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Job Creation

Am I the only person who, every time I watch the TV news, winces when something or other the government does or doesn’t do will create or destroy jobs?

Human progress has always been measured by job destruction but that just cannot be said out loud can it? It’s a bit like the libertarian concept of “negative liberty” – it just sounds nasty doesn’t it? Yet neither are… Job destruction is the reason ninety-odd percent of us (in the developed world at least) aren’t grubbing up fields with pointed sticks. It is the reason “horseless carriages” aren’t novelties and we have traffic jams in the streets rather than piles of shit. Pity all the poor tack makers and grooms and stable lads who are now web-designers, derivatives traders and CNC fitters. Any dynamic forward looking economy that is actually going places will resemble the quantum void with jobs being eternally created and destroyed. A useful thought experiment is to try and explain what you do to someone from 1810 (or Prince Charles if you have the misfortune to meet him). I guess some jobs are easier to explain than others and some are indeed eternal but even then if you get into “shop talk” in almost anything you’d be in trouble explaining. This applies as much to the eternal primary industries that have lasted throughout the history of civilization such as mining and agriculture. Those are practically speaking totally different in terms of the skills required these days. A modern farmer might (not in the good ol’ EU!) ponder which GM strain to plant for maximum yield whilst his ancient counterpart would be wondering what to sacrifice to appease the Rain God. In a nutshell that is why I hate Greenism (note the upper case) because whether it be Gaia or the Rain God matters little really.

Don’t get me wrong: job losses are painful but these are growing pains and if, as many do, you oppose them in principle then you have to ask yourself a very simple question, “Do you believe in human progress?” because it’s either to the stars or back to the cave and wondering what those lights in the sky mean. We now know what they mean and they mean nothing and everything.

Jobs are essentially a cost to an economy and in almost any enterprise are the biggest bill. Reducing that bill is a good thing because it enables people to have more and see more and achieve more and surely that is a good thing? It also enables people to work at more interesting things and moreover avoiding progress in order to maintain out-moded jobs as some form of “social good” is ultimately self-defeating because it is the road (or goat-track) to quite simply not being able to compete. The whole slow-motion destruction of the British volume car industry (with some notable foreign owned exceptions) is testimony to the fact you can only buck reality for so long until someone else comes along and hands it to you on a plate and that’s when it really hurts.

12 Comments

  1. Lynne says:

    I don’t think it’s the loss of jobs so much as the damn lies.

    For instant, Shagger Huhne’s promise of 25,000 “green” jobs. What are they and how much is this going to cost us in subsidies?

  2. Lynne says:

    I meant for instance, of course.

  3. NickM says:

    Chris Huhne had his dick bitten off attempting to obtain oral satisfaction from an emperor penguin.

    That’s the measure of the cunt.

    True story.

  4. Kinuachdrach says:

    “Jobs are essentially a cost to an economy …”

    That’s one way to look at it. Another way would be to rephrase that as “Jobs are essential to an economy”.

    The question really is — Which jobs? If we lay off all the car workers and get them other jobs as Equal Opportunity Outreach Coordinators, would the world be a better place? Or a poorer place?

    This lands us smack in the middle of Schumpeter’s Creative Destruction. The Luddites lost their jobs as spinners and weavers, but other workers found jobs making the new machines. It is so easy for history books (and modern media) to focus on those who lost jobs, and ignore those who gained other jobs. The economic driver ought to be making the best use of available human resources, even if the process of getting there from here is painful. When government interference replaces jobs that produce real goods & services with jobs that are merely overhead, society as a whole becomes worse off.

    Not to reopen old wounds on Darwinism, but isn’t it interesting that so many of those who are unhappy about evolution in the modern economy also celebrate natural selection in the fossil record? Of course, these are the same people who gave us things like the Endangered Species Act. Consistency is not one of humanity’s strongest traits!

  5. NickM says:

    Not to reopen old wounds on Darwinism, but isn’t it interesting that so many of those who are unhappy about evolution in the modern economy also celebrate natural selection in the fossil record? Of course, these are the same people who gave us things like the Endangered Species Act. Consistency is not one of humanity’s strongest traits!

    Kinuachdrach, I’m not sure where you are going with that.

    “Jobs are essentially a cost to an economy …”

    I perhaps should have phrased that better. They are essentially a cost to a business and there is no moral virtue in maintaining jobs no longer needed in one enterprise when that talent and industry could be redeployed elsewhere. Indeed because there are always labour costs (yes, even with slavery – slaves don’t buy themselves) ultimately someone else will figure a less labour intensive way and you are then when that becomes so glaringly apparent that not even the most devout Keynesian can deny everyone ends up in the mulligatawny.

    What I was getting at is the jobs for jobs sake argument which must ultimately lead to paying a bloke to dig a hole and another chap to fill it in again ad infinitum. That and the idea as Lynne refs of the jobs issue leading the productivity issue which is a horse/cart malarrangement if ever there was one. Look around you! There are hordes of things that need doing that aren’t done and the fewer people doing what is currently done then… And of course a bit of leisure time is where historically art and science and music and stuff have come from. Oh, and blogging. Shit, I think I lost it there!

  6. Kinuachdrach says:

    NickM: “there is no moral virtue in maintaining jobs no longer needed”

    Absolutely right! Now, when it comes to getting people to move to new jobs, there is opportunity pull and necessity push.

