Numbness in November

“How praiseworthy it is that a prince keep his word and governs by candor instead of craft, everyone knows. Yet the experience of our own time shows that those princes who had little regard for their word and had the craftiness to turn men’s minds have accomplished great things and, in the end, have overcome those who governed their actions by their pledges.”      —Machiavelli, The Prince

I hate being lied to. Somewhere in the nation there must be a presidential history wonk crunching numbers right now to confirm my feeling that, never in my voting life have so many lies been told by politicians vying for my vote.

The biggest lie of all, of course, is that a politician can create jobs. Bullshit. The governor of Florida may be able to persuade a high tech company to move here from California, but that is not job creation. The president of the United States can’t even do that. He can ask congress for the money to fund public works, but when the road is built, it’s back on unemployment for the ditch digger.

Two things create jobs: innovation and demand. Government may spur innovation with taxpayer funds, but outcomes in innovation are not predictable. Most job creating innovation results from random accidents in research that was undertaken to solve other problems. Government involvement in education to spur growth in innovation is desirable, but the results are necessarily for a long time horizon, not “I will create twelve million jobs while I’m president,” as the Republican nominee disengenuously promises.

Demand for the products innovation produces is the real engine for job growth. Demand is a function of social mood. When consumers are in the mood to acquire iPods and iPhones and iPads they do it, even if they have to borrow to pay for the stuff. But after the crowd loads up and is borrowed up and tapped out, consumption slows and does not rebound until the debt, one way or another, goes away. We are not presently a job creating economy. When we do resume consumption, it will not be because of anything a president did.

My upbringing informs me that if I don’t vote I am shirking my duties as a citizen. But, Machiavelli notwithstanding, am I doing the nation any good if I vote for the liar whose lies are the least distasteful to me?

I ask myself, is there anything a presidential candidate can do between now and November to get me to vote for him? Anything at all?

There is. He could tell the fucking truth.






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