Should the government create jobs?

One of my major objections to the stimulus bill is the false notion that the government creation of jobs contributes to economic well-being.

Suppose we measure economic well-being by the average level of subjective consumer satisfaction in an area. The creation of jobs in the private sector is more likely to fulfill this satisfaction.

Example: If I open a restaurant and few attend, the market is sending me a signal not to hire any new workers because consumers are not being satisfied by my restaurant (or their demand for restaurants has already been satisfied by others)

On the other hand, we have the government creation of jobs. Say for example, for road construction. Here there is no way to meaningfully measure consumer satisfaction. Sure, you can take polls and surveys but in the end there is no way to have people "put their money where their mouths are". Instead, the government will simply spend as much on jobs as it sees fit and damn the consequences.

We have a situation here where the government is in total control of the infrastructure so of course I'm not saying that we shouldn't spend anything on it, or that we should just let it fall apart. I'm also not saying that people who work on the infrastructure at the behest of the government are not doing a good job. There is no way to know. I'm just saying that ultimately, we have no way to determine whether these news jobs would be genuine jobs or simply make-work.

If they are simply make-work, it would be nice that at least these people would have some kind of income. However, the more non-productive jobs you have, the worse off the general population is for it.


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