Paul Grad for Oregon Governor: Jobs vs. A Nation of Shopkeepers

As the Libertarian nominee for Oregon Governor, I thought it useful to review an Oregon Gubernatorial debate forum from 2010, where the four previous candidates for Governor spoke.

It seemed that all one heard were calls for “jobs, jobs, jobs”, and how was the government going to help create jobs, as if that is the main function of government, instead of protecting individual property Rights.

Why do we want jobs? Why don’t we talk of creating independent Capitalists, instead of calling for people to go to an office for forty hours a week for forty years to make somebody else rich, doing the exact same thing, day after day. If you have a job, you’re working to make someone else wealthy (and to pay the government officials’ salaries). Now why do all these Democrats and Republicans always want you to work for someone else? Why don’t they aim to make every individual in our society economically self-sufficient, which would mean that you wouldn’t have a job, but instead a business.

Now jobs are probably necessary at the start for many people, but many others could start out at near zero with a business service or a pushcart if we didn’t have so many obstacles in our communistic society to starting a business. Business licenses should be anathema in a Free-Market society. They are restrictions on your Right to Contract, because you should not need anything in America, which is always touted as a Capitalist society, to engage in trade.

Now, what we mean by “A Nation of Shopkeepers” is not literally that; what we mean is that everyone should have a “shop”, a process by which they can procure their income through their own efforts, without interference from the government. It might literally be a shop, a store where the person conducts his business. But the shop could also be a talent, like a musician or barber or photographer or free-lance roofer. It is something the person is doing for themselves, working for themselves, and not a job where the bulk of the fruits of their labor goes to their employer, although there is nothing inherently wrong with that if the worker willingly accepts employment.

Moreover, there may be jobs that remunerate the worker so lavishly, that they willingly accept a job because they can make in one year what would take them ten if self-employed. The worker with the boring job making $50/hr may be much happier at his work than the minimum-wage worker who finds his work interesting. There is a reason that installing the pipeline in Alaska commands more income than working in a Southern California mini-mart.

The politicians Kitzhaber and Richardson spend much time talking about “what government can do to spur job growth and economic development”. They don’t seem to have much faith in the “silent hand” of the free-market or the freedom of Capitalism to constantly develop new consumer needs and wants. They talk like there is a limit to Capitalist prosperity in a free society. Isn’t Richardson a bit of a economic Communist to talk as if it is government that creates jobs and wealth, not individuals?

And I listened to some recent interviews of Demo and Repub candidates on a community radio station. The interviewer took the same Keynesian view which seems to be epidemic in Oregon,asking what did the candidate think they (or government) could do in office to spur job growth and economic development in their region. None of them said, “get government out of the way, and let the free-market work its magic.” Richardson talked as if the only way was through natural resource exploitation, but that is not necessary for a large capitalist economy to exist. The Japanese have very few natural resources but a somewhat high standard of living. It is trade that produces wealth, the demands of the consumer in the free-market, although, of course, every product must start from raw materials. But natural resource raw materials are all over the earth, and can be transported.

What is destroying Oregon economically are the same things that are destroying the whole country, and the mentality behind them. Things like the minimum wage, the income tax, the Fed policy of intentional inflation which economically weakens everyone relative to the super-rich and causes such pricing havoc, massive Federal deficits weakening the dollar which in turn helps spur inflation, and perhaps greatest, the mentality of Keynesian economics which says the government runs the economy and can successfully tweak it through its policy. This has been shown to be an utter disaster both in America and Britain.

Capitalism’s development of new crafts as the general level of prosperity increases can be shown by the following example.

Imagine a society that is very poor, hand to mouth. What are the chances a dog-walker could make a living in such a society? Just about nil. Then move up to a lower-middle class income society. It’s still unlikely that a dog-walker could get work there, but he might occasionally get an hour or two. Then move up to a largely middle-class and upper-middle class society. Now it’s quite possible that a dog-walker could have a group of clients, too busy or arthritic to walk their beloved pets, who could together give the walker enough income to continue as a walker. Then imagine a wealthy society, where almost everyone had a million dollars in the bank and gasoline was a buck a gallon. Now, not only could the dog-walker make a good living, but you might have a proliferation of dog walkers, and even specialists in different breeds. Some dog walkers might become famous because of their rapport with certain breeds, and command fabulous fees from eccentric millionaires: “if you want your Great Dane walked properly, old boy, Blenkenthrope is the man to see. Amazing rapport with the beasts, just whispers in their ear. He only charges a thousand-an-hour.”

At its Capitalist high point, England was known as “A Nation of Shopkeepers”. The historian, Sir Richard Evans, has pointed out that it was quite possible, in Victorian England, for a man to go his whole life without any official contact with the State or government, except for his birth and death certificates. Compare that to modern America.

So America needs to trust in the Freedom of the Free-Market, get away from this one aim of creating jobs, and move to the more far-sighted aim of having everyone find something they like or love to do, whether because of the function or its remuneration. In short, a Nation of Shopkeepers.

Then we will have a happy, affluent society.

Paul Grad, paulgrad4governor,



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