Seen Criticism

30 Jul

Here is a letter I sent to the Wall Street Journal,

On July 29, you reported on White House press secretary Robert Gibbs’ criticism of conservatives regarding  the auto bailout, “‘Rush Limbaugh and others saw a million people that worked at these factories… and thought we should all just walk away. The president didn’t think that walking away from a million jobs in these communities made a lot of economic sense’” (“Gibbs takes on Rush Limbaugh,” articles). Mr. Gibbs, while articulating a genuine concern for the impact on the labor market, fails to fully consider the consequences for these actions.

In 1848, Frederic Bastiat explained that every policy will have two effects, “the first alone is immediate; it appears simultaneously with its cause; it is seen. The other effects emerge only subsequently; they are not seen; we are fortunate if we foresee them.

The seen effect of the bailout is that workers get to keep their jobs. We don’t see the more productive jobs that would have been created if the taxpayers had spent their money elsewhere. We also don’t see what these talented factory workers and engineers would have made or done with their time if they weren’t stuck at an auto plant whose outputs are less valuable than their inputs. The government didn’t “save” any jobs – it only hindered more productive ones from appearing elsewhere.

Brent Butgereit

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2 Responses to “Seen Criticism”

  1. Nicole July 30, 2010 at 2:45 pm #

    Your point is valid, and I understand where you are coming from. There was no real quick fix to this problem, and there are consequences on either side. While jobs were saved, the nature of the jobs is not what one would desire when these workers may be capable of much more. Additionally, a large part of me wishes these companies would have had to learn a lesson about good business practices. If these companies had been allowed to fall, my optimistic side would hope for the ideal outcome of “more productive jobs”, but honestly I don’t know that this would have happened. If they were “stuck at an auto plant”, perhaps it is because they did not have anywhere else to go or the means/resources to find/create something better for themselves. The President would have been blamed for something either way: maintaining crappy jobs or the loss of a million jobs. I am all about people having the chance to realize their full potential, but I am also all about people having jobs so that they can buy food, clothing, and pay the bills. It is a complex issue, and I honestly don’t fully know how I feel about it. Good letter, though. You raise some important points.

    • Brent Butgereit July 30, 2010 at 3:23 pm #

      We should certainly be considered for the plight of those unemployed. And I think you’re right, there is “no real quick fix.” But this is exactly what is presented when Obama says “We are going to save these jobs.” There are legitimate reasons why we might not want to let the big auto companies fail – but I don’t think they compare in the least to the problems that will face as a result of their being “saved.” The reasons for this are ones that I can expound on at another point, but I won’t do so here. But at its face value, for the government to “save” these jobs necessarily means “destroying” other jobs elsewhere. We don’t see those victims. We never are able to see how their suffering is connected to the bailout. They quietly suffer.

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