    There seem to be a fair number of historical examples of opportunity pull — people moving to “better” jobs (e.g. country people moving to higher paying jobs in cities), leaving behind a need to mechanize farm work, which in turn created other “better” jobs.

    There are also examples of necessity push (e.g. younger sons of 19th Century British nobility going out to expand the Empire, in part because there was no place for them at home).

    It would be nice to think that opportunity pull would always balance necessity push, but this is the real world; sometimes, it sucks to be us. The worst use of surplus labor is not government make-work digging & refilling holes; it is government overhead, hiring people to write & enforce additional regulations that cripple the creation of new businesses and new industries. Yet government overhead jobs is what the western world now has in spades.

  7. Sam Duncan says:

    These idiot politicians and BBC reporters wouldn’t be happy if someone came round their houses of a holiday weekend and started creating jobs. (“A new programme announced today will create four new jobs in the shelving and lawnmowing sector, with a possible further ten if the proposals for window cleaning are rolled out…”) So why is it so great when the government does it?

  8. Roue le Jour says:

    Nick, your argument assumes that for every hundred job lost, a hundred new ones are created. If that is the case, then the situation is manageable, but if it is not, then we have a real problem.

    Imagine only a third of the labour force need do productive work in order to keep a third on the dole and the third in government employ. Is such a situation sustainable? There are many reasons for thinking it isn’t. The non productive are in the majority, even before you get to pensioners, and thanks to universal suffrage, have the political whip hand. Why would anybody bother to be productive? (I’m talking about truck drivers, shop workers and cleaners here, not merchant bankers.) They will be metaphorically spat on by the government workers and literally roughed up by the dolees.

    And that’s only the domestic situation. Taking the global view, it’s even worse. If our society spends its surplus on supporting unproductive workers, then it will be out competed by less ‘enlightened’ societies that let the surplus workers fend for themselves. Everything they produce will be cheaper, and they will have plenty of money to invest in even greater efficiencies.

    This idea has been kicked around by science fiction writers for decades, and the conclusions are not rosy.

  9. NickM says:

    Roue,
    I’m being optimistic here. greater wealth through fewer people having to do the “essentials” should mean more demand (read cash) for the non-essentials. So you need fewer farmers but that means more games programmers for example. It doesn’t have to be the way you see it. It’s one of the bees in my bonnet. A very simple solution would be greatly simplifying employment law for example. Then if you are a sole trader and it’s going great it’s not a horrendousment to take on a person or two. It is now. Just look around you! Look at how much stuff needs doing or would be cool if it was done or just fun. I wish the place I lived in had a fishmongers. That would be ace and complete the parade of shops. There are empty units but you seen business rates recently? Exactly. We make business very difficult. Just this morning the BBC News had something about the dread perils of “unregulated” car-washes! The horrors! They were referring to those hand jet wash guys. Their business model works like this (South Manchester version as observed by me). Service station goes out of business because everyone is buying petrol at ASDA and a geezer buys it, installs Karcher type stuff and charges a reasonable fee to jet down your motor. Customer gets clean car, car wash blokes get jobs, money is made doing something useful (especially if you are taking the motor up to see your Mum at the weekend!) and a kerching for the revenue and the street has one less empty lot. As a veteran Sim City player I appreciate that one especially but then so do neighbouring businesses. Everyone’s a winner.

  10. Roue le Jour says:

    Nick, I agree with you in principle, it’s no problem to lose saggar maker’s bottom knockers and gain games programmers, that’s progress and hats off to it, but I think the trend is for employment to decrease. Politically we seem stuck in a post war mindset when employment was high, and we seem to have policies based on the assumption that those days will return any year now, or can be brought about with some headline grabbing welfare to work program. They won’t, and we need policies to deal with that reality.

    “A very simple solution would be greatly simplifying employment law for example.”

    Absolutely. Couldn’t agree more. But one of the unspoken tenets of socialism is that citizen shall not employ citizen. Ian B has written on this subject and probably knows more about it than I, but the general principle is that only The State and it’s trusted delegates are allowed to employ people. It’s all about tax. Before you can tax, you have to assess. And that means stopping people turning a dollar informally, because it’s difficult to assess. So you have stuffed poor people’s livelihoods before you’ve collected a single penny.

    Currently the poor are like animals in a zoo. Their confinement is driving them crazy, and us to bankruptcy, but we can’t let them go because their habitat has been destroyed. The only civilised thing to do is recreate their habitat and set them free.

  11. NickM says:

    But why Roue?

    It is the duty of the wealthy man to make work for the artisan.

    (or something like that) GK Chesterton. In a rational society the more people get a few quids under their belts the more they can’t be bothered to mow the lawn and get a contractor in. The bloke who mows the lawn I look after (note, not my lawn, I’m a sort of live-in caretaker) makes a very reasonable living. He also does tree surgery and hedge-cutting. He’s got himself a nice little earner in the leafy lanes of Cheshire. You are right about the underclass zoological gardens. I should start selling tickets. Remember to roll your windows up people – they bite! Is it a fucked mattress out front of the council house Mummy? Oh, I think it is!

  12. Roue le Jour says:

    Why indeed? I’ve reread you post and I’m buggered if I can find the slightest fissure of disagreement to force an argument into. If we don’t want the taxpayer to carry the burden of the poor then indeed we need to get them back to doing something useful for the wealthy(ish) man, but we need to remove some obstacles first, a whole bunch of health and safety rubbish, intrusive taxation and an education system that tells them they don’t need to worry about cleaning drains, we can get Polish PhD’s to do that.

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