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“Make-Work” Makes Poverty

Here’s my most-recent column in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.  In it, I expand on the idea that people want, not opportunities to toil, but opportunities to earn income for themselves — and that, in a prosperous economy, nearly all such opportunities entail producing value for others.

I close my column this way:

Substituting “value-producing opportunity” [for “job”] would also help expose the flaws in policies such as protectionism and government make-work programs. Such policies can indeed transfer wealth from society at large to people whose jobs exist only because government relieves them of the need to participate fairly in the market process. But such “jobs” clearly are not “value-producing opportunities” — for the amount of value that such workers produce is less than they are paid.

And no society can long survive by institutionalizing such unproductive policies on a widespread scale.