Thu, 19 Mar 2009 15:16:21 +0000 – By J.D. Foster
"Green jobs" are all the rage. Supposedly, we can strengthen the economy by government spending and regulating to advance the development of environmentally friendly, "green" technologies. Green jobs, President Obama and others would have us believe, are the elixir for both our environmental and economic problems.
If they're serious, I have just one word of advice: rickshaws.
Rickshaws are small, lightweight, two-wheeled taxis motored by an enterprising entrepreneur either as a runner or in the more modern version, pulled by a bicyclist. They are popular in many countries around the world, but especially in Asia.
Rickshaws are the way to go for green jobs. There are no rickshaw drivers in the United States today, so every rickshaw job is a new job. Even more new jobs would be created as the auto companies shift, with a little urging from Uncle Sam, to rickshaw production in the United States -- no point importing them from abroad, obviously, if job production is the point.
And what could be greener than a rickshaw? It produces no pollution whatsoever. And the materials it is made from are typically all very natural and simple -- wood, cloth, a few basic metals, nothing fancy. Until, of course, Washington decides to worry about safety and demands that every new rickshaw come with airbags for runner and passenger alike.
The way to start would be to begin forcing taxi drivers in America to drive rickshaws. Perhaps start out with a 1 percent mandate, go to 10 percent after a few years, and then eventually to 50 percent. At the same time, the government could require that every individual and family with more than one car or truck have at least one rickshaw.
Good policy often has beneficial side effects, and widespread rickshaw use certainly qualifies. For example, imagine how much healthier America's taxi drivers would be if they had to drive a rickshaw at least two days out of five. Obesity would drop and cardiovascular health would soar. These and similar health benefits would go a long ways toward bringing down the increase in health care costs, though there may be a slight increase in demand for podiatrists.
Before long, rickshaws would be so popular that companies would be exploring ways to move heavier objects using two, four, or even eight-man rickshaw teams. Unkind observers might note that these new contraptions look a lot like the machines in use before humans learned to domesticate beasts of burden, but the media have a long history of ignoring naysayers.
Sometimes the right solution is the simple solution overlooked. Rather than fabricate science to support renewable energy, rather than pretend that we gain jobs when we destroy two jobs in the economy for every one green job created, we should focus on simple, proven solutions. Mr. President, give rickshaws a chance.
J.D. Foster, Ph.D., is the Norman B. Ture Senior Fellow in the Economics of Fiscal Policy at The Heritage Foundation (heritage.org).