Manna from Congress

by Don Boudreaux on June 27, 2018

in Reality Is Not Optional, Work

Politicians who promise “guaranteed jobs” would be comical if they possessed no power to turn their comedy skits into real-world policies.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won a Democratic primary yesterday in New York. If she wins the general election in November she’ll become a member of the United States House of Representatives. According to the Washington Post, among the policies Ms. Ocasio-Cortez favors is “guaranteed jobs.”

How absurd.

There is no shortage of jobs. As long as there are unmet human desires, there are jobs. I myself can guarantee jobs to lots of people: come to my place and thoroughly clean it once a day; give me a full-body massage each morning and each evening; cook for me; follow me around during the day to fetch me coffee, lunch, and whatever else I ask for; paint beautiful pictures for me to hang on my walls; serenade me whenever I request with lovely music; be my chauffeur; be my bodyguard; do my laundry; teach me to speak Italian and Russian; build a summer home for me on Cape Cod; be my personal physician; be my personal tailor; be my personal trainer; be my valet; rub my feet.

These are all jobs, and ones that I’d be delighted to have you perform for me. Unfortunately for you, I won’t pay you to do these things – or I won’t pay you more than a pittance. Are you still interested in landing one of these jobs?

Surely not.

I don’t blame you, for what you really want above all is not the job but the real goods and services that you can purchase for yourself and your family with the income you earn by performing a job.

So when people support “guaranteed jobs” what they really support is a guaranteed ability, for anyone who goes through the motions of performing a job, to purchase some minimum amount of real goods and services.

But while politicians can believe themselves – when they promise “guaranteed jobs” – to be able to guarantee the ability to purchase some minimum amount of goods and services to everyone who goes through the motions of performing jobs, they cannot do so. Reality is not optional.

Political promises do not create real goods and services. Nor are many worthwhile real goods and services produced simply by government policies that put people to work for which they are paid money taken from taxpayers or spit out by a printing press.

A politician promising “guaranteed jobs” with the implication of “guaranteed minimum incomes” is as simple-minded and as bogus as is a magician promising that he can make manna rain down from the heavens. Gullible audiences might fall for such childish promises, and the politician and magician themselves might come to believe that they possess the power to work such miracles. But, of course, none of it is true.

Believe in miracles all you like. They don’t happen. Reality is not optional.

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