As has been said elsewhere:
Solution D is the obvious approach and has been practiced by regimes around the world since Cheops was a little boy: to keep the peasants fit, healthy and happy, pay them to do otherwise unnecessary work. Like, you know, building pyramids.
There is an apocryphal anecdote which illustrates Solution D perfectly. It probably never happened. A famous American economist – Milton Friedman, perhaps – is visiting China, perhaps in the ’80s, and sees a construction project where workers are digging a canal, with picks and shovels. “Why not use bulldozers?” the economist suggests.
“But Professor Friedman,” his host points out, “this is a jobs project.”
“Oh!” says the apocryphal professor. “Well, in that case, why are they using picks? Why not give them spoons?”
While this is meant to illustrate the supposed idiocy of Solution D, it actually illustrates the design space. The purpose of Solution D is to lose as little money as possible, while maintaining the human quality of your assets and preventing them from degenerating into Hardcore Pawn customers, 10th St. zombies or other revolting parodies of the human condition.
Digging ditches with appropriate hand tools is a simple and almost ennobling, in its own small way, form of manual labor which is ideally suited to the condition of most humans, delicate aristocrats perhaps excepted. (It is possible to construct makework for delicate aristocrats, but it takes more imagination.) Digging ditches with spoons is a degrading punishment appropriate only for refractory pedophiles. Since there is never any shortage of ditches you’d rather have than not, there is no need to issue spoons – unless the purpose of the project is exemplary degradation.
So what’s the problem? Why isn’t USG sending its millions of gangstaz, its hundreds of thousands of zombies, and its uncountable hordes of ordinary young people who just can’t find a damn job, to self-improvement-through-labor facilities where they create gleaming new national parks, which no one ever visits, on the North Slope of Alaska? It might seem illiberal, but it can’t be – FDR did it.
In general, makework programs are restricted to strong governments. Ours is a large government, but by no means a strong one. FDR’s was a strong one. When a strong government wants to “create jobs,” it just hires people. If the product is useless and the work is just makework, it says so. The strong are confident and can tell the truth. A weak government has to shroud the truth in a cloak of lies – it has to convincingly pretend that our great nation may be doomed without substantial and immediate improvements to “Gates of the Arctic National Park.”