Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Machan’s Archives: The Myth of Job Creation and Security (1996)

Tibor R. Machan

During one of his campaigns for the presidency Bill Clinton was stomping one state with a talk parts of which were aired on National Public Radio, the radio network of record on what pleases the modern liberal establishment. The excerpts were typical. Mostly the pres was taking his lines from that funny little movie, DAVE. In it the fictional president-stand-in, played by Kevin Kline, proclaims that first on his political agenda is the secure a job for everyone in the country.

It is one of these pitches coming from politicians that are truly sick. This is because if there is one promise on which politicians cannot possibly deliver it is the one about providing jobs or job security. No one can give another person job security, not unless someone else is placed into involuntary servitude. That is, to secure a demand for some productive activity in the market place, others must make the free choice to purchase its result. This means that there is no way to guarantee any job for anyone if potential customers are treated as sovereign, free agents. If, however, job security is promised to us, those who make such a promise must give up on treating customers as sovereign, free persons. They have to be treated as slaves to the products that have to be purchased in order to secure the jobs in question.

Consider my job. I was at this time a tenured university professor at a large state university. Only if I committed a crime could I be fired or laid off (unless the entire institution were abolished by the politicians in the state). (Which is to say that even politicians cannot force people to keep paying for something, as the Soviet Union found out.) The only way I could have had job security is by forcing the taxpayers of the state to give up their income for the goals I serve, teaching college level philosophy courses.

I, then, had job security only because the citizens of my state were placed into involuntary servitude for the sake of supplying the productive service of college teaching. I lived off their involuntary service, extracted from them in the form of taxes -- that is, the forcible relinquishing of a portion of their earnings -- each April 15th. The reasons here do not matter -- many think education is so important to produce that people ought to be forced to pay for it, never mind their own choices in the matter. This is one of those places where talk about what "we" want hides the fact that some people may well not want it, so the "we" really is just some of us, while the others are being coerced.

In a relatively free society bits and pieces of such job security may get by, even if they, too, are something of a fraud since, after all, the majority of voters may change their minds, too, and pull the rug from under the tenured professors sometime. This has already happened at some colleges and universities that have abandoned tenure and even reneged on it because the money wasn't there to continue this job security myth. But to promise, as President Clinton did, job security to all workers is rank deception.

No one can deliver jobs or job security to workers in the private sector. A company would be lying if it made such a commitment. How are they going to keep their customers coming back for their product -- at the point of a gun? That is exactly what would be needed to deliver on that kind of a promise. And even then the enforcers may go on strike! Eventually the country can collapse from lack of personal initiative. So the promise is phony in any kind of society. Mostly it is phony in one that pretends to some measure of citizen -- including consumer -- sovereignty.

Wishful thinking has won many elections and, no doubt, without some alternative and realistic vision to take its place, this fraudulent ideal of jobs and job security will once again gain Democrats sizable support in American electoral politics. But the ideal itself is corrupt and that means we will pay for pursuing it -- or rather our children will when stagnation sets in as it inevitably must from attempts to institute forced labor in a society.

No comments: