Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Republican worship of job "creators" is idolatry

Lost in the truly stupid flap over a misunderstood remark by President Obama, which in its proper context (the labor market) was correct, is an even graver error: the Republican worship of job "creators."

As Sister Catherine Agnes taught me in second grade, to create is to make from nothing, as Christians believe God created everything ... from nothing.

Let's consider nothingness. A street vendor in Rome charges $20 for what an angry tourist sees through a peephole is a dark and empty box. The vendor responds offended: "That's the original nothingness from before God created the world!"

I have generated jobs in launching new publications.

These jobs didn't come from nothing. There was a need for the information we were gathering and there was a need for someone to gather, edit, lay out and distribute it: jobs, jobs, jobs.

But hey, I didn't invent the topic, the information niche. I didn't educate the reporters or the graphic designers. I didn't build our offices or invent electricity for our computers. Nor did I train the printers, truck drivers, nor mail carriers, all later replaced by Internet technicians. I certainly did not invent the Internet.

Sure, I put existing resources together that combined into new jobs. In physics we learn that the sum of vectors isn't exactly arithmetic, you get a new vector. A man and a woman can make a 3-person family, which is expressed as 1+1=3.

There's no creation there.

Elizabeth Warren, who I hope wins the Massachusetts race for the U.S. Senate, puts it better than I could:
There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own — nobody.

You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police-forces and fire-forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory — and hire someone to protect against this — because of the work the rest of us did.

Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea. God bless — keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is, you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.
Anybody who says otherwise is making gods, or false idols, of entrepreneurs.
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