not a boost to it. At the risk of stating the obvious, we'd be better off if we didn't have to worry about, and use resources to minimize, climate change.

Obama wants to spend $150 billion on "developing and deploying advanced energy technologies, including solar, wind and clean coal." He says this plan "will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, decrease our dependence on foreign oil and create jobs that can't be outsourced."

Leaving aside the desirability of "energy independence" and the merits of Obama's approach to reducing carbon dioxide emissions (which has the government, rather than the market, picking the most efficient methods), the fact that he lists "jobs that can't be outsourced" as a distinct goal is troubling. Paying people to dig holes and fill them in again also creates "jobs that can't be outsourced," but that doesn't mean it's a smart investment or an appropriate use of taxpayers' money.

Speaking of digging holes, Obama also wants to spend $60 billion to "provide financing to transportation infrastructure projects across the nation." He says "these projects will create up to two million new direct and indirect jobs and stimulate approximately $35 billion per year in new economic activity."

Fixing a bridge, widening a highway or building a light rail system may or may not make economic sense. But the fact that it involves paying people to operate jackhammers and pour concrete does not make it any more worthwhile. If creating jobs can justify transportation projects, why not fill the country with bridges to nowhere?

Obama also sees regulation as an engine of economic growth. He says requiring that "25 percent of American electricity be derived from renewable sources by 2025...has the potential to create hundreds of thousands of new jobs." Even if true, that projection tells us nothing about the advisability of such a mandate. If the government required that 25 percent of cars be replaced by horse-drawn carriages, that also would create certain jobs (in buggy whip production, for example), while destroying or forestalling others.

Obama's job fetish is apparent even when he talks about spontaneous economic activity. "Businesses should live up to their responsibilities to create American jobs," he declared in his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention. In a free market, businesses exist because they provide goods or services that people value. A business that makes job creation its overriding goal will not be employing anyone for long.

Senior Editor Jacob Sullum (jsullum@reason.com) writes a weekly syndicated column. © Copyright 2008 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Brian J||

    The fact that these obvious points have to be presented again underscores the persistence of the fallacious thinking behind what passes for policy coming out of Washington in general and the pending administration in particular. The current economic downturn could be extended by years by confronting it with half-baked statist recipes.
    I commend Mr. Sullum for his willingness to counter, for the 1000th time, the idea that governments can add value by pouring taxpayer money into make-work rat holes, tedious though the task may be.

  • ||

    It would cost the equivalent of 60 cents a gallon to charge and drive an electric car. The electricity to charge the car could come from solar or wind generated electricity. If all gasoline cars, trucks, and suv's instead had plug-in electric drive trains, the amount of electricity needed to replace gasoline is about equal to the estimated wind energy potential of the state of North Dakota. Why don't we use some of the billions in bail out money to bail us out of our dependence on foreign oil? This past year the high cost of fuel so seriously damaged our economy and society that the ripple effects will be felt for years to come. Why not invest in setting up some alternative energy projects on a national basis, create clean cheap electricity, create millions of badly needed new green collar jobs, and get out from under our dependence on foreign oil. What a win -win situation that would be. There is a great new book out called The Manhattan Project of 2009 Energy Independence NOW by Jeff Wilson. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in alternative energy. www.themanhattanprojectof2009.com
    Wilson also has a fascinating article on the Better Place Blog called HOW MUCH ELECTRICITY DOES IT TAKE TO REPLACE GASOLINE? you can read it @ http://planet.betterplace.com/profiles/blogs/how-much-electricity-does-it

  • ||

    I wonder where obama thinks he is going to get all this money for these pet projects. Wait, no i don't. This dolt, who has no idea of how an economy works or should be ran, will just have the reserve print more money and devalue our currency or borrow the money, putting us more in debt and devaluing our currency. But hey its providing low paying unskilled jobs for a short period of time, so that makes it ok. In reality, the money would be better spent educating people for jobs in a modern economy. I really hope obama doesn't drive us into an actual economic depression, but his obvious love of FDR's progressive socialist policies will result in a similar situation. History repeats itself. It seems that fact is lost on obama.

