Dealing with Unemployment

Robert Clancy

[Reprinted from the Georgist Journal, No.78, Winter 1992-93]

The most bothersome economic problem is still unemployment. Economists, looking at whatever indicators they look at, say we have been moving out of the recession for months. Still, manufacturing and service industries keep laying off workers. Whose prosperity is it, anyway?

The creation of jobs is something politicians, by public demand, talk much about. What it usually amounts to is a promise of more public spending -- aid to communities and business, or the providing of extra jobs by government.

There is not much attention to what jobs are all about and how people do what they need to do to provide for their livelihood. All production takes place by labor applied to land assisted by capital. Instead, the prevailing view is that there are "employers" and "employees" and that employers "provide" jobs. Therefore, we must do everything possible to encourage employers to take on employees.

Land is practically never mentioned. Where then, in this view, does production take place?

More technology is supposed to enable more to be produced with less labor. This is of course pursued as a desirable goal. That means that current enterprises seek to lessen their labor force. But our schizophrenic society, while seeking technology to reduce labor, wants more jobs.

This happy event would not be so elusive if land were not hidden in the analysis. Yes, let there be more efficient production -- but that is so labor can be released for other ventures. This can only come about if land were made more freely available and labor and capital could move on.

Such was more the case in America in the 19th century when there was still accessible land for such expansion. The land is still there, but since it is priced too high, there is an unnatural restriction on such expansion.

The Georgist remedy of land value taxation would again open the possibilities. But since this is avoided, our establishment goes around in circles wondering how we can "create" jobs with either government or employers "providing" them.