The Freeman: saving jobs means saving progress

Today we have a translation from The Freeman magazine for you again. Professor at St. Lawrence University, Steven Horwitz, points out in an article what a mistake politicians make when trying to "protect jobs." Enjoy it!

Source: The Freeman
Source: The Freeman

One of the most pernicious delusions in popular economic debates is that we should pursue a policy that "protects jobs". In the past, such language was used mainly by those who had special individual interests in various sectors (such as various associations that called for import quotas for cars, as imported cars became increasingly popular), today it is part of the defense of counterproductive " stimulus programs ”to the Obama administration. "Retained or created job" becomes a standard sign of success of any economic program.

With so many mistakes, I really don't know where to really start.

Let's start by stating the obvious fact: Creating a job is easy, there is nothing to be proud of. However, the way to prosperity is in reality destruction of jobs.

Let's explain an example I've used before: An easy way to create jobs on a large construction site is to put away the machines that are digging the foundations for the construction and handing out shovels to the employees. Or better yet - a spoon! It really does a lot jobs. But where does progress go? The price for using more workers than for the job actually we need them to make progress. Isn't it better to use machines and release all those people with shovels and spoons to create something further useful for society? Taken by the same logic, we can create really a lot work that we will destroy all agricultural machinery. Sure, but it seems to me then somehow we will not be richer.

The rhetoric of "saving jobs" is as misleading as the attempt to "create jobs". We want to make jobs disappear - so we define progress! Let's look at all the jobs that were not saved during the 20th century. In 1900, about 40% of all employees in the United States worked in agriculture. Today it is less than 2 percent. Is it really wrong that we did not save all these jobs? Let's look at a picture from 1947:

1947 - telephone operators. Source: The Freeman
1947 - telephone operators. Source: The Freeman

63 years later they are telephone operators near extinction. Agriculture, telephone operators - has the loss of these jobs caused tremendous unemployment? Hardly. In fact, the six decades since the picture was taken have been a period of steady employment growth and a large percentage increase in women's incomes.

Of course, you can argue that if we develop substitutes, such as digital switches or cell phones, to replace operators, where will a new job come from for them? The answer is really simple - after all, someone has to make those new technologies. But that's not all - another fact is that new technologies will open up new possibilities for us. Yes, we have lost many telephone operators, we have replaced their jobs with work in the production of new products, but at the same time, we have created many new jobssuch as these:

New technologies, new opportunities. Source: The Freeman
New technologies, new opportunities. Source: The Freeman

Mobile phones need applications, they have to be written by someone. Mobile phones at the same time, they provide companies with new ways to contact the customer. Someone has to program and implement that software a create a design web-sites, no matter that someone has to control this process. So what we really gain from job losses are not only the new technologies, but also lots of other opportunities that those technologies open up.

Women who used to work as telephone operators are now more educated, so they do today more interesting and productive work, they take it higher salary, so the result is much greater independence. And in the meantime, all of us are enjoying the proceeds from all the new technologies that have destroyed those old jobs. My unlimited data plan for $ 30 a month in 2010 could really cover only a small portion of long distance calls made by those operators in 1947.

The rhetoric of "saving jobs" leads to we will never move from telephone operators to software developers. It means that we will never move away from digital telephones with minute bills representing many valuable hours of work toward the Internet, which is de facto at everyone's fingertips for the equivalent of about two hours of our work per month, and to mobile phones that don't really cost anything in the end.

"Saving jobs" means that you would rather be enslaved in manufactories in the hot sun and in the brutal cold for 12 or 14 hours a day just to feed your own family and buy a few necessities - instead of working with much better working conditions, za better salaryWith better working hours, a job that allows many Americans to pay other people to cook and serve them several times a week.

"Saving jobs" means not exploit the potential of human creativity. The healthiest economies are those that are constantly destroying jobs by developing new and better ways to ensure human existence with less and less labor, while freeing others to fulfill new, hitherto unimagined dreams through their work.

Whenever you hear politicians talking about the jobs they saved, just remember your ancestors digging in the country, or a room full of women spending their time putting wires in holes, and think about how much we're up to. better thanks to that no one saved their work.

Source: The Freeman, Saving Jobs Means Saving Us from Prosperity, authored by Professor Steven Horwitz


  1. Tondo, of course, but the author spoke of the situation in the United States, where places are being saved by making it difficult to resign, building hunger walls and putting obstacles in the way of progress. That is, not by reducing the price of the labor force, but by reducing the flexibility of the labor market.

  2. This article seems pointless to me. The aim of the government's support for job creation is not to give work to everyone under all conditions, even if we do not eat because of it, but rather to create conditions for those jobs to stay here and not be moved elsewhere, to cheaper regions.

    The government is not trying to create jobs at the expense of efficiency, but rather is trying to keep those that are already here, but could be somewhere else, which must be prevented by simply reducing the price of the workforce with some incentive. Of course, it must not go so far that the incentive (tax rebate, etc.) costs us more than how much the place ever earns, but we must also take into account the fact that an unemployed person will be a burden to the state due to support and, moreover, who gets used to regular work will hardly ever return to it, resp. He loses all of his motivation to seek or create work in the future.

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