Anyone who has spent much time around small children probably recognizes that they are fundamentally Keynesians at heart–or if they aren’t full-on Keynesians, it’s pretty clear that they reject Bastiat, or haven’t yet read him. I’ve noticed that my kids do all they can to encourage full employment within the household: every day brings new adventures in stepping on things with sharp corners, in mysterious puddles of questionable content and origin, or on misplaced foodstuffs. They also seem to enjoy giving further expression to their apparently Keynesian worldview by building (and knocking over) towers made of blocks. This keeps Mrs. Carden and me fully employed, and there’s no doubt that our additional spending on paper towels, cleaning supplies, and electricity to run the dustbuster and vacuum cleaner stimulates the larger macroeconomy.
Sometimes, we need to get our little gales of creative destruction out of the house and to the zoo, a nearby playground, or to the Children’s Museum of Memphis, aka CMOM, which is one of our favorite places in town. On a recent trip to CMOM, I saw a new installation that holds the key to fixing high unemployment. As part of their “Going Places” exhibit, the museum has rigged up a set of conveyor belts that are supposed to simulate the system by which packages are moved around at a FedEx facility. Basically, you put one of the packages on a conveyor belt, you turn a wheel that conveys the package up to an automatic conveyor belt in the belly of the (partial) FedEx plane they have as part of the exhibit, and then the automatic conveyor belt conveys the packages to a slide where they reappear near where the whole process starts. You expend a lot of effort to move a box that ends up where it started, and while nothing is really accomplished, the kids get to learn a few lessons about motion, cause and effect, etc. They find it very entertaining.
The museum also has an earthquake simulator that we have played with a time or two. Basically, you build a structure out of blocks and then press a button to start an “earthquake.” Some structures make it through the earthquake unharmed. Some structures don’t, and the rebuilding process begins.
This got me thinking about how we could solve our unemployment problem. We should install adult-sized versions of these and pay people to turn the wheels that move the belts that carry the boxes from point A (essentially) back to point A. We should also pay people to build structures out of blocks that will then be knocked down when we press the button that turns on the earthquake simulator. Would anything be produced as a result? No. But that’s not the point. If the point of economic activity is to provide employment, then the increased expenditures and increased employment from such a scheme are just what the economy needs to get back on track.
Of course, I may be wrong:
And it’s also true that our friends at EconStories.TV might have something to say about it, as well.
Obligatory Disclosure: I received (and expect) no valuable consideration for mentioning CMOM in this post.