  • ed||

    This rosy way of looking at global warming is a variation on the "broken window" fallacy

    I humbly beseech Mr. Obama to read less Doris Kearns Goodwin and more Bastiat. Will he? I am not disposed to bet on it.

    "Businesses should live up to their responsibilities to create American jobs," he declared. That's very profound, Mr. Obama. So what you are saying is that the jobs should come before the necessity for them? That jobs are the goal instead of the means? That meaningless work should supplant meaningful work? That's "change" FDR could believe in.

  • ||

    "..., the fact that he lists "jobs that can't be outsourced" as a distinct goal is troubling. Paying people to dig holes and fill them in again also creates "jobs that can't be outsourced,..."



    That's true for now. But with Telepresence, a citizen of Mexico could dig and fill holes in the United States without ever leaving home. That is if the robots don't beat him to it.

  • MNG||

    "History repeats itself."

    What is this supposed to mean in relation to the Depression and the New Deal? The average guy on the street, not without some reason if you think about it, can think of the New Deal this way:

    1. We had a comparitively limited government
    2. During this we had a horrible economic Depression
    3. The government changed and became much larger and more active
    4. We have not had a comparitvely bad economic Depression since

    I know, I know, just because A came after B does not mean they are causually linked. But history does not give us all that much in the way of data points that we can take a "controlled" look at statiscally in order to infer causation, and it's at least reasonable to assume that significant historical conditions that came after previous significant changes are related in some way.

    One thing that we can certainly "learn" from history is that major economic indicators can improve while government intervention increases. That's just a fact.

  • ||

    Thank you for isolating so perfectly the main fallacy of libertarianism: the worship of markets and the economy as ends in themselves, rather than as a means to provide people with their needs. Jobs are good thing s because they provide people with structure and purpose in their lives, in addition to being a way to make new stuff. If there's lots of stuff but no jobs, the economy has failed (partly because without jobs, there's no one who can buy that stuff, but only partly.)

  • ed||

    Mike, that's so convoluted I can't tell if you're serious or satirical or just plain drunk. So I'll pass.

  • ||

    Merry Christmas!

  • Lefiti||

    Yeah, in an economic crisis always seek the advice of a free-market zealot who cherry picks evidence to support his doctrinaire positions. Fuck!

  • Lefiti||

    Oh yeah, nobody will take the free-market zealot's advice seriously, but other free-market zealots will jerk each other off over it.

  • Sam Grove||

    Thank you for isolating so perfectly the main fallacy of libertarianism: the worship of markets and the economy as ends in themselves, rather than as a means to provide people with their needs.

    You are quite mistaken. From this libertarian's point of view, markets are the venue in which people provide for their needs through production and trade.

    I do not worship "the market".

    Libertarians oppose government intervention in the market because that ultimately means political control of people, of individuals.
    Libertarians support free markets because we believe the highest social and political goal is freedom for people.

    The fallacy is your interpretation.

  • Lefiti||

    "Libertarians support free markets because we believe the highest social and political goal is freedom for people."

    What a crock of shit. We've never had completely free markets and no libertarian has a fucking clue whether they would work. Most sensible people assume that rule by powerful plutocrats would diminish freedom, not increase it. Fucking true-believer moron.

  • ||

    Free markets are the worst form of economic systems except all the others that have been tried.

  • ||

    Most sensible people assume that rule by powerful plutocrats would diminish freedom, not increase it.

    Holy baby Jesus you have no idea what free market means! If you really think it's being controlled by powerful overlords, go have some more eggnog and drool in the corner by yourself.

  • Lefiti||

    Stop spoofing me you libertoid morons! Fuck you Urkobold!!1!1!

  • lukas||

    rule by powerful plutocrats



    As opposed to... what exactly? Oh yeah, rule by powerful bureaucrats. Sign me up.

  • Pac||

    I think, what the bailouts have at least illuminated is that with our current big sized govt, "free market reforms" will always be implemented with a slant toward serving the already wealthy and connected. Where as bottom to top reform measures, that is, more mobility and access to joining and competing in any market for the working or middle classes, will be neglected or ignored. Except for labor flexibility that is, which is code for people who think jobs are just another form of welfare.

