We Need the Broken-Window Fallacy

Here is the case of the broken-window fallacy according to a French economist named Bastiat: a baker was planning to buy a suit. A child decides to throw a rock into the window, so the baker uses the money for the suit to pay for the new window. The glazier who helped replace the window received his business. The tailor did not. Some people would argue that destruction can foster business in several ways, but it does not. This was only a loss.

Destruction should never be painted or framed as a tool for growth. People tried to use the broken-window fallacy to promote war. The reason why they did this is because being under the pressure of war caused our country to focus most of its work in certain concentrated areas and ignore other vital ones. The war acted as a diversion from other industries, like taking care of automobiles or being concerned about the environment. Because people were focused on war efforts, houses were not built and technologies became obsolete.

The war created a need instead of a demand, but the need for certain industries became confused with demand. People did not have the money or the means of obtaining what they needed. This is the broken-window fallacy.

The broken-window fallacy is used as an excuse to change the direction of "growth," but this growth is not actual growth. This growth is a pretense for a replacement. Replacing a vital tool is not synonymous with growing. Damage and destruction were done, so there had to be compensation.

To put it in mathematical terms, -1 + (+)1 = 0. We started with a negative number, and a positive number was required to make up for the negative number. Growth cannot occur in this situation. There was zero growth.

The problem with the broken-window fallacy is that it masquerades in everyday life beyond economics. People try to justify violence with the broken-window fallacy. The worst argument that I have heard is the idea of "pruning" something. Yes, we may prune certain bushes in a garden, but people are not themselves meant to be "pruned" from society. The idea of pruning anything beyond a bush is the broken-window fallacy masquerading as a tool for growth again.

The other argument that I have heard is the analogy to haircuts. Like in the situation when dead ends need to be cut off in order for hair to grow, people try to justify cutting other people out in order to "grow." This is the broken-window fallacy back in disguise yet again.

Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that. If we try to justify violence or "pruning," or "cutting people out" based on the broken-window fallacy, then we are perpetuating destruction, damage, and hate. Harming one person ultimately harms the collective society because society is made up of each individual person. Harming one person harms the collective.

Let's not justify damage or destruction and pretend that it is growth.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

More on Odyssey

Facebook Comments