Even Nobel laureates forget their economic fundamentals sometimes. Paul Krugman, who knows better, recently fell for the broken window fallacy in a post at his New York Times blog. He argues that the tsunami that hit Japan last year has boosted the economy. An error that basic demands correction; my attempt ran today in The American Spectator:
Imagine for a minute that the tsunami never happened. Japan’s GDP growth would probably be slower; Krugman is almost certainly correct on that. And yet, a tsunami-less Japan would be better off. For one, the survivors wouldn’t have 15,000 holes in their hearts where their families, friends, and neighbors used to be.
As far as the economy goes, all that reconstruction spending would instead go to creating brand new wealth, as opposed to merely replacing what people already had to begin with. It is better to build than to rebuild.
Read the whole thing here.
Tragedy struck Japan this morning. It will be some time before we know just how many lives the tsunami took, and how much damage was done. But pundits are already saying dumb things.
Larry Summers, who should know better, committed the economists’ cardinal sin this morning: he fell for the broken window fallacy. The sunny side of the destruction is that it will boost the economy. Just think of all the jobs that will be created by the rebuilding process!
Over at the Daily Caller, I gently correct Summers. Natural disasters are bad for the economy. All the rebuilding activity in the next few years will only get Japan back to where it was. If the tsunami had never happened, all that energy could be put to creating new wealth. Disasters are just that: disasters.
Posted in Economics, International, Publications, Stimulus
Tagged bastiat, bastiat broken window fallacy, broken window fallacy, cnbc, daily caller, earthquake, economic growth, japan, japan earthquake, japan tsunami, larry summers, lawrence summers, natural disaster, Stimulus, tsunami