Eagle is a town next to Boise in Idaho. Gateway Park is a popular snow-tubing locale in the area. And while its existence wouldn’t necessarily register as an economic measure for the vast majority of “economists,” it arguably signals something joyous about economic progress in the United States.
The park is staffed by young people who appear high-school aged. On the morning of my visit, these 20+ employees seemed to be having a great time. While they were working, their job was in the snow. They were helping thrilled young kids, and parents who were thrilled about their kids being thrilled, slide down Gateway Park’s various tubing paths. Think about this for a second.
For the longest time work was a necessity for all able-bodied individuals as soon as they were able. Work wasn’t about joy, or snow, or extra pocket money; rather it was about survival. Families were large because kids were "extra hands" in a world of farms. For the longest time productivity was so low that the vast majority of human endeavor was directed toward one activity: creating food.
Then automation came along. Some will call the latter robots. Robots would be a correct description. That’s all automation is. It’s just technological advances that free us to do other things. With the introduction of the tractor, fertilizer, back hoe and other food-production advances, life wasn’t all about the six day per week, backbreaking endeavor that formerly was a failure at producing enough to eat.
With exponentially more food produced by exponentially fewer people thanks to robotic technology, tens of millions of farm jobs around the world were naturally destroyed. In the marketplace. This didn’t result in bread lines. Think about it.
With food more of a surety, people could concentrate on other things. Automobiles were created, so were radios, air conditioners began to reach the market in the 1930s, computers in the 1960s, wireless phones in the 1980s, internet in the 1990s. All of these advances relentlessly destroyed much of the work of the past, yet bread lines were once again not the result.
Technology doesn’t destroy work in total as much as it rushes us away from the work of today and yesterday. Thank goodness it does. In advanced countries like the U.S., work isn’t generational. Thanks to constant technological advance, the ways in which we can showcase our unique genius continue to expand. Job opportunity is greatest where job destruction is quickest precisely because the destruction of the past is a sign of productivity advance that is a magnet for the very investment that drives all job creation. Translated, there are never job shortages; rather there’s a lack of productivity that’s a consequence of a lack of job destruction that repels investment.
Back to the happy kids at Gateway Park, brilliant productivity advances have rendered many of life’s necessities a foregone conclusion. While there are always exceptions, it’s generally the case in countries like the U.S. that its citizens will eat, be clothed, have shelter, refrigeration, indoor plumbing, and other comforts that were decidedly not a sure thing for past generations.
So with the necessities more certain, the kids of Boise are increasingly free to work because they want to. While none of the employees were interviewed by yours truly, they gave the impression that their toil wasn’t of the bread winner variety. These young people were working for pocket money. Work of this kind positions them to enjoy more and more of life’s luxuries, including automobiles that were rarer than exceedingly rare millionaires when the 20th century began. Now they’re commonplace, even for high school kids working part time.
More important, it doesn’t just signal exciting progress that these kids were working at jobs for spending money. It’s also worth stressing that as mentioned previously, their work was joyous. They were being paid to work in the snow around happy people. Please think about that.
Crucial about this happy work is that it’s a consequence of economic growth. Thanks to soaring productivity that has long been all about pushing today’s work into the proverbial dustbin, more and more Americans have disposable income. While work used to be endless, a growing number of American bread winners work five days a week. Their job description includes usually a minimum of two weeks’ paid vacation, and as evidenced by all the parents at Gateway Park, quite a few days off around the major holidays.
Economic growth erases primitive forms of effort that witless politicians keep promising to bring back for reasons that are impossible to understand, the growth signals rising productivity among family heads that makes it possible for them to earn more while working less (the 4 day work week will soon enough become commonplace), flush earners with free time means rising demand for entertainment, and the latter means that young people can work because they want to while having a lot of fun in the process. Please keep this in mind.
None of what’s been described is a right, or a guarantee. In truth, it’s a consequence of free economies where nothing is guaranteed, and because it isn’t, people are free to prosper.
This needs to be remembered right now as politicians, in their infinite wisdom, have chosen to fight a virus with economic contraction and a lack of economic freedom. Translated, they’re suffocating the very economic progress that has freed the kids of Boise to work with joy in their eyes.
Snow tubing for pocket money….They actually pay young kids for this. That this isn’t an economic story is a loud signal of just what a story it is. Merry Christmas. Just don’t forget that it’s not so merry in the parts of the world that have long repelled human capital with the very policies of command-and-control that hopelessly doltish American politicians are foisting on Americans now.