Another one of those “politics explained” charts

3 02 2012

Not sure what exactly the hipster chicks at the top add to this, but I saw this chart on the Bastiat Institute’s Facebook page and felt the need to repost it here.

If nothing else, it does a better job than most “politics explained” charts by framing government action in terms of coercive force–behind every tax, law, and regulation, there’s ultimately a person with a gun waiting somewhere in the wings to provide enforcement.

Come to think of it, a gun-wiedling Cookie Monster is a perfect representation of the coercive state!

If you’ve ever felt the urge to beat your head against the wall whenever a commentator talks about all of the positive economic activity created by earthquakes, tornadoes, or hurricanes (“Plywood and duct tape sales are through the roof, or at least what’s left of the roof! This is great for the local economy!”), Bastiat’s your guy. He’s most famous for his dissection of the “broken window fallacy” in his essay, That Which is Seen, and That Which is Not Seen:

Have you ever witnessed the anger of the good shopkeeper, James B., when his careless son happened to break a square of glass? If you have been present at such a scene, you will most assuredly bear witness to the fact, that every one of the spectators, were there even thirty of them, by common consent apparently, offered the unfortunate owner this invariable consolation – “It is an ill wind that blows nobody good. Everybody must live, and what would become of the glaziers if panes of glass were never broken?”

Now, this form of condolence contains an entire theory, which it will be well to show up in this simple case, seeing that it is precisely the same as that which, unhappily, regulates the greater part of our economical institutions.

Suppose it cost six francs to repair the damage, and you say that the accident brings six francs to the glazier’s trade – that it encourages that trade to the amount of six francs – I grant it; I have not a word to say against it; you reason justly. The glazier comes, performs his task, receives his six francs, rubs his hands, and, in his heart, blesses the careless child. All this is that which is seen.

But if, on the other hand, you come to the conclusion, as is too often the case, that it is a good thing to break windows, that it causes money to circulate, and that the encouragement of industry in general will be the result of it, you will oblige me to call out, “Stop there! your theory is confined to that which is seen; it takes no account of that which is not seen.”

It is not seen that as our shopkeeper has spent six francs upon one thing, he cannot spend them upon another. It is not seen that if he had not had a window to replace, he would, perhaps, have replaced his old shoes, or added another book to his library. In short, he would have employed his six francs in some way, which this accident has prevented.

You can access the rest of that work, along with numerous others, at Bastiat.org or The Bastiat Institute.

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