President Biden's Pipeline Closure Did NOT Destroy Jobs
By Walter Block
According to the Republican National Committee in a letter they sent to me: “On his very first day in office, Joe Biden destroyed 11,000 American jobs and $1.6 BILLION in wages when he halted construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline.” This was coupled with a plea to “Please contribute $45 IMMEDIATELY to help your Party win back the House and Senate.” I reject both messages.
Ok, ok, if you want to say that this decision of President Biden’s destroyed jobs, fine. But, then, if you want to be logical, you also have to opine that:
* The horseless carriage destroyed jobs in saddle making, horse training, blacksmithing, whip manufacture, and cleaning up manure.
* The cell phone demolished employment opportunities at Kodak in film-making, camera production.
* The computer eviscerated occupations in typewriters, carbon-paper, white-outs (for typing errors), forestry (less paper now needed)
* Automatic elevators devastated careers for manually operated elevator attendants.
* Air conditioning put paid to the fan industry.
* 78 records gave way to 45s, which were supplanted by tapes and then discs the streaming; jobs were “lost” every step of the way.
* Air travel to a great degree supplanted alternative means of transportation (well, not right now, to be sure, but, hopefully, soon again).
* Changes in taste have eliminated numerous careers in manufacturing hula hoops, pet rocks, men’s hats and women’s too
This list could go on and on. The RNC should take it as a homework assignment to add to it.
Yes, it cannot be denied, in all of these cases job slots were eliminated, including in the present administration’s decision that construction be halted in pipeline construction. But to put matters in such a way is an exercise in economic illiteracy. A more accurate description is that occupations are/were/will be shifted from one avenue to another. Unemployment did not rise when the automobile, the cell phone, the computer, automatic elevators were introduced. Rather, people were transferred from working on items no longer needed to others in greater demand. Instead, they were allocated in the direction of new goods and services more greatly desired by consumers.
In all these examples it is clear from the position of the Monday morning quarterback that these were economic improvements. Whether reducing fossil fuels and oil, which are complementary goods to pipelines, and embracing alternative energy sources will be an improvement to our economic welfare is an entirely different matter. All that can be said about this decision is that it will not destroy jobs; it will rather rearrange the labor market in the direction favored by the new administration.
The natural tendency of the market system is in the direction of full employment. When industries collapse, due to progress, new technology, changes in taste, etc., this releases workers to seek alternative employment. Such phenomena do not “destroy jobs”; rather, they move them elsewhere.
True, Mr. Biden’s pipeline decision did not stem from changing consumer tastes, new technology, etc. But in our system, he is now the representative of the people, all the people, those who voted for him and those who did not. Was this a wise move on his part on our behalf? Save that question for another day. For now, we must see through the foolishness of declaring he has “destroyed jobs.”