So, another day, another election. Today the Ontario Provincial election campaign begins, and despite my pleading for assessing each person standing on their individual merits I can’t name any of my local candidates. But I’m sure that over the next few weeks we’ll be hearing a lot about the leaders of the parties, and especially about their election promises.
One thing they’ve already started talking about is ‘job creation’. This phrase is frequently used in political discussion, but it’s rarely clearly defined. A little story may illustrate the problem.
Once upon a time there was a politician called James. James had a son, let’s call him Jim, around 12 or 13 years old. Jim was a particularly active boy, and one day while playing in the back yard managed to throw a rock through the kitchen window. His dad sighed, and picked up the phone to the local window company to come and fix it.
Later that evening, thinking about the large bill he had just paid, and the hours of work that it had taken the two man crew to clean up his kitchen, James came to a realization. He should be proud of his son, not mad, because he’d just stimulated the local economy! The glaziers had had work for the afternoon, and their company revenue had increased.
So James immediately rushed into the back yard and picked up as many rocks as he could carry. Then he headed out on his mission, and didn’t stop until he had thrown a brick through the window of every house on his street. Then he went back home, pleased with his job creation efforts and looking forward to the praise that he would undoubtedly receive.
This story is known as ‘the Parable of the Broken Window’, and shows that it’s not simply more work that we want created.
But as it happens, we can create jobs without offending our neighbors. I will do so now.
I will pay the first reader of this blog who responds one dollar a year to clean my house, mow my lawn, shovel my driveway, and perform any other maintenance tasks I can think of.
Somehow, I think I’m not going to get any takers, despite the fact that technically I just created another job opening. Clearly that’s not what we mean by ‘Job Creation.’
So what is it that we want? A slave is not content because she has a ‘job’, even though she has the privilege of working 12 hours a day. And, indeed, I suspect a huge percentage of Ontarians are deeply dissatisfied with their current jobs.
So when candidates start talking about ‘job creation’, perhaps we should ask them exactly what they mean. And maybe we shouldn’t elect them until we’re satisfied with their answers.