Tracing consequences both seen and unseen.
David M. BrownWhat if there were deficit thinking, thinking deficit, on a desert island?
Posted at 1:43 am on August 9, 2011, by David M. Brown

Let’s attempt the program of “economic stimulus” on a desert island. Five persons have survived the shipwreck. Joe is good at gathering berries and reeds, and dressing wounds; Al is good at fishing, hunting and basket-weaving; Bob is good at making huts and gourd-bowls; and Sam, who wants to spend all his time sharpening sticks, and who regards any other kind of employment as beneath him, cannot produce a tool of any usefulness.

Let more and more of the resources that would have been exchanged in life-fostering and productivity-fostering trade between Joe, Al and Bob be confiscated by a fifth person, the king (who happens to have the only gun, a Kalashnikov that he grabbed from the ship before it crashed; elsewise no one would listen to him). And let this confiscated wealth (after a suitably large finder’s fee for the king has been deducted) be given to Sam to subsidize his slow and pointless blunt-stick production, since it would allegedly be unacceptable for Sam to have to accept alms in accordance with the sympathies and judgments of his fellows. And let the king perpetually demand more and more “revenue” to distribute and perpetually bray that criticism of his taxing and spending policies by “economic terrorists” is undermining confidence in the island’s economy.

What are the effects of this confiscatory and redistributive process on the prospects for the islanders’ survival? Discuss.

[Cross-posted to Davidmbrowndotcom.]


Filed under: Culture, Economic Theory, Efficiency, Finance, Food Policy, Gains From Trade, Government Spending, Health Care, Labor, Law Enforcement, Local Government, Market Efficiency, Nanny State, Philosophy, Politics, Property Rights, Taxes, Trade, Unintended Consequences
Comments: None
 

Sarah BrodskySubsidizing a Dinosaur
Posted at 9:00 am on June 22, 2010, by Sarah Brodsky

Most drive-in movie theaters closed decades ago. This Illinois theater has been around since 1949; it recently was on the brink of shutting down, but the recession drove more families to patronize cheap, old-fashioned entertainment venues and it got a reprieve. Now city taxpayers will help the theater expand. From the Post-Dispatch article:

On Monday night, the council unanimously agreed to split the estimated cost to demolish a nearby abandoned movie theater to make more room for the Skyview.

In return, the Skyview’s owner will take over the property and expand to include a third screen and commit to remain at the site for 10 years.

I love that last provision. The theater has been there since 1949. It’s good at hanging on when everybody else leaves the industry. Is it really doing city residents a favor by promising to stick around a bit longer? Such a promise would make more sense when dealing with a business that could be lured away by other municipalities, but it’s doubtful that will happen in this case. After all, we’re talking about a drive-in theater, not a baseball team.

Ever persistent, the theater continues to seek subsidies. It needs to repair its sign, and it’s hoping for an historic preservation grant from the federal government.


Filed under: Local Government
Comments: 1 Comment
 

Henry Hazlitt"[T]he whole of economics can be reduced to a single lesson, and that lesson can be reduced to a single sentence. The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups."
Henry Hazlitt, Economics in One Lesson
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