29 Apr 2008

Rivers in Danger

Yubanet reprints an article of rivers in danger. (Note that many rivers -- Colorado, San Joaquin, Los Angeles -- are already desecrated. Can they be restored?) The article makes a common, but bogus claim:
Without a major change in direction in public policy, the river that provides drinking water for millions of people, pumps tens of millions of dollars into local economies, and is directly responsible for thousands of jobs could be irreparably damaged; and the communities that depend on it will suffer.
The "jobs at risk" argument is often heard and almost never true. Imagine the worst-case scenario: Someone who actually makes their living on the river (as opposed to selling rafting supplies used on many rivers). If that river were to dry up, he would lose his job, but that does not mean he's unemployed forever. He just has to get a new job. People lose their jobs all the time -- factories close, owners die, lawsuits are lost, competition destroys, technology advances, and -- sometimes -- water is sold from the community and goes elsewhere. In all of these cases (including the last, infamous "third party impact"), the solution is not to try to stop change or guarantee jobs, but to work on helping people get new jobs, start their own businesses, etc. I am not talking supply side, trickle down BS here, but legitimate programs to help people.

Notice that most "save those jobs" rhetoric ends up helping special companies stay in business (e.g., Alitalia). Most of that money ends up going to shareholders and bosses, who are claiming to be "helping" workers -- Baptists and Bootleggers all over again.

Bottom Line: Rivers are valuable, bu they are no excuse to "save" jobs. Jobs are not sacred, people are.