Monday, February 18, 2008

Confused on opportunity costs

The lead story on the Sunday Honolulu Advertiser's front page has the headline "9,100 may find jobs working on the rail ... Nine-year project seen as stabilizing factor for construction economy ... Honolulu's $3.7 billion commuter rail project could generate an average of 9,100 jobs during the nine years it takes to build it. Those direct and indirect jobs could provide a boost to Honolulu's economy - and the construction sector in particular - between 2009 and 2017. The project's massive scale, Hawaii's low jobless rate and the speciality skill required to build the rail transit system may result in an influx of workers from the mainland."

Unfortunately, the joining of pork to green delivers this sort of silliness on a regular basis. It is abetted by coverage that spells out the opportunity costs and then reverts to the idea that jobs are "created". Something for nothing. And something for nothing via politics.

There are still many people with a touching faith in what politics can and will deliver. But this requires that the idea of opportunity costs be banished. What world do these people live in?