Unleash the Entrepreneurs?

US Chamber of Commerce's major contribution to jobs creation dialog: A giant banner taunting the White House across Pennsylvania Avenue.

What’s wrong with this rosy picture of entrepreneurship painted by the Manhattan Institute’s Edward L. Glaeser in his article “Unleash the Entrepreneurs” at City Journal?:

Three years have passed since the financial crisis of 2008, and unemployment rates remain painfully high. As of August 2011, America employed 6.6 million fewer workers than it did four years earlier. To try to fix the problem, the Obama administration has pursued a variety of Keynesian measures—above all, the huge stimulus package of 2009, which included not only direct government spending but also such features as tax credits for home buyers and temporary tax cuts for most Americans.

Such policies ignore a simple but vital truth: job growth comes from entrepreneurs—and public spending projects are as likely to crowd out entrepreneurship as to encourage it. By putting a bit more cash in consumers’ pockets, the tax cuts in the stimulus package may have induced a bit more car- and home-buying, but the next Steve Jobs is not being held back by too little domestic consumer spending. Tax credits for home buyers and the infamous program Cash for Clunkers encourage spending on old industries, not the development of the new products that are likelier to bring America jobs and prosperity.

Unemployment represents a crisis of imagination, a failure to figure out how to make potential workers productive in the modern economy. The people who make creative leaps to solve that problem are entrepreneurs. If we want to bring America’s jobs back, our governments—federal, state, and local—need to tear down barriers to entrepreneurship, create a fertile field for start-up businesses, and unleash the risk-taking innovators who have always been at the heart of our economic growth.

Isn’t the default position of American economic policy precisely what Glaeser is selling as the solution to the nation’s economic problems? It looks to me like advocating hitting oneself in the head with a baseball bat to prevent injuries caused by hitting oneself in the head with a hammer.  Glaeser and all “free marketers” are slaves to the notion that entrepreneurship in itself is a panacea for all economic and social ills. What they seem to ignore is that some entrepreneurship can cause economic and social ills. As an example, consider the many franchise-based companies (think food-service) that pay their employees unlivable wages with flimsy benefits packages, forcing many  to supplement their incomes with public services like food stamps or to use emergency rooms as primary doctors offices. Continue reading

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What Does #OccupyWallStreet Stand For? Read This.

The media have repeated over and over that the protesters in Zuccotti Park have no coherent position. Belying that common narrative, the group’s General Assembly put the document below up for a vote as representing the sense of the occupation’s aims and it was accepted. I found it here, but am posting it in full on my blog as I consider it both historic and newsworthy enough that it belongs to the world now, not just the document’s authors. Is it worthy of a revolution? I think so. I think it makes clear that #occupywallstreet understands who our King George is and they intend to speak truth to the actual power. Continue reading

Hank Williams Jr and the Sad State of American Discourse

I will try not to spend a lot of time on the latest overblown media spectacle to distract from what really matters. It probably won’t last long anyway. But the Hank Williams Jr. incident does say something about what’s wrong with the way Americans talk to (or around, at, or through) each other about America. Continue reading

When I Heard the Learned Economist…

When I read pieces by eminent conservative economists like the Hoover Institute’s Robert J. Barro’s Keynesian Economics vs. Regular Economics, I get the sick feeling in my stomach that the rift between left and right is becoming less and less bridgeable by day. It becomes clearer and clearer to me that, while the left may be going through a prolonged crisis of self-confidence, the right is becoming more deeply mired in an ideological morass and their project is to drag the rest of us down into it whether or not we want to go.
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“If you put people back to work, you are cutting spending.”

Unexpected wisdom from rank and file Republicans:

“Cutting spending is important, but getting people back to work is more important,” said Diane Sherrell, 56, a Republican from Erwin, N.C. “If people are working, they are more productive. There is less crime, there is less depression, there is less divorce. There are less hospital and medical bills. If you put people back to work, you are cutting spending.”

Stanley Oland, 62, a Republican from Kalispell, Mont., said that the government needed new jobs to generate the economic activity and the revenue it requires.

“That revenue supports the basic foundation for the economy, creates more jobs and stimulates the economy,” he said. “Unless you have working people you don’t have revenue from taxes. If you cut spending, jobs will be eliminated and you won’t get any revenue. Every dollar spent creates jobs.”

Now if they would just apply this wisdom at the polls that allegedly count in November!