  • Commissioner Gordon||

    One of the three "original Catwoman" actresses has died. Hint:Julie Newmar and Lee Meriwether are presumably still breathing.

  • ||

    LOL< sounds like this Sullum dude might just be a bit full of himself!

    Jess
    www.Privacy-Center.net

  • jtuf||

    Good opinion piece Jacob Sullum. Viewed from Obama's perspective, the War on Drugs creates many jobs for DEA agents.

  • Sam Grove||

    Most sensible people assume that rule by powerful plutocrats would diminish freedom, not increase it.

    Exactly!

    Who has more pull with political agencies, you, or plutocrats?

    Voting doesn't give you access to power, voting is how you give away your power.

  • jj||

    Sam, that's an incredible line:

    Voting doesn't give you access to power, voting is how you give away your power.

  • ||

    MNG --

    Here was the actual sequence of events:

    1. We had a comparatively limited government
    2. During this we had a bad economic recession
    3. The government changed and became much larger and more active
    4. The recession turned into the worst Depression ever, and dragged on and on
    5. The big government stayed big, though some of the worst parts were repealed
    6. We had more bad recessions, though nothing as awful as when the really bad ideas caused the worst Depression ever.

    How anyone can revere FDR after observing this sequence beats me.

  • Right Titty||

    If governments could truly create jobs, would there ever be recessions?

    Governments can create conditions favorable for job creation (labor regulations, tax rates, etc.) or create conditions unfavorable for job creation.

    If governments could truly create jobs, then Japan's slowdown of the 1990s would never of happened. IIRC, Japan's problems started with a real estate bubble and the Japanese government tried to kick start things with massive public works spending. Of course, none of that is applicable to the situation in the US.

  • ||

    MNG,

    Many historians and economist who studied the depression and its causes would agree that FDR's new deal policies turn a recession into a depression that dragged on until a war ramped production and the economy. Obama's proposals are very similar to FDRs and the new deal. And that is putting people to work through large government construction projects and large government infusions of cash into various economic sectors. These are very same things that many experts would assert lead to the long, drawn out depression in the 1930s. Right now we are in a moderate recession. We are seeing Obama propose policies very similar to FDR's at the time. Will those policies be implemented and will the results be the same? Well i cannot tell you that with any confidence. But it is apparent to me that Obama is following a very similar path to that of FDR's and the new deal, in a comparable economic situation. All we are hearing from our soon to be president are 'solutions' nearly identical to FDR's. So yes, we are on the verge of seeing history repeat itself, and the fact that the policies Obama is proposing are the very same ideas that many would argue exacerbated the 1930s depression does not seem to register with Obama.

  • ||

    Mike:
    Thank you for isolating so perfectly the main fallacy of libertarianism: the worship of markets and the economy as ends in themselves,

    Leave it to the intellectual dishonest to place the cart before the horse. Economic activity and markets are not things to worship, but spontaneously-appearing systems stemming from human purposeful actions. Both ARE the means to an end.

    Jobs are good things because they provide people with structure and purpose in their lives, in addition to being a way to make new stuff.

    Wait, didn't you put libertarians to task because of their supposed worship of economic activity as an end? And yet here you are placing JOBS on a pedestal as an END in itself.


    If there's lots of stuff but no jobs, the economy has failed

    No, it has not.

    (partly because without jobs, there's no one who can buy that stuff, but only partly.)

    Which means you do not understand trade or markets. You probably think of "jobs" as those held by Fred Flinstone or George Jetson, with a steady paycheck.

  • ||

    Governments can create conditions favorable for job creation (labor regulations, tax rates, etc.) or create conditions unfavorable for job creation.

    Just to be more accurate, governments can hinder job creation LESS or MORE; depends on which path the bureaucrats decide, there will be more economic activity or less. But government does NOT create conditions favorable for job creation - that only comes from existing capital.

  • ||

    One thing that we can certainly "learn" from history is that major economic indicators can improve while government intervention increases. That's just a fact.

    Agreed, but only because it is the government which generates those metrics.

