“Job Creation” Is Easy…And Sort Of Misses the Point

Nathaniel’s recent post on minimum wage touches on a couple of important–if not overlooked–points about the “job creation” debate: (1) innovation vs. job preservation and, implicitly, (2) wealth vs. jobs. If the goal is to create jobs for the sake of creating jobs, then the task is pretty straightforward.

As economist Steven Horwitz says above, “I would argue that creating jobs is easy; it’s the creation of wealth that’s hard.” The creation of wealth is intrinsically linked with innovation and the “creative destruction” it brings about. Even though many have partaken of what Scott Winship of the Brookings Institution calls “technophobia” (remember Jesse Jackson Jr.’s claim that the iPad was “eliminating thousands of American jobs” or the President’s concern that the ATM represented a “structural issue” in the American economy?), the fear is unjustified.

Arguing against technological progress because it “destroy jobs” ignores the mass benefits that will follow, including the rise in absolute standards of living. “In a free-market economy,” explains historian Thomas E. Woods,

businesses invest the vast bulk of their profits in capital goods that make labor more productive…[Different] kinds of machinery can multiply the efficiency of a single worker many times over, sometimes by orders of magnitude…This is how wealth is created: we can produce more with the same (or a lesser) amount of labor…As a result of capital investment, firms can now produce many, many times more goods than before, and at considerably lower cost. Thanks to the pressures of market competition, firms pass on these cost cuts to consumers in the form of lower prices, better quality merchandise, or a combination of both. The ordinary person’s standard of living increases…because business firms can invest in machinery that makes it possible for more and more goods to be produced with fewer and fewer hands, thereby increasing the overall amount of material goods available and rendering them less and less expensive.

A higher minimum wage will not help raise the poor out of poverty. It will simply eliminate jobs for low-wage workers (i.e. high school education and less).

But couldn’t one argue that technological advances eliminate low-wage jobs? Sure. But the difference is that minimum wage laws provide only a slight financial bump for some low-wage workers, while keeping others in the unemployment line. Innovation creates new jobs for low-wage workers, while raising the absolute standards of living for everyone (including the poor). When given these options, I would hope the choice is obvious.

Go Ahead and Raise Those Expectations, Ladies

2013-07-31 Dating

Melissa Langsam Braunstein thinks it’s time for ladies to raise their dating expectations. I agree. (Then again, I haven’t been on the dating scene for about a decade, so maybe that’s easy for me to say). The gist of Braunstein’s argument is that the hookup culture isn’t really giving (most) women what they want. For political reasons some feminists may disagree (acknowledging any difference between the sexes at all is bound to get you in trouble with at least one angry feminist somewhere), but I think this is by now sort of obvious for people without an ideological hill to defend.

What struck me as interesting, however, was her observation that when she went ahead and announced that she expected to be courted (to use an old phrase), she got results. She writes:

And the more I communicated that I expected to be treated like a lady, the more I found men eagerly rose to the occasion.

I’m going to go ahead and be stereotypical and say that Braunstein is on to something. Men like to accomplish things, but in a world that has thrown away the rules for courtship it’s increasingly hard for men to know what to accomplish. And the result is that too many quit trying.

Look, I’m not saying that women have an obligation to rescue men from the prison of their own low-expectations. Just that a little direction can be helpful, and that the more clear and widespread expectations for men are the more of them that will take it as an opportunity to rise to the occasion.


Martin and Zimmerman: Complications to the Racial Narrative

2013-07-16 Zimmerman

From TheGatewayPundit:

The media has tried to serve up an image of Zimmerman as a racist and wannabe cop who had some sort of close relationship with the police department. Now flashback to 2010, the video posted below shows an incident in which a drunk adolescent son of a Sanford police official attacked a homeless black man named Sherman Ware without provocation.

The Sanford police were sweeping the crime under the rug and very little was done about the incident. Ironically, the NAACP did nothing as well, but it was Zimmerman and his wife who started a “Justice for Sherman Ware” campaign. It was Zimmerman who succeeded in organizing the black community to get results and justice for Sherman Ware. 

