Friday, August 28, 2009

Russell Roberts on The Unimaginable

Several years ago, Russell Roberts, half of the George Mason University Economics blogging duo Cafe Hayek, wrote a parable called "The Choice: A Fable Of Free Trade And Protectionism".


(I found it at Half Price Books in Dallas a few years ago. Good stuff.)


At one point in the book, Perfesser Roberts needed to come up with the most idiotic Straw Man argument he could think of to illustrate that destroying things so you could make them again doesn't improve the economy.

He had to think for a long time. He wanted something so bizarre, so unlikely, and so... so.... so.... freakin' dumb that anyone reading his book would get his point and be forced to agree.


So what scenario did he think of, waaaaay back in 2005, to show that cleaning up after vandalism doesn't create wealth? Here goes....


"Let's flip it around. Suppose you wake up in the morning, and there's no new car in the driveway - just the same one you've been driving. But the president makes a similar speech. A government official will be coming to get your car and drive it off a cliff, where the remains will be buried. Sure, you're going to have to buy a new car but employment in the U.S. auto industry will increase, and prosperity will follow, won't it? Or will it? Will that policy make America richer or poorer?"
"It would make Detroit richer."

"That's right. The auto industry would expand. But the country as a whole would be poorer for it. You don't get rich destroying things. You get poorer."


There you have it, written in 2005. Irony is now dead. Irony has achieved room temperature, and is pushing up daisies. You can put a morgue tag on its toe.


Russell Roberts sat down with his doctorate in economics, and tried to imagine a government program so dumb that no one would dare try it.


He failed.


If you didn't hit the link at the top, after giving us the excerpt from his book Perfesser Roberts goes on to write "Cash for Clunkers has ended for now. It was an intellectual travesty. I am grateful that it was poorly administered. It might have done even more damage."

3 comments:

Browncoat Libertarian said...

This country is in ever-so sad shape when the most ludicrous absurdities materialize in the form of a feel-good government program...AND has "progressive" Bolshevik cheerleaders slobbering over it's "virtues".

What's even more sad, is these same "progressive thinkers" fail to acknowledge that all of this feel-good collectivist crap failed miserably in the Soviet Union...can't they see that is the road we're heading down? Of course they can't...because we're Americans, and we can do socialism/communism better than anyone in the world!

Tim Lebsack said...

http://www.cato-at-liberty.org/2009/08/21/cash-for-clunkers-dumbest-program-ever/

Dr Ralph said...

Browncoat -- we've done fascism pretty well on more than one occasion as well.