The Green Jobs Hustle


Fox News recently decided to check up on the United Nations Development Program, “the U.N.’s flagship anti-poverty agency,” and see how their big initiative to create “green” jobs was coming along.

The agency threw out a lot of conflicting answers, eventually coming up with a “curiously specific” number of 5280 “green jobs” created – a figure Fox reporter George Russell gently suggests they might have pulled out of the united posteriors.  (If that number sounds strangely familiar, it just happens to be the exact number of feet in a mile.)  Stumbling through the billowing clouds of smoke pouring out of the UNDP, Russell tripped over documentation that “appeared to be in vast disarray,” in which “portions of the electronic paperwork appeared to have been openly altered.”

The initial cost figure for those 5280 jobs provided by the UNDP, $53.9 million, proved to be an outright lie.  With a little detective work, Russell found the true cost was $1.68 billion.  That’s $288,700 per “green job” created – in countries where the per-capita income ranges from a high of about $13,000 per year, down to a low of only $160 in the Congo.  The United States kicked in $86.5 million to these U.N. development projects last year.

Russell speculates that a lot of this money simply vanished into the hungry jaws of “government and regulatory offices in countries where corruption is often not unknown, and perhaps to pay for consultants who were helping those officials renovate their administrations.”  Green jobs are still fabulously expensive in the United States, with our more modest, Charles Rangel levels of corruption.  Depending on who you ask, the cost per job ranges from $50,000 to over $100,000 apiece.

The green jobs hustle is an example of politicians attempting to override the laws of basic economics.  A job is not a product to be manufactured, or a gift that can be bestowed by a benevolent State.  Jobs are the sustained demand for labor, created in response to opportunity.  If the economy wanted green jobs, it would create them without massive government subsidies – which must be sustained over long periods of time, since jobs that vanish after a few months don’t do much for the unemployment rate.

Since the economy does not want green jobs, the State must force them into existence… and yes, this is an exercise of compulsive force, since it takes funds away from taxpayers, and uses them to force labor into channels undesired by the private sector.  These green projects are far less efficient and productive than rational uses of energy and industrial technology, so large amounts of spending are necessary to make the economy accept them.

Throw in the corruption and chaos of the United Nations, and it’s easy to see how the already appalling cost of American green jobs would double or triple into the figures hidden by shady U.N. accounting.  Efficient investment of its funds was never the object of the game for the UNDP anyway.  Russell writes of the philosophical debate under way in the environmentalist community: “The old view was that poverty and environmental decay went hand in hand, as poor people abused scarce natural resources in the struggle to survive.  The new view is that the so-called “poverty-environment nexus” can be managed differently so that environmentalist projects can lead poor people to win new employment and better standards of living in the global ‘green economy’ – especially at a time when traditional anti-poverty aid from budget-conscious Western nations is drying up.”

So the Green answer to “poor people abusing scarce natural resources to survive” is not helping those people to become less poor, but rather building expensive fences around those natural resources, and turning them into theme parks.  Western nations might not be keen on traditional anti-poverty aid, but Green moral tirades about “saving the planet” will prompt them to pony up for “green jobs” tending fields of useless windmills, and polishing acres of low-functioning solar panels.

A new “Earth Summit” is scheduled for Rio de Janeiro in May 2012, where the agenda will include giving “Increased momentum to the notion of “sustainable development in a global green economy, and to establish new instruments of global governance to make those changes permanent.”  I’m sure that permanent global government would display all the fiduciary responsibility and accounting rigor of the United Nations Development Program.  Every Republican presidential candidate in 2012 should make it clear that under his or her leadership, America will take a pass on that “global governance.”  We have plenty of corrupt bureaucracies on our own soil, and we’re done trying to conjure jobs by burning huge piles of taxpayer money.  It’s just not environmentally sensitive.