The Hurricane Of Fortune

Michael Giberson

In an article so absurd that you really ought to read it for yourself, see the story from USA Today: “Economic Growth from Hurricanes Could Outweigh Costs.”

It is so incredible that I am almost left speechless.

Of course, no one expects a USA Today reporter writing about the weather to have training in economics, but she quotes people who by corporate affiliation and title a reader would suspect they have economic training. And then these people say things about all the damage suffered in Florida and throughout the southeastern United States like, “It’s a perverse thing … there’s real pain, but from an economic point of view, it is a plus.”

No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, a thousand times no. Destruction of real economic resources is not, from an economic point of view, a plus. Actually, destruction of resources is bad for people, and they are made worse off, which from an economic point of view, it is a “minus.”

Or, as Frederic Bastiat put it in his essay, “What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen“:

To break, to destroy, to dissipate is not to encourage national employment, or more briefly: Destruction is not profitable.

If you read the USA Today story and the Bastiat essay, and you still believe the USA Today story, then I’ll make the following offer: If you live in the Washington, D.C. area and grant me your permission, I will be happy to break one window of your home or automobile, your choice. (You must prove that you own the home or vehicle and accept all liability for damage to the window, and sign a waiver to that effect. I will sign a statement giving you full personal credit for any net stimulus to the economy caused by the broken window.)

Thanks to Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution for noting this story.