Shovels, Gas Stations, and ‘Green Energy’: Make America Poor Again!

According to Will Durant (in “The History of Civilization, Vol. 1: Our Oriental Heritage”), the oldest civilization in recorded history was Sumeria, located over much of what later became Babylon. Archeologists have found that the Sumerians had such things as brick buildings and ox-drawn ploughs, at least as far back as 9,000 BC (and possibly much earlier than that).

Historians believe that one of the first productivity-enhancing inventions was the shovel. Prior to the development of the shovel, the Sumarians would have to claw at the ground with their fingers, and move dirt with their bare hands. The Sumerians probably used spears to loosen the ground up before clawing at it, but before the invention of the shovel, dirt was moved with bare hands.

One man with a shovel can move more dirt than can several men with their bare hands, and I can almost imagine some Bernie-Sanders-like Sumerian looking at the shovel and complaining that it was going to put 80% of all Sumerians out of work. I can almost hear Bernie’s voice: “How can you talk about shovels when we have children starving in their caves?!? How are we going to feed people when you take away 80% of our jobs?!?”

What happened was that the ability of the Sumerians to move dirt exploded, freeing people up to do other things – like making bricks. Life improved, and the people’s wealth grew. The long road of progress that took mankind from cave-dwellers who could barely move dirt, to the comfortable world we live in today, had begun.

And the Bernie Sanders types of the Sumerian age were against that progress – all of it.

You can imagine how many people were freed up to do other things when the steam-shovel was invented!

We make processes more productive by reducing the number of people required to do a given amount of work. If one person can move as much dirt as it previously took ten people to move, the wages for that one person will rise. At the same time, the cost for moving dirt will drop, and that savings will be passed along to the consumer. The lower price will increase the demand to move dirt, such that more dirt will be moved overall. Also, some of the labor that used to go into moving dirt will go into other things, reducing the cost of those things too.

When productivity improves, wages rise, and prices drop. This is the best win-win scenario the world has ever seen, and it is the only reason we do not live in caves today.

Somehow, in spite of all the progress mankind has made over the past 11,000 years, that old Bernie Sanders shovel-hating type still exists, and some of those types are in Illinois, trying to ban self-service gasoline stations, under the justification that doing so will create jobs.

Banning self-service gas stations will absolutely create jobs, but it will also make it cost more to fill a car with gasoline. Everyone who drives a car will have to pay more, and will be worse off than they would be if they were allowed to pump their own gas. Moreover, people would rather pump their own gas than pay an attendant to do it, as evidenced by the fact that self-service gasoline stations have all but driven full-service stations out of business. Consumers, when given a choice, would rather pay less for gasoline than to have someone pump their gas for them.

Many Democrats tout job-creation as one of the primary benefits of moving to ‘green-energy.’ Bernie Sanders has suggested that banning all but renewable energy sources could add as many as 20 million high-paying jobs to the US economy.

Twenty million new high paying jobs is a good thing, right? Let’s think this through to find out…

Ancient Shovel

If the 20 million jobs added average just $20 an hour, that would come out to $832 billion a year, meaning that we would be spending an additional $832 billion a year to produce the same amount of energy. And that’s just labor – there are other costs that would also go up if we moved to ‘green energy.’

If we want to improve the lives of the American people, we would want to reduce the cost of energy, such that it costs less to heat our homes and to drive our cars. We should want to reduce the number of people needed to generate energy, such that energy costs drop, and such that some of the people currently producing energy can do other things instead.

Bernie Sanders is promising to make energy much more expensive. Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and a host of other Democrats are running on platforms designed to make the American economy less productive.

Improving productivity makes the country wealthier, and improves the lives of everyone in the country. Reducing productivity makes the country more poor, and hurts the lives of everyone in the country. Today’s Democrats are literally running on a platform designed to make America poor again on the promise that somehow, if we all have less, we will be better off.

The next time a Democrat tells you that they want to radically increase the number of jobs required to produce energy, to pump gasoline, or to do anything else, tell them that if they really want to add jobs, they should ban the shovel instead.