Yes, the government can create jobs.

Armed and Dangerous...after tea.

Matt Yglesias touches on a piece of too-often used, and too-often literally taken, rhetoric that I despise:

As everyone knows, conservative politicians hate Keynesian economics and no(sic) that the government can’t create jobs, especially not by spending money. The exception, of course, is spending money on the military where suddenly “defense” spending becomes a critical jobs program.

Of course Yglesias goes on to make a good point for why defense spending can (obviously) create jobs. He mentions that this bifurcating concept is inherently hypocritical, but truly any example of a person that is paid public money to complete specific objectives would do.

I’ve just never fully understood this concept that as a result of the federal government not being a business, it can’t actually “create” a job. Now one might respond with “Yes, but because the government only received the money to pay that person for x service through taxation or borrowing, the government in effect takes one job away from the private sector to create a usually (again, as Yglesias notes, as long as it isn’t defense spending) less efficient job in the public sector. Regardless of the fact that this concept could only happen theoretically (as far as I know) in a world where the private sector would otherwise always create a more economically/socially beneficial and efficient job with the money that is taxed or otherwise not available for them to borrow, this doesn’t strike me as a satisfactory reason to oppose the concept that government can create jobs.

In my notion of an ideal world taxed and borrowed money would be used to pay people to provide economically and socially beneficial services that would not otherwise be provided by the private sector at a cost acceptable to most citizens. Yet if ‘we’ get to that point in a discussion over the relative merits of what a government can provide then we’re really talking about a difference of degree and not kind. Which is to say we’ve already passed the point where we’re not having a silly argument over whether or not the government can create jobs.


2 responses to “Yes, the government can create jobs.

  1. The main ways in which a government may ‘make’ a job are by either hiring government employees and spending taxpayer money on such employees, or by passing pro-business/industry policy that encourages the private sector to hire. I would think that the latter would have a broader effect, with greater jobs being produced and a greater movement of money in our domestic economy.

  2. I generally agree with that, but as I said in the post, at this point we’ve already gotten past whether or not a government can ‘create’ jobs.

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