How the Nanny State Destroys Jobs

-By Warner Todd Huston

In Sidney, Montana the owner of the local McDonald’s fast food joint cannot get workers to staff his restaurant. This sounds like a bad thing, and for owner John Francis, it is, but, this loss of workers is because of the good economic news and low unemployment rates that is occurring throughout the Western United States.

According to a recent report by the AP, unemployment rates have been as low as 2 percent in specific areas and no higher than a general rate of 3.5 in the North Western states, a rate that has been dropping steadily over the last 15 years since the economic doldrums of the 1980s faded in the area.

Unemployment rates have been as low as 2 percent this year in places like Montana, and nearly as low in neighboring states. Economists cite such factors as an aging work force and booming tourism economies for the tight labor market.

“This is actually the biggest economic story of our time, and we don’t quite grasp it because it is 15 years in the making,” said economist Larry Swanson, director of the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West at the University of Montana.

At this rate, there just isn’t anyone to take those McDonald’s jobs, or other lower skilled labor jobs in the Great American West. For that matter, entry-level jobs in police work and other mid level jobs are difficult to fill and this is causing wages to rise as the labor pool thins even more.

As Mark Knold, chief economist at the Utah Department of Workforce Services, said to the AP, “The hardest thing is to keep the economy growing at a strong rate when you have a low unemployment rate. Take a company that wants to expand. Where is the next worker going to come from?”

And therein lies the problem. Where are those workers coming from? In the past, many of them would come from areas in the US experiencing less prosperity. Many would point to illegal immigrants and claim that business “needs” this pool of labor to fill those “jobs Americans don’t want.” This illegal labor pool, however, is not as necessary as many would have you believe.

In years past various blocks of our citizens would migrate from one corner of the country, where there was less prosperity, to areas offering more plentiful jobs. Certainly alien immigrants supplemented that flow of workers, but it wasn’t the only source of them. In fact, the great American West was built by such a migration – “Go West Young Man,” and Manifest Destiny. As the eastern states found themselves upon hard times and waning opportunity, millions streamed west to settle the region and seek their individual fortunes. In another case, in the early 1900’s, many thousands of the South’s black population streamed northward from the unfriendly atmosphere of a Jim Crow world to seek jobs in the industrialized Northern sections of the country. These mass migrations have happened repeatedly in America’s past and helps account for our great prosperity.

But all that was before welfare and the nanny state were foisted upon a gullible nation. Now, instead of moving west from metropolitan areas such as New York, Detroit, and Chicago, many millions of America’s potential workers stay in their poverty ridden status because they have become convinced that their welfare checks in those cities are their only lifelines and any thought of uprooting themselves from their mentally comforting illusion that they are being “taken care of” has become anathema to them.

It is true that in the 1980s and 1990s, many people began to move from the north to the south as industry sought out the advantageous southern regions to open new manufacturing plants. But this particular migration has been small in comparison to migrations in our past. But, while a smaller example, it did occur and new jobs drove those moves.

Yet today, even as employment agencies in the Western states are begging for people to apply for work, AP also reports that “Detroit remains among the nation’s poorest cities” with 32.5 percent of its residents living below the poverty line.

What is the main difference between the early 1800s when Americans found themselves looking westward for a more prosperous future and today? Why did black Americans leave the South in great numbers to head north and why won’t they head west today? What keeps people in areas where they know things are “hopeless”?

There is only one differing factor between past eras when rising and falling prosperity was at the root of internal migration and today where job needs cannot be met from one region to another. That difference is that the welfare state now looms large in the lives of people who could otherwise move to greener pastures. Too many low income or poverty level citizens imagine that the state is their only salvation, so they stay in areas where they can count on state aid flowing into their pockets. The nanny state has replaced their common sense to go where opportunity lies.

Were this another era, low income families would be streaming west from the chocked and poverty stricken cities to the great opportunities presenting themselves in the prosperous but employee poor Western United States. Cottage industries would be started to assist people in such moves to the “promised land.” In eras past, word would be passed from region to region that prosperity awaits an internal migrant in some other part of the US.

But none of this is happening today — not even a little.

And the nanny, welfare state is the anchor holding our citizens back from making their lives better.
Warner Todd Huston’s thoughtful commentary, sometimes irreverent often historically based, is featured on many websites such as,, men’ and among many, many others. Additionally, he has been a guest on several radio programs to discuss his opinion editorials and current events. He has also written for several history magazines and appears in the new book “Americans on Politics, Policy and Pop Culture” which can be purchased on He is also the owner and operator of Feel free to contact him with any comments or questions : EMAIL Warner Todd Huston

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