  • ||

    Free markets are the worst form of economic systems except all the others that have been tried.

    Paraphrasing Churchill may generate a "cutesy" aphorism, but in this case, it is incorrect - Free markets are a spontaneously-appearing system, which means they are NATURALLY occurring and thus not something that can be "tried", like totally artificial systems like socialism and fascism (both which require markets to finance them anyway!)

    So the aphorism is not proper nor does it help understand the role people's freedom and freedom to trade plays in markets.

  • ||

    We've never had completely free markets and no libertarian has a [...] clue whether they would work.

    This is an asinine statement. Markets are free as long as people are free to trade. Which means we can all witness a free market just by visiting the local flea-market.

    Most sensible people assume that rule by powerful plutocrats would diminish freedom, not increase it.

    Lefiti, tell us: do you really think "Free markets" means something managed by plutocrats? Or does the word "Free" give you at least a SLIGHT hint?

  • ||

    "Paraphrasing Churchill may generate a "cutesy" aphorism, but in this case, it is incorrect - Free markets are a spontaneously-appearing system, which means they are NATURALLY occurring and thus not something that can be "tried", like totally artificial systems like socialism and fascism (both which require markets to finance them anyway!)"



    You are right of course. I apologize for being "cutesy." :) I normally object to the anthropomorphization of free markets. Regardless of the motivations, desires, ambitions or goals of the participants in markets, the markets themselves, like the rest of nature, don't strive for efficiency, optimal outcomes or any other goals or directions.

  • bill||

    Obama is a usurper. He's ineligible to be POTUS because his father was a foreigner.

    http://therightwing.net/index.php/2008/12/09/the-natural-born-citizen-case-explained/

  • Lefiti ||

    We've never had completely free markets and no libertarian has a fucking clue whether they would work.

    Also, if we had true socialism with the right people in charge, a pure socialist economy free of the influences of plutocrats would run rings around our so called 'free market' economy.

  • Richard Stands||

    if we had true socialism with the right people in charge



    That's the problem. When we allow an economic systems to rely on a small group who are "in charge", that group cannot be the "right" people. Whether they are plutocrats or bureaucrats, well-meaning or evil, a small group of people in charge cannot possibly manage an economy as effectively as the individuals participating in it.

  • Lefiti||

    Just wanted to let all you high-functioning autistic virgins know that I've converted to Christianity! Fuck communism, Jesus Christ is the light and the way! Merry fucking Christmas you libertoid twats!

  • ||

    It would cost the equivalent of 60 cents a gallon to charge and drive an electric car.

    Sounds great. Write up a business plan, and see what kind of funding you can raise from private investors. if you take this idea to the congress, they'll just fuck it up like Amtrak.

    -jcr

  • ||

    if we had true socialism with the right people in charge,

    The "right people" (presumably altruists) that you hope for don't exist.

    That's why I prefer a system where the best way to serve one's self interest is to find out what other people want and offer it to them for a price that both sides find acceptable.

    -jcr

  • ||

    Free markets are a spontaneously-appearing system, which means they are NATURALLY occurring and thus not something that can be "tried"

    Indeed, they appear everywhere, even in totalitarian societies where they're referred to as the "black market."

    -jcr

  • ||

    How anyone can revere FDR after observing this sequence beats me.

    FDR had a brilliantly effective propaganda operation. The people he was fucking over loved him, almost as much as the North Koreans love the Dear Leader.

    -jcr

  • Kreel Sarloo||

    bill,

    Your legal theories are intriguing.

    I would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

  • MNG||

    "2. During this we had a bad economic recession
    3. The government changed and became much larger and more active
    4. The recession turned into the worst Depression ever, and dragged on and on"

    prole
    1. Are you arguing that the Depression did not start until the New Deal? Because that is what this implies, that we only had a "recession" before the New Deal but the Great Depression started after the New Deal enactments. I'm going to need quite a bit of stats to buy that one.

    "5. The big government stayed big, though some of the worst parts were repealed"

    And then when the government got it's largest (WWII, are you going to argue it was smaller during WWII than 1932-1939?), the economy did quite well. Right?

