Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

Broken windows at the ATM

Jerry Stratton, June 15, 2011

Chimneys are too much progress

President Obama complains about progress.

This morning, I was supposed to leave for a 28-day road trip driving through the southwest, up to Michigan, and then back through the Rocky Mountains. But some idiot hit my car while it was parked a few days ago. The car still drives, but the tail light is hanging off and the rear quarter panel is gone. There’s no way I can drive it around the country until it’s fixed. And it’s going to take longer than three days to fix it. I could push back the vacation a few days, but pushing it back over a week would mean bailing on obligations after the vacation is over as well as a few obligations during the vacation.

So, money went into running in place: fixing my car. And I scaled back my 28-day road trip to a more standard 9-day vacation by air with only two stops, so as to be able to deal with all of the trouble of working between an insurance company and a collision center.

My local dealership got some money, sure. That money came at the expense of all but one of the hotels along the way, all of the restaurants and shops except the one in Austin, and all of the local gas stations. Yuma lost, and Las Cruces; Sonora and Dallas; Colfax and Monroe Louisiana; Hayti and St. Louis Missouri. And who knows what on the return trip through Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, and Nevada. I planned to stop in Vegas on the return trip, but planned to play the rest of the trip by ear.

Much of the money and time I was going to spend doing something new went, instead, into having the same car I had before. Except, of course, that it’s not the same car that I had before, because now it has an accident record.

No big surprise: when you own the broken window, broken windows theory sucks.

A more insidious form of broken windows is not letting the windows get built to begin with: blocking progress to save the jobs of those using buggy-whip technology. Shutter-makers lost their jobs as glass windows became feasible; that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have moved to glass windows. Glass windows added jobs, and not just for glaziers. Without glass windows entire industries would not have arisen, or would have remained niche industries: imagine driving across country if automobiles remained open to the wind all the time, in all weather. Glass windows open up the possibility of jobs in situations where work was impossible before. Glass windows provide visibility while protecting people from inclement weather and simply holding in heat.1

Old idiot

I guess you can go overboard, but yeah, chimneys are brilliant. So was getting rid of fleas.

President Obama now wants to blame ATMs and online reservations2 for job loss over the past three years. This is a special kind of stupid.

Ignoring for the moment that neither of those technological advances are new to his term, or even new to his predecessor’s term, he’s still woefully ignorant. I’m old enough to remember my parents making it a point to stop at the bank whenever we went into town. Most people didn’t even have credit cards: they had cash or they wrote a check. Think about how annoyed you are by that one person who still uses checks and holds up the line; now imagine how long the line takes when everyone is writing checks.

Tools like automated teller machines make us more productive by giving us more freedom and more time. They open us to the possibility of doing more. We get out of the line faster and get to do something with our “extra” time—something that may well involve spending money on someone else’s job.

I remember driving through the bank drive-through in my first car, a 19-year-old 1964 Buick LeSabre convertible, top down, talking to the teller at the drive-through. I first saw an ATM when I went to college.3 There was a lot of freedom in being able to take out $10 when needed rather than having to plan ahead to hit the bank first and take out enough for whatever cash needs I might have for the rest of the month.

If airlines didn’t sell tickets online, I wouldn’t be spending money on even my abbreviated vacation. Blocking progress is a form of broken windows. Get rid of ATMs and you’ll build jobs! You might say, hey, it’s a tradeoff: jobs for tellers vs. jobs for the people who build the ATMs. But you won’t see the jobs that go away because people don’t have easy access to their money. These tools free us to do more and that means more jobs, better jobs, and more interesting jobs.

September 28, 2016: Who creates more jobs, Democrats or Republicans?
Job creation in congress by party

Whether across an individual house or across both houses, more jobs are created when Republicans are in control than when Democrats are.

There’s a very odd meme going around purporting to show that Democrats create more jobs than Republicans, by showing the number of jobs created when each party held the White House. It’s an odd graph because it deliberately hides its data. For example, rather than showing us the year, it only shows us the President. What about Congress? We can’t tell, because whoever made the graph deliberately hid that info.

I’m also not sure that the methodology is sound even given that: it counts jobs from the passing of the first budget in September (in the modern era), as if the mere passing of the budget, rather than its effects, is what allows the private sector to create jobs.1

The real problem with this graph, however, is how much it legitimizes Jonah Goldberg’s claim that the left are fascists at heart. The graph focuses on a single leader rather than on the legislature. It’s typical of the left to look to an imperial executive rather than to the legislature. It’s the legislature that actually creates policies that affect the ability of businesses to start and expand. The legislature doesn’t always match the White House, and in fact often doesn’t.

So, what happens if we look at the same data given the same constraints for the House and Senate, as well as for when Congress doesn’t match the White House? The data is available for download into a spreadsheet from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.2

  1. Which, of course, puts some of the folks who tend boilers out of a job.

  2. That’s what enables automated check-in systems at airports.

  3. During the Reagan administration. As I said, these are not new innovations.

  1. <- The media’s new normal
  2. Gay marriage, white slavery ->