Friday, May 29, 2015

Powers of Creation

If, as we're so often told by conservative pundits, think tanks and politicians, "The government can't create jobs," what does one call being a career member of the military? A hobby? Even if you narrow that a bit and say that "The government can't create private sector jobs," you still have tens, if not hundreds of thousands of contractors to contend with. Because the United States spends a lot of time doing, well, stuff, and it needs people to do that stuff.

Where the ideology starts to fray, I think is in the idea that a collective of people won't do anything more than all of the individuals in that group would do. But even if you use this (fairly generous) understanding of the statement "The government can't create jobs," it seems iffy. In my apartment complex, there is a service that, if you buy certain trash bags, will come to your door and take those bags to the dumpster for you every evening. Sure, you could make the point that someone could come to everyone's door and ask if they would like to subscribe, but I suspect that the complex stepping in and setting everything up made it much more likely that it would be worthwhile for someone to do this. Basically, it created some number of jobs that might not otherwise exist. So if an apartment complex management team can create a job by arranging for a service on behalf of its tenants, it seems that a government could create a job by arranging for a service on behalf of its constituents. Sure - the extra costs passed on, to either the tenants or the constituents, could go to something else in the absence of a rent or tax increase. But that money could just as easily have sat under someone's mattress, not doing anything. To the degree that organizations take a certain amount of money from their members and increase the velocity of that money, they can create jobs - because a job is simply the creation of a good or service in exchange for some remuneration, rather than for the producer's personal consumption.

In the end, jobs are "created" by someone wanting a good and/or service and being willing to pay someone to produce same. It's simply an outgrowth of the division of labor that societies devise. The idea that particular groupings of people within a society, simply by virtue of the label attached to what they do, can or cannot "create jobs" doesn't strike me as accurate.

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