  • MNG||

    prole
    Since a depression is just kind of a recession (economic downturn) that lasts a long time then depending on what you mean by long time then I guess you could say the economic downturn that started in the late 20's "became" a Depression during the New Deal in the early-mid 1930's. But that would certainly be a case of being too cute by half.

    Most economic indicators were down starting in a period of low government intervention, and they stayed that way for YEARS before any New Deal program ever came into effect (some stats below). Now, it's most certainly correct to say that the economic downturn was not remedied during YEARS of New Deal programs. But it's hard for me to see how it was "caused" by the New Deal (I mean, we've long discussed the difficulties of attributing causation to historical events because they happen after other events, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say that historical events are certainly not caused by events which happened AFTER the event in question). We got into the Depression in a time of relatively light government, and for many years a relatively interventionist and expanded government failed to get us out of the mess, but then under a relatively interventionist and expanded government recovery occurred.

    My point is not that its not possible that, as I think fluffy has argued here before, that we would have recovered even faster and better without the intervention or that we did so despite it rather than because of it. Judging from the wide debate among people with much more economic expertise than you and I have on this though I'm not sure what we expect from the average person given what I think is the plain reading of the basic chronology I've just discussed (depression under light government, years of heavy government, still depression, heavy government-no depression).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gdp20-40.jpg
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:1930Industry.svg

  • Gilbert Martin||

    "From our January issue, Senior Editor Jacob Sullum explains why President-elect Barack Obama shouldn't view "creating jobs" as an end in itself."

    The first and foremost reason it that government cannot "create" anything to begin with.

    Anything government does is a zero sum game. The wealth it expropriates to "create" some economic activity is wealth that is no longer creating the pre-exisitng economic activity it was doing before the government grabbed it.

    It is an exact offset to zero.

    Obama is probably smart enough to understand this, but it does not matter. The name of the game has always been expropriating wealth to reward existing political constituencies and try to buy others for furtherance of political power.

  • MNG||

    Gilbert
    I actually agree with your statement as a general empirical matter, but is it necessarily correct?

    I mean, it's at least possible that the government takes capital from someone who was going to spend it on something that was less productive than what the government ultimately put the money into, right? If your answer is no, then why not (that is, why is it not even possible?).

    BTW-this doesn't speak to whether the government has any right to do this.

  • ||

    If we can spend a trillion or so dollars to "spread democracy and freedom" to some hell hole on the other side of the world, we should no problem spending a trillion or so on our own hell hole. At least the bird cage will be gilded...

  • Chubulor Corpulens II||

    Most economic indicators were down starting in a period of low government intervention, and they stayed that way for YEARS before any New Deal program ever came into effect

    The New Deal wasn't the beginning of intervention. Hoover himself was throwing every intervention but the kitchen sink at the recession while he was in office too...and Smoot-Hawley Tariffs were passed in 1930 and were a big part of the transition to Depression. So, yes, FDR didn't create the Depression alone; Hoover bears some responsibility too, but the difference Hoover is already blamed for it while FDR isn't blamed for his part.

  • Chubulor Corpulens II||

    Indeed, they appear everywhere, even in totalitarian societies where they're referred to as the "black market."

    Careful though, black markets are generally not "free" markets. Nearly always competition between sellers is settled by violence, and in many cases buyers are coerced as well. It would be more apt to note that some type of market will appear spontaneously in any human society.

    We minarchists must admit that while you need a limited government to have a free market, you definitely need a stable and strong government as well.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    "The New Deal wasn't the beginning of intervention. Hoover himself was throwing every intervention but the kitchen sink at the recession while he was in office too...and Smoot-Hawley Tariffs were passed in 1930 and were a big part of the transition to Depression."

    Yes and as I recall, one of the things Hoover did was institute a big tax increase.
    Not exactly a brilliant idea in an economic downturn.

    Then there is the matter of the Federal Reserve Bank clamping down on the money supply in an inept attempt to reign in the stock market.

  • Sam Grove||

    Also, if we had true socialism with the right people in charge, a pure socialist economy free of the influences of plutocrats would run rings around our so called 'free market' economy.

