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Build that Dam Using Only Spoons!

Here’s a letter that I sent today to the Boston Globe.  In it, I try (however feebly) to undermine the absurd notion that the economic worth of any project is measured by the number of jobs required to complete it.

Dear Editor:

Derrick Z. Jackson reasons that among mass transit’s benefits is the fact that, dollar for dollar, its provision requires more workers than do investments in the auto, oil, coal, and gas industries (“The transformation of transportation,” Feb. 24). Mr. Jackson’s reasoning is flawed.

The number of workers required to supply a good or service is not a benefit of that good or service; it’s a cost. Societies become more prosperous only as they succeed in using fewer workers and other inputs to supply any given amount of output. Only then are inputs made available to produce outputs that otherwise could not be produced. If Mr. Jackson were correct that a project’s benefits rise with the number of jobs it creates, then an even better system of public transportation would be rickshaws, for they require one worker for every passenger-ride.

Donald J. Boudreaux


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