Thoughts on Job Creation and Destruction

by Roger Bourke White Jr., copyright Sep 2011


"If you don't want someone doing a particular commercial activity in your community don't pay them to do it." -- Roger White

I just had this epiphany as to how simple this business of job creation and destruction is.

What brought this to mind was begging. I dislike seeing panhandlers on street corners and outside parking lots. I dislike it and I don't pay to see it happen, but many other people enjoy it enough that they are willing to pay for it. They pay enough that the beggars come back regularly. Where people will pay them beggars will show up. They are not dummies. They work on their marketing and they measure their successes and failures.

But as I thought more about this, I realized this had relevance for a much wider spectrum of human activity, it applies, in fact, to all kinds of commercial activity. If you don't want someone running a business in a particular location, don't pay them to run it there.

If you don't want someone running a polluting business, don't pay for their product. If you don't want someone running a sex slave trade, don't pay for their product.

It's pretty simple.

It gets complicated, meaning the law gets involved, in two circumstances:

First, when there is disagreement within the community over whether an activity is good for the community or not -- sometimes one group of people think an activity is abhorrent, but a lot of other people are willing to pay for it. (Sometimes this second group also includes first group people when night-time comes.)

The second circumstance is when people don't think through the consequences of their actions and as a result become hypocrites. (Note that this is different than the night-time people above.)

Classic examples of the first circumstance are the alcohol, drug and sex trades. More contemporary examples are polluting industries and NIMBY projects. An example of the second circumstance are when a person is waiting at the freeway on-ramp and says, "Oh, I hate seeing all these beggars washing windshields!" and then hands a dollar to the guy when he comes by and gives the windshield a sloppy once-over. That is pure, unthinking, hypocrisy.

Another second circumstance example is long-term welfare. People on long-term programs are being paid to be poor. But the people paying and saying, "Oh... those poor souls. There but for the grace of god go I." don't see that. They don't see that in the eyes of the recipients welfare receiving is a gainful activity. The givers don't see themselves as hypocrites, but they are hypocrites. They are hypocrites because they don't bother to see the full consequences of their actions.

A surprising example of this "If you don't want an activity in your community, don't pay for it." truism is the Midwest Disease.

In America from the 1850's through the 1950's the country moved west but the heart of population and wealth remained in the Midwest and Northeast. But in the 1960's things started to change and for the last fifty years the Midwest and Northeast have been steadily losing wealth as well as population to the South, the West, and the developing world. In the 1970's the Midwest's nickname was transformed from "The Steel Belt" into "The Rust Belt", and the decline has still not stopped. It's been sad to watch. I grew up in Cleveland in the 1950's and early 60's, in the heart of the Steel Belt.

The heart of the transformation was jobs. And the heart of the jobs issue was my truism: The people of the Midwest and Northeast did not want to pay for more jobs. If you listen to the rhetoric coming from politicians and labor leaders of the Midwest, they have self-declared for five decades that they wanted to pay for better jobs, not more jobs. And to this day few have recognized the consequences of that choice. Those that do recognize the consequences leave. They get and make jobs elsewhere, these days most famously in Texas and China.

But the Midwesterners who stayed got what they wanted... until the world markets changed and the better jobs disappeared because they were obsolete. The people of the Midwest were, and still are, hypocrites of the sad kind: ignorant hypocrites.

So that is my latest Roger Saying, and I find it surprisingly widely applicable.


If you don't want someone doing a particular commercial activity in your community don't pay them to do it.

-- The End --