The Double Edged Sword of Unemployment

Raise your hand if you don’t want the US unemployment rate to decrease. Thank you, you can put your hands down. What’s that you say? Your surprised anyone would raise their hands? I hear you, I mean, what kind of person these days is not in favor of more jobs!?

Well, there are plenty of people who don’t want to see more jobs IF Obama would get credit for them. Everyone wants “jobs”, but some people only want jobs that their political party can claim responsibility for, or if they are created in ways that coincide with their particular ideologies. Many people believe that Obama’s chances of re-election will remain low if the economy remains poor, and vice versa: that a stronger economy means a greater likelihood of Obama’s re-election.

The question I want to ask is whether or not this is fair. More specifically, is it fair to request that other people endure difficult times in hopes that it will bring about one’s selfish desires? Let’s look at a couple hypotheticals to try and answer this.

Suppose one is convinced that another term for Obama is certain to bring about even worse times for our entire economy. He believes that it would be a small sacrifice to ask that the economy stays the same or worsens over the next year, so that a Republican can get elected and then truly begin to fix the economy. In his eyes, it’s okay to ask for this temporary hardship given the overall positive outcomes in the long-term.

Let’s look at another example. Suppose someone is tied to the clean energy sector and selfishly hopes that the price of oil and other conventional fuels go up, knowing that higher prices will lead to greater adoption rates of alternative fuels. His selfish motives would translate to a greater financial burden for others in the near-term, but in the long run he knows that everyone will be better off. Is this fair, and how is this different than the scenario above?

Charles Darwin and Adam Smith would likely agree that it is not only natural, but favorable for us to act according to our own best interests. In other words, we shouldn’t fault people who want the economy to remain weak for the next 12 months so “their guy” can get elected, just as we shouldn’t fault people who want the cost of fuel to go up so “their energy sources” can be adopted. But the tricky part is that we don’t actually know what is going to happen in the future. How do we know whether or not Republicans will be more effective at improving our country? And how do we know whether or not higher prices will lead to alternative fuels? If we can not be 100% certain that our desired current situation will lead to our desired future situation, then we need to be very careful in wanting others to endure hardship on our behalf. Especially if we are able to influence the 

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About Dave K

Creatively solving problems by listening objectively to all sides, my goal is to advance prosperity by focusing on common ground issues and uniting leaders with solutions for tough problems.
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One Response to The Double Edged Sword of Unemployment

  1. Mike says:

    Nice connection between political jockeying and alternative energy promotion by willing higher costs for fuel. My take on this is that we should all be collaborating for what is best for the whole, and you can fault someone who is standing in the way for selfish reasons. None of us can predict the future, so I would say in the first scenario, a good person will help get the country on the right track AND support their political persuasion. If supporting their political persuasion means preventing the country from getting on track, well that just isn’t ethical.
    In the second scenario, alternative renewable energy should be promoted AND we should strive for reasonably affordable fuel rates (but not at the expense of environmental externalities).
    The key here is ethics and truth, but that is easier said than done.

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