Liberals such as President Obama seem to live in a kind of fantasyland where we can have an economy built exclusively on the “knowledge jobs” like advertising, marketing, law, media, communications, programming iPad apps, consulting, etc. These jobs favor high IQ and not-so-high-IQ but highly credentialed people like the Obamas. They disfavor the working class. For example, Obama has shut down the Keystone pipeline. He has apparently by executive fiat banned all uranium mining on federal lands in northern Arizona. He has sent government money to money-losing enterprises like Solyndra while doing a great deal to hurt the old school, dirty industries of yesteryear like the oil business.
Hidden away from the urban knowledge economy is another world. It hasn’t gone away, but the knowledge class is increasingly ignorant of it. It’s a dirty, dangerous world of combines, mines, factories, sweat, industrial accidents, and tough men. Look around. The fruits of these jobs are everywhere. The plastic in your computer is from the petrochemical industry. The electricity, a result of the confluence of factories and coal mining for the most part. The gasoline that lets you get to work and take weekend roadtrips is the tail end of a long chain that may start at a wellhead in North Dakota or Texas or Nigeria for that matter.
Making these important foundational economic activities more expensive or completely prohibited will not help the country. It will not help the knowledge economy. These things will still get done, but they’ll done by others, overseas. Out of a misplaced fanatical environmentalism, Obama and his fellow travelers have made these activities more difficult or impossible whenever given the chance to do so. His rhetoric for a new economy based on “green jobs” is no solution at all. In fact, it is magical thinking of the worst sort, the notion that we can get rid of these unsightly tasks and also give jobs to these structurally unemployed “dirty jobs” workers by a perpetual motion machine of new industries that displace the older, dirtier ones.
Here’s a reality check. Green jobs are fine and dandy, and I’m not opposed to them. I also think a great many sensitive environmental lands need to be protected, and I like national and state parks and zoning restrictions and other things that prevent all of America from looking like the fruit of some land developer’s stunted aesthetic imagination. But rural North Dakota is not the Amazon or the Everglades. And these various goods must be balanced. It is particularly stupid to hobble our own industries and job creators for “Mother Earth” when the damage will get done anyway in China or Russia or Canada or wherever this work may get done.