Are Green Jobs Sustainable?
This op-ed defends green jobs subsidies with the argument that the resulting jobs are sustainable.
In a sense, it’s right. Green jobs are sustainable — for the wrong reasons. Once the government starts subsidizing jobs, the people employed by the program are few and easy to organize. They lobby to maintain the subsidy. The people who lose out — taxpayers and consumers — are numerous and spread throughout the economy. They can’t band together to blot out each and every economic inefficiency. So the subsidies perpetuate themselves.
In a complex economy, expecting jobs to be sustainable is unrealistic. Compare the jobs that exist today to the jobs people did two or three hundred years ago. Some professions, like farming and medicine, are still around, although the technology used looks dramatically different. Many jobs have disappeared. You don’t see wainwrights listed in the phone book. (You don’t even see many phone book publishers anymore!) And it’s a good thing, because the decline of some professions made possible the ascent of other, more useful and profitable professions.
A good job is one that makes both the employer and employee better off. Businesses will create new and better jobs whenever opportunities arise, as long as they aren’t bogged down sustaining outdated jobs.