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Real Jobs, Fake Jobs

Written By: Lew Rockwell  |  Posted: Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

In many ways, the unemployment numbers are much worse than they appear. One factor has been the timing of the US census. The bureau hired some 700, 000 workers to collect data, people who otherwise were having a very difficult time navigating the choppy labor markets. They went for the jobs because they were a sure thing, paid decently, and didn't require unusual skills (anyone can knock on a door and pester people about their private lives). That inflated the jobs number for a while. But now these jobs are at an end -- a highly unusual event in government employment, which usually lasts a lifetime. Now all of these people are facing the bracing reality of looking for employment in an economy wrecked by the government.

The press has been posting tributes to these people and their jobs and wailing about their fate now that their jobs are vanishing. And that raises questions. If these jobs were so great, why should they be eliminated at all? Surely, there is a way that these people could be transitioned to some other kind of government-funded service? That way, one might reason, people would have jobs, work would get done, and everyone would be better off. Right? Wrong. Census jobs perform no market function, and the wages of these workers are paid by the taxpayer, meaning that these jobs are actually destructive of wealth. They siphon wealth and work out of the private sector into the wasteful sector. In fact, we can go further to say that eliminating these jobs is actually a step toward economic recovery.

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