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Is it the Government’s Job to Create Jobs?

By Elizabeth Robinson

In a recent campaign speech, presidential candidate Mitt Romney criticized President Obama for pushing his agenda on healthcare when the economy is in such dire straits. “The President’s responsibility is to put people back to work, and to get people out of poverty, and to help people have good jobs and have prospects for a brighter tomorrow,” said Romney. Even President Obama has said that it is his task to create jobs and stimulate the economy.

And it seems most average Americans believe this rhetoric; after all, somebody should do something to get us out of this mess. Certainly, there are people in our nation and our state who truly need help. But is it really the job of the president or other politicians to create jobs?

Frequently those wishing to exert political control over the economy use moral arguments to win support by helping the less fortunate through government programs, having the rich pay their fair share or acting on behalf of the common good. But the fruits of the government’s actions for the “common welfare” have potentially devastating results.

Government intervention, even for the purported sake of the common good, completely ignores the idea of personal responsibility and the fact that every bailout, stimulus, and over-broad regulation has led us to where we are now: continued high unemployment, little investor confidence, and nearly $16 trillion in debt.

Government job creation in the private sector is a convenient political myth supported by Republicans and Democrats alike. The only job that the government may directly create will be a job funded by the public. And there are a finite number of employees needed to execute the legitimate functions of government. When the economy is struggling, directly engaging in government “job creation” creates an even greater economic drag by burdening the taxpayer with higher debt or more taxes.

Renowned twentieth century Austrian economist and Nobel Laureate Friedrich Hayek asserts in his 1944 book, Road to Serfdom, that it is the government’s responsibility to create an atmosphere in which competition will thrive. The government does not create jobs. In fact, the government often does an exceptional job of inhibiting private sector growth.

Some politicians may argue that “job creation” means they bring business to the state or country or that they create favorable conditions for businesses to operate. If so, the rhetoric is misleading at best. Businesses locate where they receive the most significant economic advantage, and creating positive conditions is a far cry from directly putting someone on a private payroll.

No person or group of people has enough information to make the decisions which would enable them to truly improve the economy through planning and control. As such, planned economic programs will only remove economic liberty and enforce the ideals of the political elites on the lifestyle and employment that is best for all. Instead, the president and anyone aspiring to political office should remember that individuals make economic decision; individuals are able to most effectively make decisions that impact them and their families; and ultimately, enterprising individuals generate wealth and create new jobs.

Elizabeth Robinson is a policy analyst and the grant coordinator for the Alabama Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit research and education organization dedicated to the preservation of free markets, limited government and strong families, which are indispensable to a prosperous society.