By John McClaughry
The climate change crowd, and David Zuckerman’s advertising, enthusiastically predict that their Green New Deal will produce thousands of well-paying jobs for Vermonters.
Businessman Andy Kessler, writing last week in the Wall Street Journal (10/26/20), throws a bucket of cold water on that belief. He writes:
Most green jobs are not productive jobs. They’re public-works projects — litter jobs — that raise the price of energy. …Jobs for jobs’ sake never works. If we put aside productivity we might as well have an economy of hand-washing each other’s laundry. Or digging canals with spoons. But washing machines and backhoes are more productive, with fewer people. Adding insulation is not productive. It only vaporizes resources created by those who are productive.
You can’t fabricate productive jobs by government edict. Sustainable jobs are created by solving problems, applying both financial and human capital to improve current ways of doing things. The tip-off that it’s working? The solution gets cheaper over time.
The huge opportunity in today’s economy is to lower the cost of more complex services by getting pesky humans out of the way. Wait — put humans out of work? Oh, the horror! But better jobs always, always emerge. Decades of technology-driven job destruction led to a 50-year-low 3.5% unemployment rate, before Covid.
That makes sense to me. Insulating homes and installing Chinese-made solar panels are jobs, all right, but really not the kind of higher-wage jobs we want a vigorous economy to produce.
John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute. Reprinted with permission from the Ethan Allen Institute Blog.