The Thinking 

Romney’s Vision of Jobs for All

August 31, 2012


MITT ROMNEY came across as a likeable and earnest man during his acceptance speech at the Republican convention last night, so likeable and earnest that at times I felt uncomfortably close to seeing him burst into tears, especially when he uttered that magic word “mom,” which came within a few moments of his opening.

Expending little time or passion on the immense changes enacted by Obama, on explaining for instance why Obamacare is such a catastrophe, Romney’s speech was overwhelmingly dominated by one message: the promise of jobs and prosperity.

But Romney’s commitment to equality and masculine achievement for women — he quoted to thunderous applause his mother as saying, ‘Why should women have any less say than men, about the great decisions facing our nation?,’” — is at odds with his pledge of prosperity and jobs for all who seek them.

America once understood that jobs would always be limited in number, that they could not be magically created out of thin air. And America once gave priority to men in employment.

College graduates face unprecedented competition today in part because both men and women expect to have uninterrupted careers. It is an unsustainable vision, one that is destructive to the culture at large.

At one point, Romney said his wife’s work as mother to their sons was more important than his work. This was, of course, a fatuous statement. But if he truly believed that her work was important, why wouldn’t he promote an economy that made it possible for more women to do what his wide did and for more men to have jobs?

It was wonderful to see at the close of the convention the large Romney family gather on the stage. Such families are not built upon notions of radical equality.

—- Comments —-

Kidist Paulos Asrat writes:

I switched the TV to the RNC briefly and got on while Romney was speaking, and couldn’t believe I heard him say (and how likely is it I would hear exactly this part!):

“Today, women are more likely than men to start a business. They need a president who respects and understands what they do (from the transcript here).”

I switched off immediately, especially after what Ann Romney had to say yesterday.

Pundits say that Mitt Romney is stiff and “not likable.” I’ve always liked him. He seems genuinely sympathetic. He is the “nice” guy that Ann Romney says he is. But after this, it was a real disappointment. He has no political clout in him, and he cannot see society for what it should be.

Laura writes:

Kidist writes more about Romney here.

Here is a good comment at VFR from Jim R., which which I agree, despite my complaints and disappointments above:

I found Romney to be fine. He’s not a phony-boaster like Obama, or the smarminess of Huckabee, he’s fairly shy, which accounts for his stiffness. Many American leaders suffered from this, among them Ike, Washington, and Madison. Like most white guys his age and upbringing, he’s not into boasting and bragging. He’s not Chris Christie. People are terrified they’ll be poor and living on the streets or in Compton. Romney is telling them he’ll restore the safe suburbs. It’s who he is, we could a lot worse.

We fundamentally don’t need a hero. We just need to be rid of the villains.

Roger G. writes:

Indeed women should be homemaking instead of holding jobs, but for the purpose of preserving Western civilization, not to increase male employment. [Laura writes: Given that male employment is necessary to support homemaking, women should also refrain from participating in the job market when possible for the sake of increasing male employment.] You’re reverting to the protectionist fallacy.

“America once understood that jobs would always be limited in number,..”

Then they were absolutely wrong.

“…that they could not be magically created out of thin air.”

Not by magic out of thin air, rather through human industry in a free market system. Therein, each individual creates one or more products and/or services, by means of study and/or work. He brings his one or more goods and/or services to the market, and exchanges it/them for products and services created by others.

Jobs are limitless, because human wants are infinite.

In 1912, we wanted computers and antibiotics, we just couldn’t get them yet. The people who brought them to market created wealth that didn’t exist before, plus lots and lots and lots of new jobs.

The tricky part is that individuals are left with the responsibility both of choosing goods and services that others will trade for, and of producing those goods and services.

Laura writes:

So, in other words, there are limitless positions in law, medicine, academia and corporate business. And everyone who seeks training in these fields will find limitless opportunities in law schools, medical schools, MBA programs, etc. And women should be encouraged to pursue these fields at the same rate as men?

 Roger G. writes:

So, in other words, there are limitless positions in law, medicine, academia and corporate business.”

