As seen in RealClearMarkets.
“No need to worry, no need to fret. The thing for you may not have been invented yet.” – The Berenstain Bears.
The Berenstain Bears is a much-beloved collection of children’s books offering lessons about life for young people. The quote from above comes from a Berenstain Bears book about jobs, and their varied quality. It has crucial meaning that politicians would be wise to internalize. This includes President Biden.
Talking recently about legislation that he signed into law, Biden contended that the meddling he was championing would create lots of jobs. Of greater importance to the President is that the legislation will allegedly create lots of jobs that don’t require a college degree. This is a big deal to Biden given his ongoing efforts to trick his flock into believing he’s one of them; that he has ancestors who worked in factories, that someone who met his first wife during a trip to the Bahamas and whose father bought him a Corvette as a wedding gift grew up poor.
Biden’s pose as everyman is a bit ridiculous, but to say politicians pose is a waste of words. Worse, they frequently mangle simple economics. Biden does by pretending that his legislation will create work that doesn’t require a degree. He misses the point.
Lost on Biden is that jobs aren’t created as much as they’re a consequence of jobs destroyed. Yes, you read that right. Entrepreneurs and businesses don’t pursue capital so that they can “create jobs.” If they did, they wouldn’t have investors. The pursuit of investment is generally about doing more with less, and in the process creating exponentially more goods and services with exponentially fewer hands. It’s from this progress, this destruction of jobs, that new forms of work reveal themselves.
Consider the internet. An advance of this kind logically erased lots of work done before. Consider the secretarial pools that used to fill precious office space inside office buildings. Those jobs largely don’t exist anymore, just as farming jobs have largely vanished thanks to advances from long ago like the tractor and fertilizer. The erasure of jobs doesn’t push us into breadlines as much as it frees resources for the creation of new commercial pursuits on the way to all new forms of work.
Please keep all of this in mind with Biden’s odd brag about jobs that “don’t require a college degree.” Missed by the President is that realistically no jobs require a college degree. That is so simply because in a growing economy, the nature of work is changing all the time. Figure that the internet looms large in the work of the college educated and non-college educated alike, but a lot of us (including yours truly) never had so much as a computer in high school, college, or business school.
There’s this notion that college attendance arms us with skills necessary for post-collegiate employment, but college classes and education more broadly at best teach us about what’s happening in the present. This knowledge or these skills might have some purpose if the economy were static, but it’s thankfully not. Realistically if it were static, most of us would be too poor to attend college in the first place.
Sure enough, the growing ability of Americans to attend college is a sign of an economy that is growing by leaps and bounds. That it is exists as powerful and uplifting evidence that the nature of work is rapidly evolving in concert with past forms of work vanishing. In other words, colleges and business schools aren’t realistically teaching the work that’s ahead of us. How could they when it’s remembered that the jobs many of us will do haven’t yet been invented?
None of this is to say that college isn’t worthwhile, but to pretend that it prepares us for a work future in a country defined by staggering dynamism gives new meaning to “fatal conceit.” If professors could prepare us for the work we’ll be doing in the future, they wouldn’t be professors. There are billions to be made by those who can predict the work of tomorrow.
Back to Biden, the surest sign of his economic confusion along with the worthlessness of the legislation he signed is the mere presumption that it will lead to jobs that “don’t require a college degree.” Sorry, but economic growth is the path to work we’ve never heard of, and the vanishing of jobs formerly done by all of us without regard to educational attainment. Rather than rely on economists and their books full of charts and graphs, Biden could learn a great deal more by reading books to his grandchildren.