Thursday, October 13, 2011

The myth of the jobs stork

By Bob Confer

No doubt, sometime during the Great Recession and its aftermath, inquisitive children have asked their parents, “Where do jobs come from?” It’s something akin to that most uncomfortable of all questions from the young, “Where do babies come from?”

When answering the latter question, most parents make their response age-specific and avoid talk of the birds and bees. Instead, they tell the tall tale of the magical stork delivering infants to the homes of couples who want to be parents.

Of course, the parents know where babies come from. Yet, when it comes to jobs, most of them really don’t know. They haven’t an inkling of what goes into the creation of positive economic activity, that it is spawned by ideas, investment, and risk. Instead, many of them believe in the myth that it’s the government’s responsibility to create jobs, like a Jobs Stork, if you will. They think President Obama can snap his fingers and they’ll have a healthy income and job security. We’ve seen this played out ad nauseam over the past few years with the unemployed and the concerned asking – even begging - that the government do something –anything – to put people back to work, no matter the cost, no matter the domino effect.

This belief in the Jobs Stork is due to a bastardization of economic and governance principles hoist upon us by our hamstrung educational system, the news media and our two-party political system, whereby the basic tenants of free market economics are either ignored or modified for some twisted agenda. It is somehow accepted and promoted that the markets won’t adjust or persevere without Uncle Sam’s helping hand: Look at how easily people bought into the no-strings-attached bailouts of Wall Street (which, ironically, they now regret) or how they cheer when a multinational corporation is baited into their state through millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded grants (fostering an incomprehensible and unjust public investment on a per jobs basis) or how some sectors of the business community grovel to see their sector advanced by government mandates and regulations (i.e. ethanol, wind and solar energy).

The masses have been weaned off the knowledge and practice that the only way the government can “create” jobs is by allowing them to be created solely by the private sector, with no intervention or economic assistance from federal and state governments. The government should never be in the business of creating jobs or determining the winners and losers in the markets through subsidization, unfair advantage, and other wealth-transferring tactics. When it does so, it kills jobs elsewhere and saps worth from productive sectors of the economy. To best incite a rise in the employment rolls the government should do as it was intended: get out of the way, ensure the protection of the rights of Man and foster an environment in which the markets and the individual can freely advance both our society and our economy.

Laissez-faire economic development and the resultant betterment of self and country is a simple concept, one that has been well known throughout America’s long history. We became the most advanced society ever and far and away the strongest and most moral nation on Earth — a shining example of the power of personal wealth and self-determination — by allowing the people themselves to create economic prosperity and the technologies and jobs that come from it.

Naturally, no sentient adult believes that a magical stork delivers babies on doorsteps, so why should we believe that the government will place jobs at our feet? Such a childish, simplistic attitude must be overcome if we are ever to bring the nation out of its devastating recession and the malaise that came with it. Allow the markets and people to flourish on their own…and they will.

Bob Confer is a Gasport resident and vice president of Confer Plastics Inc. in North Tonawanda. E-mail him at


This column originally ran in the 17 October 2011 Greater Niagara Newspapers

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