Politicians always promise that their programs will create jobs. It’s used to justify building palatial sports stadiums for wealthy team owners. Alaska Rep. Don Young claimed the infamous “bridge to nowhere” would create jobs. The fallacy is the same in every case: Even if the program creates jobs building bridges or windmills, it necessarily prevents other jobs from being created. This is because government spending merely diverts money from private projects to government projects.
Governments create no wealth. They only move it around while taking a cut for their trouble. So any jobs created over here come at the expense of jobs that would have been created over there. Overlooking this fact is known as the broken-window fallacy. The French economist Frederic Bastiat pointed out that a broken shop window will create work for a glassmaker, but that work comes only at the expense of the cook or tailor the shopkeeper would have patronized if he didn’t have to replace the window.