Wednesday, May 23, 2012

"Any job creation was accidental."

So says this New York Times op-ed, which strongly suggests that Mitt Romney shouldn't get credit for creating jobs through his work at Bain Capital. The article is by Steve Rattner, who used to work for the Treasury in the Obama administration.

Thomas Sowell, in the book A Conflict of Visions, includes a chart with two columns and two rows. The columns are labeled "beneficial" and "harmful." The rows are labeled "intentional" and "unintentional." Sowell points out that intelligent people seem to disagree on whether there is anything of significance in the "beneficial" + "unintentional" quadrant. Rattner, the op-ed writer, apparently believes either that there's nothing significant in that quadrant, or that no one who creates things in that quadrant deserves credit for it.

The latter would be an odd view. As Sowell points out, we have a word for things in the "unintentional" + "harmful" quadrant: "negligence." We generally blame people for acting negligently. So, why shouldn't we praise people for doing the opposite — causing unintended benefits?


Aaron said...

unintentional + beneficial = what?

If the process and procedure used to reach an act is flawed, but the result is unintentionally beneficial, should one praise a flawed process? Of course not since a flawed process does not guarantee the beneficial, if unintentional, result. A better process would lead to consistently good results. So, you shouldn't praise people for creating unintentionally beneficial benefits. If anything, you should praise luck or some institutional factor within the system that mitigated a bad process and in an isolated instance produced a good benefit.