Jobs and dignity


I love it when reading an article changes my view on things.
This article on Bloomberg changed my view on ‘making up jobs’.

The author (Noah Smith) writes:

I recently wrote that the government should focus on getting people jobs instead of just mailing them money. Ideas for doing that range from government employment guarantees to public-works programs to tax incentives for corporations that hire more employees.

and then

Inevitably, the people who chuckle at the “spoons” story are going to label these programs as make-work. If the market isn’t willing to pay people to do a job, they’ll say, it isn’t worth doing… Better to just mail them a check.


So is there work to be done in the U.S. that produces tangible, visible value? Of course there is. To realize this, just take a one-week trip to Japan. Where American sidewalks are cracked and uneven, Japanese ones are neat and beautiful. Where tables in American Starbucks are littered with crumbs and dirt, Japanese Starbucks tables get wiped down after every customer leaves. Where American cities like Chicago and Detroit are full of broken windows and crumbling facades, Japanese cities are clean and modern, with well-maintained, reliable public transit.

and finally:

Before we start complaining about make-work, let’s make the U.S. look like that. Let’s fix the sidewalks and renovate — or knock down and rebuild — all the old buildings. Let’s wipe down every Starbucks table, build quality public-transit systems and hire the workers to make them run on time. And let’s take care of our people as well as our cities. Let’s provide child care for working moms, and elder care for old people. Let’s hire more teachers to reduce class sizes.

(Substitute the U.S. for your country.)

Whereas I’m usually one for efficiency (ie it is inefficient to just make up jobs just for the purpose of giving people jobs), I’m now one for dignity – giving people meaningful jobs that contribute and add value is effective.

Efficiency versus effectiveness is a key understanding.

Add comment

By Craig Bailey