Our usual Monday thanks go out to Pirate’s Cove for the Rule Five links!
Moving along: How do you make a car out of corn?
The purpose of an automobile factory is not to “create jobs,” as the politicians like to say. Its function is not to add to the employment rolls with good wages and UAW benefits, adding to the local tax base and helping to sustain the community — as desirable as all those things are. The purpose of an automobile factory is not to create jobs — it is to create automobiles. Jobs are a means, not an end. Human labor is valuable to the extent that it contributes to human prosperity and human flourishing, not in and of itself as a matter of abstraction.
There are cases in which this is so obvious that practically everybody understands it. When we talk about building new pipelines (and good on the Trump administration for getting out of the way of getting that done), our progressive friends sometimes sniff that many of the new jobs associated with that work are “temporary.” (“Temporary jobs” is a phrase usually delivered with a distinct sniff.) Here is a little something to consider: Unless you are building the Second Avenue Subway in New York City, all construction jobs are temporary — buildings get built. Projects come to completion, and work gets finished. It is in the nature of construction jobs to come to an end. And it is not only construction: A technology-industry friend attending the recent National Review Ideas Summit in Washington bluntly shared the view from Silicon Valley: “All jobs are temporary.”
Here’s the real money (hah) line:
Consider another kind of machine, a more limited one: Bryan Caplan’s magical idea for a machine that turns corn into cars: “Lo and behold — corn goes in, and cars come out.” It will not ruin Professor Caplan’s M. Night Shyamalan moment to reveal the twist ending to his story: There is such a machine, and it is called trade. “What difference does it make what’s inside the factory?” Professor Caplan asks. “For all intents and purposes, trade is a kind of technology, a creative way to reduce our cost of living and thereby raise our standard of living.” Trade — and capitalism — is in fact a machine of a different sort: a social machine.
Here’s the thing; as I’ve said many times in these virtual pages, “capitalism” is a misnomer. There really is no “-ism” in capitalism. It’s just what people do with their own wealth, their own resources, their own skills, talents and abilities when they are left unchecked to make their own choices and enjoy and employ the fruits of their own labors.
In other words, liberty.
President Trump isn’t perfect on this score, as this article points out. But he’s better than the alternative we had last November, not just on taxes and trade, but on plenty of other issues; Her Imperial Majesty would have been the most damaging President liberty-wise since… well, ever.
Sometimes the choice between good and bad is far less stark than the difference between bad and worse.