Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has a great twofer pitch: "green jobs." It sounds like a winner. In one fell swoop he can promise to end unemployment and fix and save the planet from climate change.
Or so he says.
"I'll invest $150 billion over the next decade in affordable, renewable sources of energy -- wind power and solar power and the next generation of biofuels; an investment that will lead to new industries and five million new jobs that pay well and can't ever be outsourced," he told the Democratic National Convention.
Wow. Five million new jobs. All that work building windmills and creating biofuels are the "green jobs" that will come into existence when wise government creates the industries that will produce the energy and vehicles that will make fossil fuels obsolete.
Politicians always promise that their programs will create jobs. It's used to justify building palatial sports stadiums for wealthy team owners. Alaska Rep. Don Young claimed the infamous "bridge to nowhere" would create jobs. The fallacy is the same in every case: Even if the program creates jobs building bridges or windmills, it necessarily prevents other jobs from being created. This is because government spending merely diverts money from private projects to government projects.
Governments create no wealth. They only move it around while taking a cut for their trouble. So any jobs created over here come at the expense of jobs that would have been created over there. Overlooking this fact is known as thebroken-window fallacy. The French economist Frederic Bastiat pointed out that a broken shop window will create work for a glassmaker, but that work comes only at the expense of the cook or tailor the shopkeeper would have patronized if he didn't have to replace the window.
Creating jobs is not difficult for government officials. Pharaohs created thousands of jobs by building pyramids. Our government could create jobs by paying people to dig holes and then fill them up. Would actual wealth be created? Of course not. It would be destroyed. It's like arguing the hurricanes create jobs. After all, the destruction is followed by rebuilding. But does anyone seriously believe that replacing destroyed buildings creates wealth?
Look at Obama's plan. His website says: