Dealing with Unemployment
[Reprinted from the Georgist Journal, No.78,
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
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.