97 Pages Posted: 12 Mar 2009 Last revised: 11 Jun 2014
Date Written: March 12, 2009
A rapidly growing literature promises that a massive program of government mandates, subsidies, and forced technological interventions will reward the nation with an economy brimming with green jobs. Not only will these jobs improve the environment, but they will be high paying, interesting, and provide collective rights. This literature is built on mythologies about economics, forecasting, and technology.
Myth: Everyone understands what a green job is.
Reality: No standard definition of a green job exists.
Myth: Creating green jobs will boost productive employment.
Reality: Green jobs estimates include huge numbers of clerical, bureaucratic, and administrative positions that do not produce goods and services for consumption.
Myth: Green jobs forecasts are reliable.
Reality: The green jobs studies made estimates using poor economic models based on dubious assumptions.
Myth: Green jobs promote employment growth.
Reality: By promoting more jobs instead of more productivity, the green jobs described in the literature encourage low-paying jobs in less desirable conditions. Economic growth cannot be ordered by Congress or by the United Nations. Government interference - such as restricting successful technologies in favor of speculative technologies favored by special interests - will generate stagnation.
Myth: The world economy can be remade by reducing trade and relying on local production and reduced consumption without dramatically decreasing our standard of living.
Reality: History shows that nations cannot produce everything their citizens need or desire. People and firms have talents that allow specialization that make goods and services ever more efficient and lower-cost, thereby enriching society.
Myth: Government mandates are a substitute for free markets.
Reality: Companies react more swiftly and efficiently to the demands of their customers and markets, than to cumbersome government mandates.
Myth: Imposing technological progress by regulation is desirable.
Reality: Some technologies preferred by the green jobs studies are not capable of efficiently reaching the scale necessary to meet today's demands and could be counterproductive to environmental quality.
In this Article, we survey the green jobs literature, analyze its assumptions, and show how the special interest groups promoting the idea of green jobs have embedded dubious assumptions and techniques within their analyses. Before undertaking efforts to restructure and possibly impoverish our society, careful analysis and informed public debate about these assumptions and prescriptions are necessary.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation
Morriss, Andrew P. and Bogart, William T. and Dorchak, Andrew and Meiners, Roger E., Green Jobs Myths (March 12, 2009). U Illinois Law & Economics Research Paper No. LE09-001; Case Legal Studies Research Paper No. 09-15. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1358423 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1358423