This essay by John Derbyshire pretty much captures what I’ve been thinking for some time now. (Hat tip: Mark Spahn) The way he talks about life in the 1960s is the way I remember it. There were lots of jobs. It’s also the way my father-in-law talked about it. He was a college professor, and jobs were so plentiful in academia back then that he made a verbal promise to one college to accept their job, then backed out and accepted another’s offer. Today, that would be unthinkable. In fact, it’s been pretty much unthinkable, except maybe for a small elite, for the last forty years.
Jobs were easy to get, then, but what I wanted was something I liked. If I had known how scarce good-paying jobs were going to become, I would have arranged my life much differently.
Does leftism have a solution to this problem? No. The problem that leftism was created to deal with, going back two hundred years to the industrial revolution, was the exploitation of the workers. The result was the left’s big idea: that wealth needs to be distributed justly. Strangely enough, when the Depression hit in the 1930s, when it was perfectly clear that exploitation wasn’t the problem and that the lack of jobs was, people turned to leftism, because it was the only ideology that was opposed to the then current situation. Capitalism had failed, and so leftism in the form of communism stepped in. But during that same decade communists murdered a bunch of other communists in the Soviet Union. Plus, communism didn’t really help the poor very much. Who would want to live in Cuba today, when one could live in America and have all sorts of toys?
This is why I am tired of people whining about the rich not paying their taxes. Even if they did, who wants a gift from the re-distributors when a job is what is wanted? And once one takes this perspective, a lot of other things in one’s value system get changed.
• Progressives always want to know how much money a CEO is making and whether he’s paying his taxes. I want to know how many jobs he’s creating.
• Progressives hate corporations. I rather like them, except when they hire very few people, as some new corporations like Facebook do (and as Mr. Derbyshire points out). According to John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge in their book The Company, “In 1891, the army, navy, and marines employed a total of 39,492 people. The Pennsylvania Railroad employed over 110,000.” [p. 62] Yessssss!!!!!!
• Progressives like to make a big deal out of what they think are the social responsibilities of corporations, while I think their biggest social responsibility is providing lots of people with good jobs.
• Progressives want to regulate corporations to protect their employees, while I want to de-regulate them so they can hire more employees.
Face it, leftism was invented for an era when people generally had jobs, but were exploited at those jobs. It doesn’t do very well when the major problem of an era is the lack of jobs. Its big idea is to redistribute wealth fairly, but it has very little to say about creating new jobs. And so in our era when the real problem is lack of jobs, the left keeps plugging its only ideas: taxing the rich, redistributions, and how awful it is that there is inequality.