September 20, 2011
Johannesburg, South Africa
Earlier this month, some economic luminaries in the United States Congress introduced a new bill, H.R. 2835. The bill intends to “establish a joint select committee of Congress to report findings and propose legislation to restore the Nation’s workforce to full employment…”
Great idea, fellas. After failing to ignore your way out of recession, spend your way out of recession, lie your way out of recession, and print your way out of recession, you now intend to legislate your way out of recession.
This bill exemplifies how completely clueless the leadership is, and highlights the common demeanor of the political class. By definition, people are in government because they believe that government is the solution, not the problem.
Legislating your way to full employment is as fantastical as prancing unicorns and the Tooth Fairy. It’s impossible. The only employment created by legislation are government jobs to staff all those new agencies and bureaus. And naturally, those jobs must come with some task, some responsibility.
With each new job is created an additional burden upon the taxpayer, and an additional bureaucratic hurdle for the productive class. From opening a bank account to going to see the doctor, things that used to be simple are now fraught with paperwork and regulation, just so some government worker somewhere has something to do.
Here in South Africa is an absolutely mind-numbing example of this mentality. A few years ago, the city of Cape Town installed digital parking meters– the high-tech kind where you could pay the parking toll on your mobile phone through an SMS… or the good ole’ fashioned way with coins should you so choose.
Then some politician decided they needed to create more jobs. So the city hired a bunch of workers to go through town ripping out the digital parking meters. In their place, the local government hired a small army of curbside parking attendants– human beings to replace the machines.
If you think this was a triumph of humanity over profit, then I have a modest proposal… let’s turn the clock back across all industries. We can build roads with hand-laid stone, dig canals with shovels, and hire legions of street sweepers armed with bristled brooms to keep our cities clean. Just think of all the jobs we’ll create!
Fact is, these sorts of moves are wastefully inefficient, and I shudder to think of what insane ideas would come out of the ‘jobs super-committee’ proposed in this new House bill.
Governments don’t create value, they destroy value. And the only way for more jobs to be created and money to start flowing again is for the market to perform its function matching willing buyers and sellers, producers and consumers.
The uncomfortable truth about the global economy is that the old way of doing things is gone forever. Monetary stability, social cohesion, political credibility, traditional career paths, investment assumptions… these are all changing. The game is being reset and the new rules are being rewritten.
The future is about creating value: what problem can you solve that’s so important to someone else that he/she would be willing to pay you for it, or trade for something that you value?
Everybody’s good at something. Hell, everybody’s usually good at a lot of things… from designing websites to cutting grass. “You have an overgrown lawn? I have a lawnmower. Let’s make a deal.” The greater the problem, and/or the more people it affects, the greater the reward.
None of this requires any government involvement; it simply requires a motivated individual to get out there in the world, figure out what needs to be done, and kick ass to make things happen.