Tuesday, May 10, 2016

In Defense of Government Jobs

Megan McArdle at Bloomberg View had a post on what causes of inequality the government can remedy.  Apparently it's the initial post in a series at Bloomberg.on the subject. McArdle is always worth reading, though her posting has grown less frequent recently.  But she included this paragraph:
" Government is also not well suited to creating a lot of satisfying and remunerative jobs. It can contribute to productivity and help companies to flourish, for example through basic research and by maintaining a competent legal and regulatory system. And it can directly create a few jobs providing government services; these have been, for many communities at many times, a stepping stone to the middle class."
I think this is wrong.  I understand the last sentence as being a nod to the role of the Postal Service in nurturing a black middle class.  But many government jobs include the idea of "service".  "Service" used to be big in the world.  We had the "civil service" and the "military service" or the "uniformed services".  Service was to the community, to the "commonwealth".  I live in the commonwealth of Virginia, though most Virginians would have a heart attack at the idea of "common wealth". The term evolved from the idea of common well being.

The importance of "service" is that it can be the basis of a satisfying job. Remuneration is another issue.  Some jobs, like college football/basketball coaches, some of whom are technically government, jobs, are overpaid. 

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