    The "people in charge" would either be those plutocrats or would become the effective equivalent of the plutocrats, or worse.

    This is what leftists/progressives are so caught up on. Libertarians don't want to put anyone "in charge" of the economy.

    We view government as a limiter, not as a regulator. In such a case, government would not be noticed except when actions infringe upon the equal rights (negative rights) of individuals.

    Leftist/progressives/conservatives want to have "the right people" manage some aspect of society and our lives.

  • Sam Grove||

    Careful though, black markets are generally not "free" markets. Nearly always competition between sellers is settled by violence, and in many cases buyers are coerced as well.

    I don't know how much black market violence there was in the Soviet Union, but the black market was what made much economic activity at all possible.

    ref: Meltdown: Inside the Soviet Economy: Paul Craig Roberts

  • Gilbert Martin||

    "I mean, it's at least possible that the government takes capital from someone who was going to spend it on something that was less productive than what the government ultimately put the money into, right?"

    That would entail a whole other discussion about what is meant by productivity. Generically productivity increases means reducing unit costs of production. The objective is to do more with less - not create more jobs. That is antithetical to the concept. Then there is the issue of productivity toward what end? Being more "productive" at doing some activity is only of value if that particular activity was something necessary or desirable to do to begin with.

    The Germans were very productive in WW2 at inventing sophisticated new weapons such as Tiger tanks, V2 Rockets and ME 262 jet fighters to kill people with. That wasn't a very "productive" activity from the point of view of the rest of the world.

    In the case of alternative energy, I'd say it's highly unlikely it could be a net gain in either jobs or productivity.

    The wealth confiscated to artificially subsidize the alternative energy will come from individuals and businesses across the spectrum - from manufacturing to retail to service busineses. They will all have less to reinvest in their own businesses. And then the artificial boost to alternative energy would also damage the pre-existing fossil fuel industy on top of that. There are lots of people empployed in the coal industry as well as the oil and gas industries.

  • ||

    "I mean, it's at least possible that the government takes capital from someone who was going to spend it on something that was less productive than what the government ultimately put the money into, right? If your answer is no, then why not (that is, why is it not even possible?)."

    In addition to GM's answer, keep this thought in mind. Are you more careful when spending your money than you are when you're spending someone else's?

    I sure as hell would never spend MY money on a $600 toilet seat, but if I had a boatload of money to throw around, and I didn't have to actually do anything to create it, I probably wouldn't have as much of a problem with it.

    The guvmint doesn't actually do anything to produce the money they spend, so they have no intrinsic desire to spend it wisely. They know there will be more tomorrow, so they don't care.

  • ||

    "if we had true socialism with the right people in charge, a pure socialist economy free of the influences of plutocrats would run rings around our so called 'free market' economy.

    Insert ANY form of government in for socialism and you'd still be correct. EVERY form of government, in it's purest sense, works just fine.

    But we don't live in happy, fluffy, bunny-land. People will sometimes lie, cheat, and steal. When those people become involved in government, EVERY form of government ceases to operate as designed.

  • ||

    So, yes, FDR didn't create the Depression alone; Hoover bears some responsibility too, but the difference Hoover is already blamed for it while FDR isn't blamed for his part.



    Yes, but of course, the blame Hoover gets for the Depression is based on some notion that he was some grand disciple of laissez-faire economics, when in fact he had earned the nickname The Great Engineer some years before. And it wasn't because he had made his pile as a mining engineer as a young man.

    Until the meltdown following the Crash Hoover was regarded the man who could fix anything. His relief organizing efforts in Europe had saved thousands of people from starvation. By the twenties he was viewed as some kind of god. His fall was quiet a far one.

  • Some Lib||

    I think you're really misreading these statements and seeing side benefits as the main goals.

    "He says this plan 'will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, decrease our dependence on foreign oil and create jobs that can't be outsourced.'"

    To me, I've always heard that as meaning that energy-production jobs cannot be outsourced. I believe with outsourcing one of the boogiemen in any election year, Obama is emphasizing that the jobs created through this method will be "safe" for Americans rather than stating his intended goal is to only create inexportable jobs.

