Mommy, where do jobs come from?

SUBHEAD: The answer is that with less energy to throw away on trivialities and novelties the jobs simply disappear. By George Mobus on 1 September 2011 for Question Everything - ( Image above: Joseph Oeler Jr, 35, of Hollywood, Florida waits in line at a job fair sponsored by National Career Fairs. From (

"Oh my dear, that is simple. Jobs are created by presidents of the US with a little assistance of the congress. When presidents and congress people love each other very much, they spend a lot of money that doesn't actually exist, and that is where jobs come from."

That is right up there with the stork story.

Actually the real story is very simple. Jobs came from human ingenuity with respect to how to do stuff that wasted energy at the same time that energy availability was growing (as too, the population). We have figured out all kinds of trinkets to make and how to give each other haircuts, and entertain ourselves silly. And it didn't matter because we were always getting more net energy to burn off.

That is we were.

The question now is where did jobs go? OK, some US jobs did get shipped overseas, but that excuse is wearing thin as the Chinese economy is cooling. Again the really simple answer (if you know any physics at all) is that with less energy to throw away on trivialities and novelties jobs simply disappear. Every time energy costs have peaked we see an impact on spending on those trivialities. No consumption, fewer jobs. People lose jobs, they spend even less. What really got us this last time around were the siamese twin problems of the housing bubble and the debt bubble. They had grown so out of proportion with any real economy that the sudden loss of a few jobs, especially among those who were in over their heads (e.g. sub-prime mortgages) led to a cascade of unemployment. What our economist "experts" have been calling a "recession".

Back when the flow of net energy started to diminish we had shipped many jobs to China and India to take advantage of the cheap labor over there. Why was the labor cheap? Because the populations there were living on far less energy per capita. Both of those countries are seeking to change that now, promising their peoples that they will be able to consume just like the westerners have been doing. I imagine it is going to get pretty ugly when they fail to deliver on the promises. The global net energy flow will affect them every bit as much as it has hit the OECD countries. As I said, it is just plain physics.

So what do you think Obama can say, or do, next Thursday that will turn things around? Is he a magician? Is he going to pull cheap energy out of a bodily orifice that will let us go back to mindless consumption of stuff and "services" that then means someone has a job providing that stuff? I can't wait to see this. I was disappointed to have to wait one whole more day to hear his "plan". On the other hand the clown act of the three ringed circus known as American politics should be entertaining.

Maybe Obama should just join Rick Perry in prayer for jobs.


No comments :

Post a Comment