No. But law, medicine, academia and corporate business are only part of the free market. And aren’t you assuming that the free market remains in stasis? Rather, the free market is in perpetual flux, with existing positions disappearing and new positions emerging.

The free market indeed is very flawed. It’s just far better than any other economic system.

“And women should be encouraged to pursue these fields at the same rate as men?”

Absolutely not. That’s why the first clause, of my first sentence, of my first comment, reads: “Indeed women should be homemaking instead of holding jobs, …”

“Given that male employment is necessary to support homemaking,…”


“…women should also refrain from participating in the job market when possible…”

How strongly do you want to refrain them? Do you want to use government to enforce the refraining, to prevent us from hiring on, working for, buying from, and selling to whom we please?

“…for the sake of increasing male employment.

One more visible effect indeed will act to increase male employment, by the removal of competition.

But another less visible effect will act to decrease male employment, because the value obtained from women’s participation, which otherwise would have produced opportunities for additional employment, will never have been created.

Yet another effect which, while also less visible, but instead also acting to increase male employment, will be that the homemaker raises sons who enter the free market and add to its value – in the future.

Obviously I don’t claim to recognize all the effects, or their relative importance, or how in the end they balance out. But as Bastiat says, to understand economics we must consider both the seen and the unseen.

And honest to God no offense, but you’re overestimating your ability, or any other human being’s, to regulate economic activity to achieve a desire result.

Because in fact it turns out that economic activity is too complicated, with too many contributors, too many conditions, and too many and too rapid changes, to be susceptible to effective human control. Human intellect, understanding, and knowledge are insufficient for the purpose. The economic sphere works best when we leave the participants the flexibility, and the freedom, to interact, to change, and to deal with the conditions and each other as best they can.

Laura writes:

But I’m not talking about government regulation of the economy. I’m talking about government deregulation. As it is, companies and academic institutions are often forced to favor women in hiring. That is wrong and that should end.

I am not in favor of government-enforced discrimination against women.

Employers should be free to hire whomever they want, but there should be a general awareness that men have greater financial responsibilities and are prone to less interrupted careers. This is what is called “customary discrimination.” Married women, or women who will soon be married, should be seen as less entitled to available jobs. That does not mean married women never work, but that their other responsibilities and their likely claim on a man’s income are recognized.

Sarah writes:

A young mother of my acquaintance is thrilled to be licensed to sell real estate as of yesterday. Sure, she has a husband with a decent job, but they really feel they need a little more income, you know, to be comfortable. And so, in this market where houses are hardly selling at all, she will now compete with men who attempt to support their families selling real estate. And she will compete with single mothers who attempt to support their families selling real estate. And she will compete with single college graduates attempting to support themselves selling real estate. Did I miss anyone?

Roger G. writes:

I agree with all that. What’s left is how the “general awareness,” “should be seen,” and “are recognized” translate into action out in the world.

Laura writes:

There is no need for action, except to remove today’s government regulations that restrict freedom in hiring.

The important thing is a change in thinking.

Roger writes in response to Sarah:

You can add the additional categories as they come to mind. Meanwhile, give those reasons to the young mother. You’ll find that once people realize the difficulties they’re causing competitors, they back off.

Laura writes:

Exactly. As it is, no one even mentions to this woman that she may be causing problems for others.

I know a woman who has two substantial incomes from men: one from her former husband and one from her current husband. And yet, she also has a coveted corporate position that thousands of men would die for and would be as qualified to hold.

Carolyn writes:

You are bringing up an interesting topic I have not heard anyone brave enough to express for many years: Some women are indeed taking jobs away from family men. I have always wondered about this….if it would even out. I do not think it has.

But the sad thing about women feeling such a need to be a part of the “work culture” is still: Who is raising the kids.

I worked off and on. My husband was very successful and I kept busy with lots of activities, politics, drama, etc., because he was such a crappy husband and I was dying for adult companionship.

If I had it to do over again: I would have stayed home more…enjoyed more little moments.

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