Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

On the radio this morning I heard a discussion of the economic effects of environmental regulations. An economist that had studied the matter claimed that in the long run the level of environmental regulation didn't effect employment levels much either way (though it has other sorts of impacts), but of course proponents tout “green jobs” programs and opponents call any public policy that recognizes the environment at all a “job killer”. It's like this with just about every policy discussion today. Every program has to be judged solely on the merit of whether or not it creates jobs.

In our society we must sometimes act in self-interest and sometimes in civic interest. If our leaders focus only on job creation they're only serving a very narrow section of civic interest. And if we only vote on the basis of job creation we're basically voting by self-interest. Self interest isn't always easy to determine, but it's usually a lot easier to determine than civic interest. The “duh” case of voting for something that creates jobs makes it a perfect way for politicians to get a knee-jerk vote.

But, ultimately, it's a pretty big failure of imagination. We're told that we should support “green jobs“ programs because cleaner production “is the future” or something similarly vague. But environmental protection is hardly a natural law — it's only the future if we choose it. Why are we trying to become the leader in green jobs instead of choosing to protect the environment?

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