You can watch the video of the incident below. It’s 5 minutes long, but the assault on the homeless man takes place in the first few seconds. 

Read moreMartin and Zimmerman: Complications to the Racial Narrative

Compassion vs. Codependency

2013-07-08 Faith on the Couch

The adversarial tone religion vs. atheism comparison is a detriment in this Patheos blog post, and I’m not convinced that “co-dependency” is the right term, but there’s still an insight here worth sharing:

Compassion is intentional and, sometimes, it is hard.  Co-dependency is simply an unsophisticated, primal urge that employs pity as a means of self-preservation.

At a minimum, it’s another perspective on an argument that often separates heartless conservatives from bleeding-heart liberals.

Letting Sikhs Serve Their Country

2013-07-08 Sikhs in Military

That’s Maj. Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi, who had to convince the US military to create an individual exception to be allowed to serve while maintaining his Sikh religious practices, which include never cutting or shaving his hair or beard. Something I didn’t realize is the US military’s rules that ban observant Sikhs are only a few decades old.

I’m biased, I suppose, because I find Sikhism absolutely fascinating. I love their proud heritage, egalitarian views, and military history. I think the US would be a better place if Sikhs were allowed to serve openly in our armed forces, and I also agree with Kalsi’s observation in the New York Times:

The more Sikhs wear military, police or firefighter uniforms, Major Kalsi reasoned, the less often Americans will see them as threatening outsiders. “When you see a Sikh firefighter save your daughter, you’ll think, ‘That’s a member of my community,’ ” said Major Kalsi, a 36-year-old father of two.

So it’s good for everyone. I hope the military creates a blanket exception for all observant Sikhs, so that they don’t have to fight the lonely, uphill battle for individual exceptions–exceptions that are often not granted.

Nirvana, Soundgarden, and then US Special Forces

2013-07-03 Jason Everman

The New York Times has a long and fascinating article about Jason Everman, who played for and was then kicked out of first Nirvana and then Soundgarden, each time just before the bands really hit stardom. How do you recover from that fortune-whiplash? You join the army, become a ranger, and then join the special forces, apparently. Article doesn’t strike me as particularly insightful or impressive, but the story alone makes it worth the read.

The Problem with High Tuition and Student Loans

Take a look at the chart, folks.

2013-07-02 Student Loans

It’s an old chart from a Marginal Revolution post back in 2011, but WalkerW (who comments here at DR) just showed it to me the other day. And I mean, come on. We’ve got less comp sci grads, but we’re doubling down on Visual and Performing Arts, Psychology, and Communications & Journalism? Who are these people, and what do they think college is for? The idea of a liberal arts education–that you go spend four years living the life of the mind–is quaintly romantic I suppose, but it’s also (in no particular order):

  1. Dangerous
  2. Elitist
  3. Deceptive

Read moreThe Problem with High Tuition and Student Loans

The Societal Benefits of Monogamy

2013-07-01 Marriage

In a long-running discussion about same-sex marriage, one of the participants asked a simple question. It was (paraphrasing): What’s so great about monogamy, anyway? The answer, in part, is that:

…imposing monogamous marriage reduces male reproductive competition and suppresses intra-sexual competition, which shrinks the size of the pool of low-status, risk-oriented, unmarried men. These effects result in (i) lower rates of crime, personal abuse, intra-household conflict and fertility, and (ii) greater parental investment (especially male), economic productivity (gross domestic product (GDP) per capita) and female equality.

That’s the conclusion from an academic study summarized by Rob Brooks at The Conversation.

Another interesting thought–not fully developed in the article–is that the prevalence of polygynous cultures combined with their relatively dismal track record implies that monogamy is a social innovation that doesn’t emerge directly from human nature. In other words, men by nature want lots of sexual partners and so most societies try that out. Those societies that actually try monogamy, however, found that although it runs counter to the biological aspirations of men it’s actually a better arrangement for everyone.