Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Jobs are really two things - they're how businesses get things done that require actual people to do them; and they're how people support themselves. One of the enduring issues that we have with jobs is that we're long past the point where we can produce all of the goods and services that we need, and likely all of the ones that we want, without actually requiring all of our available workforce to produce them. (We're also long past the point where one can go back to the farm to create a living.) This produces a surplus labor force. Now, that labor force can be deployed to create new technologies or otherwise aid in production of valuable goods and services, or it can be abandoned in the name of efficiency and cost savings.

Right now, a larger percentage of the population that many are comfortable with has been relegated to their surplus labor force, and as a result, they lack the ability to support themselves. Politicians, sensitive to popular discontent, are readying the battle lines over how to deal with the problem. Democrats are looking to make it less painful by allowing the government to step in and make payments to those who are unemployed. They are, in effect, seeking to buy votes with public money. On the side of the ideological no-man's-land, the Republicans are looking to spur employment by removing the risk to employers through tax benefits to businesses and other drivers of industry. They too, are seeking to buy votes with public money.

Neither approach, it seems to me, gets at the heart of the problem - there are fewer things to be done than there are people who need to do things. Both sides seem to be avoiding dealing with this issue. You could make the point that the Democrats are working an indirect Keynesian angle, seeking to boost aggregate demand by funneling money to people who have little choice but to spend it, but most of the recipients are likely to use the money for things like keeping a roof over their heads, thus their spending will largely end up in the hands of landlords, investors and banks, rather than going towards new goods and services that would spur more hiring. While the Republicans will always loudly proclaim that is you make enterprises more profitable, they'll hire more people, businesses rarely approach jobs as if they were charity. A business owner who lacks demand for products is unlikely to use a tax break to hire someone to make them anyway - they'll simply bank the money, or dole it out to shareholders.

I don't know a sure-fire way to push things along - otherwise I'd be rich enough that I wouldn't need to type my own blog posts. >Smirk.< But I suspect that what the government could to that might help is to start releasing new technologies into the public sector. I have no idea what the government has in it's research and development labs, but I'd guess that some of it could spark a resurgence in investment, leading to new companies, and therefore more people needed to do work. But as long as both parties see the function of government mostly as a financial instrument, it's a hypothesis that will go untested.

1 comment:

Sandy Montgomery said...

Read my latest post about 'jobs' or working.