Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Canada's Action Plan - Fixing broken windows

You have probably seen that picture on the left, either at the roadside or in the media. It advertises the Canadian government's plan to create jobs in the wake of the Great Recession.
Have you ever wondered how governments create jobs?
Governments obtain income from various kinds of taxes, fees, duties etc. Basically they redistribute a large portion of the wealth of the nation. Adding to the bureaucracy and hiring more government workers certainly creates jobs, but does not add to the wealth of the nation in fact it increases the size of the redistributed portion. Government can also hire private industry to add or improve government supervised infrastructure - effectively "creating jobs". Again this is just money that must be taken out of the private sector - all of us - through greater taxes eventually, or as often happens the government prints more money.
Suppose your after tax income was $6000 per month. That might be enough to take your family on a nice vacation for a week, but your normal expenses that month like mortgage, food, phone, cable etc., would not be paid unless you used savings or borrowed against future income. Generally governments borrow against future income frequently going into debt (deficit spending) which is added to the total debt of the government. The government of Canada and many other countries have done exactly that over the last couple of years. Does it work?
Not according to the Fraser Institute in a report issued today on what caused the economic turnaround we have experienced lately. The report can be downloaded for free, and it basically attributes the turnaround to private investment and exports.
Creation of jobs rarely works the way government claims. In a very entertaining video John Stossel, explains this type of thinking is what economist's call the "Broken Window Fallacy".  


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