  • Richard Stands||

    "if we had true socialism with the right people in charge, a pure socialist economy free of the influences of plutocrats would run rings around our so called 'free market' economy.

    "Insert ANY form of government in for socialism and you'd still be correct. EVERY form of government, in it's purest sense, works just fine."



    This is why "government is best which governs least". It's a real Paine that there are no gods striding the land to "fix" our economy (Mr. Obama included). That would certainly be an easier and more comfortable answer if one is looking for a solution requiring no personal buy-in.

    But the only solutions which are practical, ethical (and Constitutional, by the way) require freedom, participation, and personal responsibility.

  • Richard Stands||

    I hate it when a perfectly adequate pun turns out to be incorrect. It's a Paine to have to Thoreau it out, but "The best government is that which governs least," is most probably be correctly attributed to The United States Magazine and Democratic Review

  • Gilbert Martin||

    "To me, I've always heard that as meaning that energy-production jobs cannot be outsourced"

    Really?

    They don't make ethanol in Brazil?

    No company outside of the United States makes solar panels or windmill components?

  • ||

    Ummm... the writer of this article missed one special point - if capitalism does not continually grow, then it dies. If new products and services are not invented, then it dies. If we do not create new jobs, for the reason of "lowering carbon emissions," then we are to remain stagnant in the late 90s - and die.

    America invented electricity - and we prospered for a while.
    America invented the mass produced car - and we prospered for a while.
    America invented appliances - and we prospered for a while.
    America invented computers - and we prospered for a long time.

    However, we are at the point where everything we invented can now be produced cheaper - and in some cases better - than is possible in America. If we are to create new jobs we must create new technologies. If we don't, we die.

  • ||

    Lefiti,
    Also, if we had true socialism with the right people in charge, a pure socialist economy free of the influences of plutocrats would run rings around our so called 'free market' economy.

    Well, that is the issue, isn't it? Who's supposed to be "the right people"? Angels? Omniscient beings? Because that is what it takes at least to be able to emulate what the market (the network of individual decisions taken by all of us) does.

    BTW nobody can be in charge of the market. This is why plutocrats are not really "in charge" as much as being parasites of the market and the productivity of others (and in "others" I also include entrepreneurs and investors.)

  • ||

    Lefiti,
    Just wanted to let all [...] know that I've converted to Christianity!


    Why would you do that?

  • ||


    I mean, it's at least possible that the government takes capital from someone who was going to spend it on something that was less productive than what the government ultimately put the money into, right?


    There is no way for you to know a priori the productivity of a private investment because you would have to know that private entity's opportunity costs.

    If your answer is no, then why not (that is, why is it not even possible?).

    The government is not populated by omniscient beings, which means they have no way to judge how productive or unproductive an investment is going to be when it comes to justifying stealing the private entity's capital. This is why government bureaucrats don't even bother justifying their thievery.

  • Sam Grove||

    I mean, it's at least possible that the government takes capital from someone who was going to spend it on something that was less productive than what the government ultimately put the money into, right?

    One of the market's corrective actions is failure.

    Government resists failure, therefore its efforts are not corrected.

  • ||

    Just a couple points.

    In December of 1929, the unemployment rate rose to 9%. By June of 1930, it fell to 6.3%. That is when Smoot-Hawley was passed.
    Hoover raised the top income taxes from 30% to 56%. The Hoover Dam was a massive jobs program.

    Eventhough the government grew bigger in WWII, people lived fairly meagerly. Rationing and shortages were the norm.

    When WWII ended, 60 Million peole were dead and most of the world was devastated. In the late 40's and early 50's, the midwest acounted for half of the world's GDP. By the 70's, because of big government and big unions, the midwest was known as the rustbelt.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    However, we are at the point where everything we invented can now be produced cheaper - and in some cases better - than is possible in America. If we are to create new jobs we must create new technologies. If we don't, we die.


    And what happens when there are no more technologies left to invent?

  • Eddy||

    A politicians understanding of what's wrong with America is a perfect example of what's wrong with America.

  • Jon Hege||

    Well written.

