Incinerating 10,000 tons of waste creates 1 job, land filling the same amount creates 6 jobs, recycling the same 10,000 tons creates 36 jobs.Yes, I like recycling. But this is such a terrible argument for it.
Paying people to pick their noses creates jobs too, but I haven't seen that legislated yet. If you could "create" jobs by just putting people on the government payroll, then we should have had that whole unemployment problem solved years ago.
Recycling is good because of the social benefit of reusing resources and reducing landfill usage. The fact that recycling 10,000 tons of waste takes the labor of 36 people is a bad thing, as it makes it comparatively more expensive and less likely to be used. It also takes 35 people out of the labor force that could be doing something else.
New Jersey and Oregon still have mandated full-service pumps (that is, you can't pump your own gas at the gas station, even if you'd like to). Purportedly, the law was put on the books for safety reasons, but that argument is pretty weak these days.
From the Philadelphia Inquirer, N.J. clings to full-service pumps:
And Bill Dressler, executive director of the New Jersey Gasoline Retailers Association, which represents 2,200 gas stations, said self-serve could jeopardize many of the 36,000 jobs at gas stations across the state. "Say you lost half of them," he said. "That's 15,000 people who don't have jobs anymore."Ugh. The thing is, those jobs only exist because of this ill-conceived law. If you were to ask motorists to pay an additional fee (covering the extra cost of labor) to get full service, they likely wouldn't.
In essence, you're forcing people to pay for a service they don't want. You might as well pass a law requiring you to buy a scone along with coffee at Starbucks.
Update: Comment from Mr. P:
True, true. But if you're the guy responsible for the legislation that takes those laws off the books, one of those 36,000 people is gonna run against you at reelection time. Even if they have no chance, you've still got to put some resources into the race. Keeping the log on the books doesn't put your job in jeopardy. Good government? Of course not. Simple math? Of course.Precisely. Allow me the argument that protectionism hurts the U.S. economy (yes, antiglobalists, it also encourages cultural homogenization and strengthens multinationals. But hear me out). Why, then, would the U.S. government ever adopt protectionist policies?
Because the benefits of protectionism go to a small group of people and the harm of it goes to everybody (in the form of higher prices, poorer products, and a less efficient job market). It's robbing a thousand Peters to pay one Paul—the Peters hardly notice. But the Pauls sure do, and they vote on it. See Bush and steel tariffs.
This is a problem with electoral politics. Those that would do anything to get elected are generally the ones that do get elected.