My latest column for The Week examines the tough job market facing today’s young graduates and their unrealistic expectations for an economy buoyed by green jobs.
President Obama’s promise of “green jobs” is at best an exaggeration, viagra at worst a hoax.
Green jobs are not organically emerging from the marketplace. They are hothouse creations of government subsidy and regulation. Yes, government can generate employment by mandating that utilities build a certain amount of, say, new solar energy generating capacity. Government could also generate employment by banning the electric lawnmower and forcing everybody to cut grass by hand. But these are not the kinds of innovations on which a generation can build thriving careers.
Government can give away only so much taxpayer money before people get weary. It can mandate only so much uncompetitive and irrational corporate investment before the overall economy loses competitiveness. It would be a very foolish 21-year-old who’d make career decisions based on a promise of government support and shelter for an industry that otherwise cannot pay its own way.
The computer industry of the 1980s offered autonomy and independence. The industry’s big idea (computing power on every desk, linked by voluntary networks) inherently empowered the individual. Not so the green dream, which envisions an economy directed and commanded by government, in which whole industries rise or fall depending on the favor of authorities. Will the government invest money in high-speed rail? Or in “smart” electric grids? Will biomass be included in the government’s mandated quota of renewable technologies? Or does biomass release too much carbon dioxide? These are questions that will be decided by lobbyists, not entrepreneurs.
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