Friday, October 7, 2011

Steve Jobs and Obama on Job Creation

This is a very poorly reasoned article critiquing Steve Jobs for not creating many jobs in the United States. I think it's wrong. I imagine many of my libertarian readers would agree with me. Moreover, I think they'd agree wiht me for much the same reasons that I have for thinking this is a poorly reasoned article.

What I think is less likely is that anyone can explain what's wrong with this article criticizing Steve Jobs without in the process making a case for the value of metrics like "jobs created and saved" used by the Obama administration. Maybe "jobs created and saved" is hard to calculate. I'd agree. But that challenge is just as big for attributing jobs to Steve Jobs as it is for the stimulus.

Ultimately, if you can tell me why this article is wrong about Jobs, you're likely providing precisley the same reasoning about counter-factuals and "seen and unseen" that is used when referencing metrics like "jobs created or saved".


  1. I think the writer should consider an additional issue as well.

    Apple has 49,400 employees. Apple has $18.4 billion in operating profits.

    So Apple earns $375,000 per worker. It has extraordinarily high productivity. Apple can easily afford to pay its employees in six figure incomes or close to six-figure incomes, because they reward the business in four-to-five times that salary.

    The New Republic started out as a revolutionary socialist publication. And socialist thought once had a high view of productivity. It was only through industrial productivity that both wages and standards of livings of workers could rise, and their ability to bargain against owners of capital and industry could be leveraged. A job is only a means to those things. It's not the end by itself.

    So even though there wasn't as much an increment to jobs in Apple as expected, there was a rise in productivity to the extent that the working person actually benefited all the same

  2. Whether one "believes" in the stimulus or not, the main problem has been and continues to be the unwillingness of the government to do something useful re: measurement of what it actually accomplished via some method of direct measurement. There was a nice discussion of this on EconTalk recently. So as not to just pick on the stimulus, DHS has been apparently remiss in doing the same sort of thing regarding its spending - just how much "safety" are we getting for all the spending, in other words.

  3. Gary -
    I try not to fault people for failing to do the impossible.

    They have tried some measurement and the host of EconTalk is one of the biggest critics of that effort.

  4. Well, it wasn't the host of Econtalk that I was referring to; it was the guest. Who undertook a form of measurement which the Obama administration has apparently failed to undertake and which the guest wishes they would.

    But all this ignores my larger point; namely that the government often has an incentive not to know how "effective" the programs they are spending money on are.


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