The principles that rule this blog

Principles that will govern my thoughts as I express them here (from my opening statement):


  • Freedom of the individual should be as total as possible, limited only by the fact that nobody should be free to cause physical injury to another, or to deprive another person of his freedoms.
  • Government is necessary primarily to provide those services that private enterprise won't, or won't at a price that people can afford.
  • No person has a right to have his own beliefs on religious, moral, political, or other controversial issues imposed on others who do not share those beliefs.

I believe that Abraham Lincoln expressed it very well:

“The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do, at all, or cannot
so well do, for themselves — in their separate, individual capacities.”


Comments will be invited, and I will attempt to reply to any comments that are offered in a serious and non-abusive manner. However, I will not tolerate abusive or profane language (my reasoning is that this is my blog, and so I can control it; I wouldn't interfere with your using such language on your own!)

If anyone finds an opinion that I express to be contrary to my principles, they are welcome to point this out. I hope that I can make a rational case for my comments. Because, in fact, one label I'll happily accept is rationalist.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

"Lies, damn lies, and statistics"

Mark Twain once said, “The remark attributed to Disraeli would often apply with justice and force: ‘There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.’” A blog post by Thomas Sowell reminded me of this quote, in pointing out how President Obama can actually find statistics that make his Administration's job record look good:

One of the reasons for the popularity of political rhetoric is that everybody can be right, in terms of their own rhetoric, no matter how much the rhetoric of one side contradicts the rhetoric of the other side.

President Obama constantly repeats how many millions of jobs have been created during his administration, while his critics constantly repeat how many millions of jobs have been lost during his administration. How can both of them be right — or, at least, how can they both get away with what they are saying?

There are jobs and there are net jobs. This is true not only today but has been true in years past.

Back during the 1980s, when there were huge losses of jobs in the steel industry, the government restricted the importation of foreign steel. It has been estimated that this saved 5,000 jobs in the American steel industry.

But of course restriction of competition from lower-priced imported steel made steel more expensive to American producers of products containing steel. Therefore the price of these products rose, making them less in demand at these higher prices, causing losses of sales at home and in the world market.

The bottom line is that, while 5,000 jobs were saved in the American steel industry, 26,000 jobs were lost in American industries that produced products made of steel. On net balance, the country lost jobs by restricting the importation of steel.

None of this was peculiar to the steel industry. Restrictions on the importation of sugar are estimated to have cost three times as many jobs in the confection industry as they saved in the sugar industry. The artificially high price of sugar in the United States led some American producers of confections to relocate to Mexico and Canada, where the price of sugar is lower.

There is no free lunch in the job market, any more than there is anywhere else. The government can always create particular jobs or save particular jobs, but that does not mean that it is a net creation of jobs or a net saving of jobs.

The government can create a million jobs tomorrow, just by hiring that many people. But where does the government get the money to pay those people? From the private economy — which loses the money that the government gains.

With less money in the private sector, the loss of jobs there can easily exceed the million jobs created in the government or in industries subsidized by the government. The Obama administration's creation of “green jobs” has turned out to cost far more money per job than the cost of creating a job in the private sector.

In addition to reducing jobs in the private sector by taking money out of the private sector to pay for government-subsidized jobs, the Obama administration has made businesses reluctant to hire because of the huge uncertainties it has created for businesses as regards the cost of adding employees. With thousands of regulations still being written to implement ObamaCare, no one knows how much this will add to the cost of hiring new employees.

In the face of this economic uncertainty, even businesses that have an increased demand for their products can meet that demand by working their existing employees overtime, instead of adding new employees. Many employers hire temporary workers, who are not legally entitled to benefits such as health insurance, and who will therefore not be affected by the cost of ObamaCare.

When President Obama boasts of the number of jobs created during his administration, the numbers he cites may be correct, but he doesn't count the other jobs that were lost during his administration. His critics cite the latter. Both can claim to be right because they are talking about different things.

What has been the net effect? During this administration, the proportion of the working age population that has a job has fallen to the lowest level in decades. The official unemployment rate does not count the millions of people who have simply given up looking for a job.

If everybody gave up looking for a job, the official unemployment rate would fall to zero. But that would hardly mean that the problem was solved or that the “stimulus” worked. Creating particular jobs does not mean a net increase in jobs.


Interesting. And it is a tremendous indictment of Obama's economic policies, but also a tremendous indictment of the anti-free-trade policies that many labor unions espouse as well. Thomas Sowell has hit it on the head: it is really net jobs that matter. If x-number of people are hired, but many more are laid off because the companies they work for are struggling to survive, we have not been doing well. This is clearly something Obama does not understand. But I am confident that Mitt Romney does. And this is a big reason to retire Pres. Obama this November.

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