Whenever I think the big government communists have a point, I invariably end up sitting at the DMV or riding public transportation.
Don’t get me wrong; I understand the horrific stupidity of the great unwashed. There are times when I’ll venture into a stock message board to gage the flavor of the masses.
But nothing beats taking the light rail in Baltimore.
Tuesday night I went to the O’s game. We lost. Two on in the ninth, down by two, one out, top of the order. Jones and Wieters think they have to swing at every $#&*ing pitch.
But that’s not the half of it…
After hoofing the 10 blocks back to my car, I found a guy sticking a knife in my front passenger side tire.
“Good sir,” I said, shaking my ornithologically correct Orioles hat at him, “do you knife my tire?”
“I knife a tire.”
“Draw, sir…” I replied.
“It’s all in the game,” he said dryly, standing up. “But first, let us discuss the positives.
“Think about the help to the economy. My knife to your tire will employ people and get the economy moving again…
“There is the lady in the shop who will take your money, a tow truck driver and the owner of the tow truck company who will be able to pay their bills.
“Don’t forget about the guy who puts on the new tire, the man who makes the tire — the people at Goodyear Tire & Rubber (GT) whose stock is below $10. Let’s not forget about them.
“All in all, I’d have to say I’m employing ten or twelve people with my simple act of random vandalism.”
“Ah, yes. You are employing Frédéric Bastiat’s parable on the fallacy of broken windows circa 1850,” I replied while I looked around for a 2×4, lead pipe, or shattered beer bottle.
Have you ever witnessed the anger of the good shopkeeper, James Goodfellow, when his careless son happened to break a pane of glass? If you have been present at such a scene, you will most assuredly bear witness to the fact that every one of the spectators, were there even thirty of them, by common consent apparently, offered the unfortunate owner this invariable consolation — “It is an ill wind that blows nobody good. Everybody must live, and what would become of the glaziers if panes of glass were never broken?”
Now, this form of condolence contains an entire theory, which it will be well to show up in this simple case, seeing that it is precisely the same as that which, unhappily, regulates the greater part of our economical institutions.
Suppose it cost six francs to repair the damage, and you say that the accident brings six francs to the glazier’s trade — that it encourages that trade to the amount of six francs — I grant it; I have not a word to say against it; you reason justly. The glazier comes, performs his task, receives his six francs, rubs his hands, and, in his heart, blesses the careless child. All this is that which is seen.
But if, on the other hand, you come to the conclusion, as is too often the case, that it is a good thing to break windows, that it causes money to circulate, and that the encouragement of industry in general will be the result of it, you will oblige me to call out, “Stop there! Your theory is confined to that which is seen; it takes no account of that which is not seen.”
It is not seen that as our shopkeeper has spent six francs upon one thing, he cannot spend them upon another. It is not seen that if he had not had a window to replace, he would, perhaps, have replaced his old shoes, or added another book to his library. In short, he would have employed his six francs in some way, which this accident has prevented.
“I am enlightened,” said the thug, waving his Bowie knife loosely in his right hand.
“Do you surmise that if one were to extend the idea to the global economy as a whole, that debt is like a broken window… then what is a plane of glass, spiderwebed and shattered, but simply money to be repaid?
“It clearly is written on the negative side of the balance sheet.
“To take it a step further, money spent bailing out banks, or paying off puerile homeowners who bought McMansions at the top, subsidizing slack-jawed mouth-breather scholars for gender studies courses, building aircraft carriers — those assets would be put to better use by individuals seeking to maximize their own particular life experience using the free market’s natural price finding mechanism.”
“You are exactly right,” I said, picking up a heavy chunk of broken concrete sidewalk.
All the best,
Christian is the founder of Bull and Bust Report and an editor at Energy and Capital. For more on Christian, see his editor’s page.