Monday, August 22, 2011

Response to "1930s' WPA could work today" From the Daily Breeze 8/17/2011

The writer contends that the Works Progress Administration, one of the Alphabet Soup handout organizations established during the Great Depression, would keep "young men off the streets and working". He implies that state-sponsored work projects would improve the morale, if not the money, of current unemployed.

No, the WPA would not work. It did not work then, and it would not work now to get men and women working again, for the short or long haul. Government does not, cannot, should not create jobs. Jean-Baptiste Say, French economist of the nineteenth century, assailed this nonsensical distribution of resources long ago. All the money and labor invested in fixing broken windows, or filling ditches, or painting unnecessary paintings, only transfers wealth which could be just as well, if not better, invested by private persons, partnerships, or corporations.

It is a feel-good illusion that government can push shovel-ready projects to resolve indeterminable unemployment and economic stagnation. Yes, state public works projects get people working, but they do not create sustained employment or expansive wealth. What happens when the state funds run dry? And who, by the way, is paying these state-sponsored workers' salaries? The same tax-payers who cannot get work themselves. Plainly, the government cannot create and sustain lasting economic growth.

Instead of the government mismanaging taxpayer money further, the Federal and state governments need to leave well enough along. The same economist posited convincingly that if we allow markets to correct themselves, with neither help, hindrance, or regulation from the state, supply and demand will even out resources, provided new opportunities for investment, and thus create wealth.

A final word: the writer acknowledges "Not everyone can work for 40 years for the government. But it is a good start." That sentiment may have been true when government had money to spend, or spare. Yet now that government coffers are so sparse, we need to encourage government to make do with the nothing that it still has, and let the people make better use of their own resources.

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