Hillary Clinton probably raised more eyebrows than Fortune 500 campaign donations when she recently said at a Massachusetts rally, “Don’t let anybody tell you that it’s corporations and businesses that create jobs.”
On any number of interpretations, that’s a remarkably counter-intuitive claim to make.
Assuming she didn’t mean that Henry Ford, rather than the Ford Motor Company, created all those jobs, we have to allow or presume that she is claiming that, whatever the job-creating role of individual business titans such as Henry Ford and his like aside, businesses and corporations
1. Never create jobs directly or indirectly
2. Never create any job descriptions, postings for or fill jobs, unless those jobs have been created by others or by something else
3. Never alone or in concert with others or other things contribute in any way to the conceiving-as-creation of even a single job.
On these interpretations, Microsoft, Exxon, Apple and the rest of the Fortune 500, the pub down the street, your local supermarket, your neighborhood florist shop, the medical clinic that treats you, the law firm or dentistry services you use and the farms of America never create jobs, not one—not even indirectly, e.g., by creating demand for the products and services of their suppliers, not to mention directly by hiring employees.
Corporations Are Just Like Recruiters?
These claims make businesses and corporations sound like recruiters, whose job it is to fill jobs, not create them. The claims also seem to suggest that, even in the case of the corporate jobs posted by recruiters, a job is not created until it has been filled.
Hence, and despite the foregoing opposite suggestion, when a business uses a recruiter to fill a job, the recruiter is, prima facie, a co-creator of the job—which demonstrates the obvious: that in some sense and instances, the Bs and Cs (businesses and corporations) do not create those jobs by themselves, i.e., without help, yet nonetheless play a critical role in creating and filling them.
Analogously, in connection with general creativity, University of Chicago professor and Flow theorist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has argued that an idea is not creative until somebody applies it, i.e., is not proved to be creative until it has made a practical, cultural, political, psychological, etc., impact as a meme on someone or something other than its creator (thereby entitling that someone or something to stake a claim as a co-creator?).
This means Mozart created nothing until somebody else heard it and valued his music. So, if a forestry company creates a new variety of pine tree in a forest, but there is no outsider to see it, the company hasn’t really created it? As a logical follow-up, it can be asked, “If the forestry company writes a job description for a botanist to study and maintain that tree variety, will the creation of the job have to wait until it is filled?”
(This is an ambiguity in the concept of creation perfectly analogous to the ambiguity of “will a tree that falls in a forest when no one is there make a sound?”—”sound” meaning both subjective auditory sensation and physical vibration transmitted through the air. Hence, “no” in the former case, “yes” in the latter. In the case of the botanist job creation, the ambiguity is that between creation as process and creation as product.)
It would be perfectly correct to say, “Businesses and corporations do not create jobs without cooperation, contractual agreement and/or contributions from others and other things”, e.g., the case of a farm hiring fruit pickers, but only if the weather has cooperated by providing sufficient rainfall for the crops to grow and only if seed suppliers delivered as promised.
“You Didn’t Build That”
The Clinton perspective resonates with President Obama’s oft-cited assertion addressed to businesses: “You didn’t build that.”—which, on it’s most reasonable interpretation and in context means, “You didn’t completely independently build that, as if you operated in a vacuum or pulled yourself up by your bootstraps alone.” (i.e., the existence of your business depends on the existence of supporting infrastructure, enabling—as opposed to obstructive—regulatory policy, the willingness of people to work for you, etc.).
However, it does not mean that you didn’t create the core ideas and mission for your business, legally register it, develop the business plan, secure the capital (as land, cash, labor, equipment), undertake marketing (with or without help), arrange the financing, and accept the risks and liabilities of doing so.
So, why would anyone—president or president wannabe—suggest otherwise? If we dismiss an alleged Clinton-Obama shared Saul Alinksy Rules for Radicals-inspired crypto-socialist agenda and conspiracy as a driving factor, it may be that such denials of a job-creation role for Bs and Cs may simply be the result of a subtle, innocent error of logic that anyone could make, formulated as follows:
Businesses and corporations are neither necessary nor sufficient for job creation; therefore they are causally irrelevant to job creation.
This means that
1. because jobs can be created without Bs and Cs (e.g., by paying your son to mow the lawn every Saturday as his summer job, without setting up a sole proprietorship for either yourself or for your son)
2. because Bs and Cs alone are not enough to create jobs (since they also require—in addition to customers, clientele and employees—resources, such as roads, IT services, water, electricity, wholesalers, fire departments and physical space provided through exchange or collaboration with others)…
…Bs and Cs play no causal role in the creation of jobs—of any job.
However seductive this argument may seem, it is easily exposed as fallacious by use of a parallel, yet clearly equally fallacious argument:
Pizza chefs are neither necessary nor sufficient for creating a pizza; therefore, pizza chefs never (have) create(d) any pizzas.
(That’s because for either the world’s first pizza or the next one, a pizza chef was/is not necessary in order to make it, e.g., your novice mom could make one at home, while the first one ever could have been a fluke or experiment); moreover, a pizza chef is not sufficient to create a pizza, since the oven, the rolling pin, the wheat for the flour, etc., are also required.)
With the fallacy now exposed, it may be best to paraphrase Mrs. Clinton’s soundbite this way:
“Don’t let anybody tell you that it’s pizza chefs who create pizzas,…
…unless you’re in a pizza parlor kitchen.”