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$800 Billion of Broken Windows


It is essential to recognize a distinction between merely working and working to create wealth. A policy goal to create jobs, to put people to work, is a formalization of the old joke about hiring half the people to dig holes and then hiring the other half to fill the holes. Everyone is working a job, but nobody is better off. No wealth was created through shifting dirt.

Vox Day offers another illustration of the distinction. He is considering the fact that recent job losers are 82% male:

Those disappearing male jobs in manufacturing and construction tend to produce wealth. Jobs in education and health care are less sensitive to economic ups and downs for the simple reason that they are de facto government jobs, which produce no wealth. If you get sick and I work very hard to get you back on your feet, nothing new has been produced. We're just back at the status quo we were at before you fell ill. Health care is a great thing, but it is a net wealth consumer, not a wealth producer, as the budget of California should suffice to show. And the panoply of Womyn's Studies and Art History majors, to say nothing of the high school graduates who can't pass a simple history exam, demonstrate the worthlessness of most modern American education.

Nursing someone back to health is adds value. A healthy person is worth more than a sick person (except to the nurse!). But that ignores the loss which created demand for health care. A worker falling sick is essentially the same as a shop window breaking. It creates work for the fixer, but costs the sufferer. Or the sufferer’s insurer, or society at large under socialism. On the whole, wealth is moved into the fixer’s account from some savings account, either directly from the sufferer, or by the sufferer borrowing another’s savings to pay the fixer. No wealth is created.

Vox continues, wondering what a society of non-productive fixers might look like:

But the trend does suggest a plausible answer to the question that John Derbyshire once posed. What follows in the sequence Farm - Factory - Office? Hunter-gatherer! The economic model of women engaged in economically non-productive labor while men sit around and do nothing is not exactly a new one. I believe it's quite popular in Africa, as a matter of fact.

African poverty is the reductio ad absurdum of arguments for government policy aimed at job creation (or job saving) without regard to what that work is worth. If people don’t voluntary choose to pay for item X or service Y, then taking their money to give them X or Y logically leaves them worse off. X or Y wasn’t worth their money. They preferred to spend their wealth on Z, but they can’t get it now, because they were forced to take X.

Multiply that by $800 billion worth of choices and you see that the porkulus plan just sets money on fire. It makes us all poorer, but slowly enough that we don’t notice. And as we slide toward African poverty, our wealth and income become more equal, which is a professed goal of President Tokyo Rose, nearly all the Democrats and too many Republicans.

I don’t want to live in a Euro-style nanny state. And I really don’t want to live in African poverty. But if government is intent on destroying the wealth my work creates (for my own good!) I am left with a choice between rebellion or penury.