The Disappearing Art: Doing Nothing
While sitting on a bench outside a shop in Potemkin Bavaria last weekend, I reached for my iPhone. I had 10-15 minutes to kill while my wife and children shopped, so I thought I’d do some Internet surfing, maybe read from my Wall Street Journal or USA Today applications, check my Facebook and email, play a game.
But then my thoughts suddenly turned to Henry Hazlitt’s little classic Economics in One Lesson The lesson:
A vandal breaks a man’s window. His neighbors think it’s sad that his window got broken, but at least it creates $250 worth of work for the glass-maker, so that’s a good thing.
But it’s not. What the neighbors don’t see is, the neighbor now has $250 less. And his net loss of $250 isn’t replaced by the glass-maker’s net gain of $250 because the man was going to spend the $250 on a new suit, with the result that his tailor would have $250 and the man would have an intact window and new suit. Instead, the glass-maker has the $250, the man has his intact window, and the tailor has nothing. The net loss to society’s wealth: One new suit. But the neighbors just see the creation of a job for the glass-maker. They don’t see the loss of the new suit, so they think the vandal’s act of destruction has a benefit, which, of course, it doesn’t.
The lesson underscores an enormously important, yet even more enormously fundamental, point: Society’s wealth depends on stuff. The more stuff it can get, the better. The lessons from there reverberate: mere job creation for the sake of jobs is bunk, wasteful government spending saps our wealth because it doesn’t create anything, deflation (to a degree) is healthy because it lets us … Read the rest