Now it’s time for some more mockery.
Back in 2001, Paul Krugman received some much-deserved criticism for stating that the 9/11 terrorist attacks would be stimulative for the economy.
He committed the “broken-window” fallacy, explained more than 150 years ago by a famous French economist, Frederic Bastiat.
Breaking a window at the local bakery, Bastiat explained, might generate business for the town glazier, but only at the expense of some other merchant, like a tailor, who would have benefited if the baker didn’t have to spend money on a new window.
In other words, the destruction of wealth is not good for an economy. At best, it makes us poorer and then shifts how current income is allocated. This is why Bastiat wrote (perhaps predicting the emergence of Krugman):
There is only one difference between a bad economist and a good one: the bad economist confines himself to the visible effect; the good economist takes into account both the effect that can be seen and those effects that must be foreseen.
But we have to give Krugman credit for a bizarre form of ideological consistency. He is willing to advocate bigger government, no matter how sloppy the reasoning or how quirky the rationale.
His latest outburst was to say on CNN how wonderful it would be for the economy if the people of earth mistakenly thought we were on the verge of an alien invasion, which would lead to lots of military spending.
He even cited an episode of Twilight Zone to justify his assertions. I’m surprised he didn’t also mention the 1996 film, Independence Day.
As I wrote in a previous blog post, this is one of those moments when your only response is to say “wow.” This is even worse than when Keynesians assert that it would be stimulative to pay people to dig holes and fill them in again.
For those who want more info on why government spending does not boost the economy in the short run, here’s my video on Keynesian economics.
And if you want to know why government spending does not boost the economy in the long run, here’s a video looking at some empirical evidence about economic performance and the size of the public sector.