Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Can Government Create a Job?

My wife came home from a recent event where the question was asked, "Is it goverment's role to create jobs?". Some version of this question is tumbling around in the political discussion almost daily with the fall campaigns if full swing. Here are some of my thoughts on the topic.

In my view, governments role is to reward righteousness and to punish evil. This of course begs the question, "What is righteousness and evil?" I, personally, turn to the bible and the Judeo Christian traditions for my definititions. Righteousness would be those things that indicate an acceptance and appreciation of the God of creation who has taught us through scripture, example and history what things are pleasing to Him. God's character becomes the ultimate gold standard against which right and wrong are measured.

Evil then becomes all those things that indicate a rejection of these standards and a rebellion against the One who established them. The Ten Commandments come to mind as a clear set of standards that reflect God's character. Let it be said clearly that I stumble and fall across these things repeatedly. When I do, I have done something evil. The laws of our government tend to reflect an understanding of these truths and at some point rise up to punish us. The government and laws in a Muslim/Hindu/Communist/etc. nation will reflect a different understanding of rightousness and evil.

Now, having said all this, I have opened up any number of possibly controversial topics. Which church's opinion of biblical interpretation shall the government use? What about national defense? How is the size of a reward or punishment to be determined? Should the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings and courthouses? The list is quite long and I am not suggesting to answer any of these questions. I only wish to point out my understanding of the "role of government".

The second observation in this question hangs on the idea of "creating jobs". I am very much attracted to the word "create". I believe God created humans in His image. He also created the heavens and the earth and everything in them. Creating is a God image thing. It is part of His nature/character. It is what He does. So "creating " is a very good thing. Creating jobs, works of art, houses, cars, food are all fundamentally good.

In my experience, I create a job when I discover some creative activity that produces a profit. Profit is not a bad thing in my understanding. It is a reflection of society saying, "What you have created is worth more to us now than it was before you got involved." When society approves of what I have created in a way that allows me to profit my response is to create more. At some point, I am making enough that I have to hire people to help. So my creative effort didn't employ just me but others as well. This is how a job is created.

I don't see government "creating" things. I see govenment rewarding and punishing. Rewarding in the form of subsidies, tax incentives, and non-regulation or punishing with taxes, regulation, and outright making things illegal. An interesting dynamic is that for government to reward one person with money, government must take (punish) that money from someone else by way of taxes, fees, or whatever. And what happens to government's ability to reward job creation when the taking of that reward money destroys jobs faster than they are created.

Is it government's role to create jobs? I guess I would have to say "no". Creativity is inherently a human experience and therefore job creation is the result of human expression. Government can reward or punish the creator of jobs but I don't see how government "creates" a job.

These are just some thoughts I have. Thank you for thinking with me.

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