    I've always thought the goal to "create more jobs" was completely asinine. Shouldn't we be trying to create FEWER jobs so we don't have to work anymore? Hell-O!

    In the future, artificial intelligence, robots, nanotechnology, computer automation, etc. will eliminate all physical, repetitive, mindless labor.

  • Burrow Owl||

    Silentz: In addition to GM's answer, keep this thought in mind. Are you more careful when spending your money than you are when you're spending someone else's?

    Yep. And something that I haven't seen mentioned on this thread yet:

    The cost of maintaining (and expanding) the massive bureaucracy involved in the collection and redistribution of that money.

    For those of you with a masochistic streak, I refer you to a related article/discussion over at HuffPo:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-sirota/fox-news-historians-prett_b_153482.html

  • Craig||

    This rosy way of looking at global warming is a variation on the "broken window" fallacy...

    Even worse, it also assumes that the new spending will have a non-minuscule impact on the global climate, an assumption that is at best yet more wishful thinking.

  • Craig||

    The average guy on the street... can think of the New Deal this way:

    1. We had a comparatively limited government
    1.5 The Federal Reserve was created
    2. DuringAfter this we had a horrible economic Depression
    3. The government changed and became much larger and more active
    3.5 Yet more severe recessions were generated by government and Fed policy in the 1970s, the early 1980s, and the early 1990s.
    4. We have not had a comparitvely bad economic Depression since until the one that begain in 2008.
    4.5 Yet more muddled thinking is extending the current Depression and making it much worse than it would have been with less government intervention.

  • Craig||

    And what happens when there are no more technologies left to invent?

    Ask the guy who retired from the US Patent office in 1908, thinking there wasn't anything left to be invented.

  • ||

    My question is where are we going to get these people to do all this infrastructure work? Most of the people that are lossing their jobs are white collar workers that have never had a blister in their lives. I was at career day at a school and one of the tech school instructors was saying how they had to teach people how to climb ladders. Are these the people we want to build our bridges? As an owner of a small company, it is hard to find people that are skilled with their hands. The computer can't solve most of our problems. We need people who can make things and not be looked down because of it. Skill working with your hands and mind is a rare thing today.

  • Justen||

    Well, I'm as skeptical as anybody but I'd like to see exactly how Obama starts implementing these plans before I criticize them too deeply. I think we're all so used to having an idiot in office that we assume the worst possible outcomes of anything Obama wants to do.

    Obama is an intelligent person who surrounds himself with intelligent people, and while the ideology behind these plans is fundamentally flawed they are probably capable of implementing them in ways that are not totally destructive. I am cautiously optimistic that we'll end up with a "significantly less good than possible" outcome here rather than the near-worst case scenario that we have almost always got with the previous administration.

  • AH||

    With all due respect, Mr. Sullum doesn't understand the broken window fallacy.

    Fixing the broken window prevents the money used from contributing to objective improvements. Thus, the point of the analogy is that we shouldn't go around breaking windows just to spend money on fixing them, just as we shouldn't start wars to benefit military contractors.

    Fixing climate change, however, isn't about breaking a window in order to fix it; it's about fixing a window already broken or fighting a war already begun. It's necessary. While engaging in necessary economic "repairs" is less desirable than using the same capital for growth and expansion, it luckily can have the same positive economic effects. If Mr. Sullum thinks fixing global warming can't help the economy, he should recall the economic effects of World War II.

    On another note, improving national infrastructure and incentivizing renewable energy are economically and nationally desirable. While Obama doesn't state the obvious in the quotes Mr. Sullum selected, that infrastructural improvement and energy regulation make sense only to the extent that they create both jobs and economic efficiency, that doesn't give Mr. Sullum leeway to invoke nightmares of millions of bridges to nowhere. That sort of tactic smacks of intellectual dishonesty.

  • ||

    "And what happens when there are no new technologies left to invent."

    Then there is no more need for capitalism, and we will evolve and move onto socialism. But I don't see this happening until jet packs, flying cars, and space elevators are the norm. The sole reason why capitalism is great is because it incentivizes people to invent!

  • nfl jerseys||

    bsgg

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement