Out of Control Policy Blog

Correction: Democracy Doesn't Create Jobs...Free People Do

Washington Post op-ed columnist Harold Meyerson takes America to task for allowing its democratic form of government to continue in a dysfunctional way. It's an interesting take on Democracy, but I think his point is also fundamentally wrong.

Mr. Meyerson seems to think that Democracy, American-style, is what defines America and its place in the world. In fact, everything seems to triangulate around the American polis and how it handles problems through the political process:

Enactment of the civil rights legislation of the '60s (which, ironically, Reagan opposed) immeasurably bolstered our claim that in the United States all men were created equal. Our assertion that the United States was a land of mass prosperity was surely strengthened by the three-decade boom that followed World War II, during which vastly more Americans went to and graduated from college than ever before, and median household incomes increased at the same rate as productivity. At the height of the Cold War, the whole world was watching us, and we rose to the occasion by expanding equality and prosperity.

The achievements of the postwar era were driven by domestic pressures, of course: the demands of African Americans for equality, the high rate of unionization, the ascendance of manufacturing over banking. But our foreign policy operatives took care to market our achievements and our culture -- the American model -- to a model-shopping world.

But I think the more revealing comment comes just before this statement: "Do Senate Republicans realize that we now have a rival superpower, China, that mocks the inability of our democracy to create the jobs that would restore our economy, which they adduce as evidence of the superiority of authoritarianism?"

Democracy doesn't create jobs. People do. And people create jobs when they are free to invest, innovate, and expand their businesses unencumbered. Jobs are not created by the collective decisionmaking process of Democracy.

Oddly enough, China realizes this. China may have done more to privatize the economy than any other in recent history. By some measures, the size of China's government spending as a share of total output is lower than many Western European nations.

While Meyerson correctly notes many see the Chinese economic policy model as an example of state industrial policy, Chinese economic policymaking is more complex than this. Much of China's success has been in freeing up the private economy to generate jobs and investment, not the result of government directed industrial policy.

Samuel Staley is Research Fellow


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