The Witchcraft of Job Creation

When did we collectively come to believe that it is the responsibility of our government to create jobs and spur innovation?

This thought has been stuck in the back of my head for a couple weeks now. It was provoked again on Tuesday when Mike Moffatt posted:

I’d love to have a clip of every poll that claims the government created X thousand jobs. I’d put them all together then underneath have the subtitle ‘Governments don’t create jobs, entrepreneurs do.’ It’d be mind exploding.1

Although Moffatt’s original thoughts referred to the political right’s propensity to declare “job creation” as a political victory, it seems to be an increasingly common mantra from all political stripes and colours. Apparently governments see themselves as the genesis, architects, and guardians of… private sector jobs?

Also blurring, it seems, is an ideologically rooted sense of ‘right’ and ‘left’ in political dialogue. Yes, it would appear that rhetorical posturing is as vicious as it has ever been. However, my friend Glen Pearson recently posted an article bemoaning the collective slide to ‘the middle’ — that is to say: appealing to the centrist vote without disrupting the partisan alliances has become a primary political challenge of our time. To gain power, both sides end up diluting core values to find resonance with voters who are sitting on the spectrum gradients of ‘centre’. The result, posits Pearson, is that everyone lands in a wishy-washy middle ground; a place devoid of strong moral, ideological conviction either way.2

Stir in a globalized and unstable ingredient called ‘economic uncertainty’ and what do you get? Perhaps a federal, provincial, and municipal obsession with job creation? Is the new ‘political centre’ is just an ideologically amoral void which leaves us with nothing but to treat our politicians like pseudo economists?

When political debate dissolves into banter and theorizations about job creation, we should be concerned: the global market is indeed an extremely complex system, but it is literally driven by fickle feelings, a grand swath of personal valuations, and very human motivations. If any government or politician tells you that they can peer into a crystal ball and manipulate this system to magically create jobs in your city, state, or country, you should ask them if witchcraft is actually their profession or just a personal hobby.

  1. via @MikePMoffatt, tweet 1, tweet 2; edited for style and cohesion. See links for original wording. 

  2. Glen Pearson, On Protest and Power, March 25, 2012