Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Useless Jobs

I have to confess that until today, I didn't really grasp the breadth and depth of the abyss that Obama has opened at our feet.

Of course I understood, in my fuzzyheaded, genial way, that he was shepherding us into a new Gulag. And I had no reason to doubt the experts who claim that spending isn't actually stimulus and jobs aren't actually work.

But it's only after reading a new column by Ben Shapiro -- who looks as though he's about 12, but would be wise beyond his years even if he were as old as Steve Simels -- that I've come to realize how desperate things have gotten:

The public relations backbone of this bill -- government spending on our nations crumbling infrastructure -- is misguided. While the countrys infrastructure may need revamping, this sort of spending will not stimulate the economy. It will not create the kind of jobs Americans need.
The thing is, see, these jobs do nothing more than build infrastructure, while paying wages that can be exchanged for good and services. Real jobs are entirely different:
The goal of a thriving economy isnt full employment -- its raising the standard of living. Employment rate means nothing if the jobs it measures do not create wealth for the economy.
You're not getting this, are you? Let's see if we can dumb it down a little:
Heres the magic of private sector jobs. Imagine Bill owns a fruit stand. He sells his fruit for $2 per pound. Herman sees that Bill is doing well, and decides to open a fruit stand of his own. He figures he can undercut Bill and live on less of a profit margin, so he sells his fruit at $1 per pound. Pretty soon, Herman runs Bill out of business. Its tough for Bill. But meanwhile, customers are spending $1 less for their fruit than they were. Theyre spending that extra money at Bobs clothing store, keeping Bob employed -- and Bob can now hire Bill.
This is simple, rational, and just, precisely as God intended it to be. By contrast, here's what happens when the government "hires" people to "build" "necessary" "infrastructure," as Stalin did when he squandered the lives of thousands of laborers to complete the Belomorkanal:
Imagine Cool Hand Luke works for the government as a menial laborer. He builds roads in New York. People dont choose to pay Cool Hand Luke -- the government forces them to pay his salary. Now, certain people in New York may benefit from the new road. But they would rather have spent their cash on a new car, or a new computer, or a new business. And the people who live in California, who are also paying Cool Hand Luke, get nothing for their money. Their quality of life is not improved one iota.
To be fair, it's not obvious that New Yorkers would rather pay for cars than roads, or that Californians don't benefit from well maintained roads when they visit New York for business or pleasure, or when their friends and family and business associates travel on them in relative safety. Nor is it obvious that no one in California ever benefits from the spending decisions of Cool Hand Luke, Cotton-Eyed Joe, 'Flicted Arm Pete, Whistling Rufus, Poke Salad Annie, and the rest of the "menials" who get paid to loiter beside the Empire State's highways.

But apart from these minor details, Shapiro's anecdote gets at the throbbing black heart of the problem, and makes us realize how much better things would be if we sold the roads in New York to the government of Saudi Arabia, which could hire Bill and Bob as independent contractors once Bob's clothing store is driven out of business by Walmart, whose low prices are subsidized with their tax dollars.

And besides, the best and the brightest Americans don't even want government jobs:
[O]ur politicians think they can appease us by offering us useless jobs. They think investment bankers will be happy to staff the bureaucracy at the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Think for a moment of the sheer wastefulness of forcing our unemployed investment bankers to tend to the squalid affairs of these drunken aboriginal ingrates, instead of letting them blaze new trails in the science of mortgage securitization. And then thank your lucky stars that unlike Barack Hussein Obama, you understand the difference between having a job, and having a life:
Obama might prevent rising unemployment. After all, so did President Jimmy Carter. But hell do so at the cost of private sector employment. Americans will pay the price in standard of living -- but at least they can say they have a job, no matter how useless.
It's even more chilling when you realize that some of them may actually delude themselves into thinking that it beats the alternative.

Meanwhile, those of you who are looking for the kind of work that actually advances civilization may want to get in on the ground floor of PJTV.

(Photo: Prisoner labor at construction of Belomorkanal, 1932.)

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