Wednesday, July 13, 2005

More Job Creation

Russell Roberts has a follow-up on jobs in our economy:
In my earlier post on job creation, I lazily opened with this line:

The US economy grows jobs steadily.
It's a standard way of thinking about the economy as an engine or machine that creates jobs the way a factory makes cars. The sentence conjures up an image of the economy as something over there, separate from the rest of us. When the economy is healthy, it creates jobs. When it's unhealthy, it struggles to create jobs or worse, destroys jobs.

It's a very misleading metaphor. Job creation is the result of millions of decisions made by millions of people pursuing dreams and profits. When the environment for pursuing those dreams encourages risk-taking, jobs get created as long as people want to work. When the environment discourages risk-taking, people who want to work may not find it as easily.
. . .

The lesson here is to avoid metaphors taken from physics and engineering that are inevitably cause and effect metaphors and think instead of metaphors from biology where results emerge from the actions of multiple interactions in a complex system. Think rain forest not engine.

At least I said in that earlier post that the economy "grows" jobs. Sounds something like a rain forest. But the problem isn't the verb. It's the noun "economy" doing the growing like a farmer growing wheat. The economy can't do things. It is the result of individuals "doing."
This is excellent economics.

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