element of the problem.” The Broken Window fallacy takes its disguise in naturaldisasters, material destruction and war—to name a few (pp. 2-3).The second fallacy Bastiat takes in his “What is Seen …”
essay is on the disbanding of troops and, consequently, the supposed benefits of war. As Bastiat points out again, theobjection to releasing troops from their obligation is that it will further traumatize the jobmarket by flooding the labor pool. And in return for their service, the fallacy states,troops spur economic activity by requesting supplies to fill their garrisons. Bastiat has theinsight that the arguments in favor of keeping the troops mobilized is “not for the servicesrendered by the army, but for economic ideas. It is these considerations alone that I propose to refute” (p. 4). But, as the saying goes, what is not seen? The taxes being usedto support those troops are “coming from the pocket of the taxpayers” and “cease to provide a living for these taxpayers and their suppliers ...” (pp. 4-5). New economicactivity is not created, but simply shifted from one person to another.
Ideas Come to Life
Following the wake of Hurricane Isabel in 2003, National Oceanic and Atmosphericresearch meteorologist Frank Marks, in a failed attempt at contrarian’s logic, argued thatthe destruction would be good for the economy. “A lot of money gets spent and it flowsthrough the community for years,” he said in his story “The Bright Side of Hurricanes”(Marks, 2003). Yet, the riches used for repair must first be diverted from higher order needs to those of rebuilding a house and the like. The labor isn’t idle before the disaster, but rather directed toward creating some other good or service. Certainly, Bastiat’s ideashaven’t won over all his protectionist foes, as was seen on the bicentennial ceremony of his birth in 2001. Anti-Globalizers and wine makers protested the ceremony, calling for increased subsidies to compete with cheaper imported wine. As France’s forgotten son isnoted as saying in
, “The plans differ; the planners are all alike ...”(Bastiat, 1996a, para 83).Take the most recent presidential election cycles. The most heated debates have centeredon foreign policy. But when it comes to domestic issues, there is a near universalclamoring against “outsourcing” (Chidanand, 2008). That ominous term is used todescribe a millennia-old practice of hiring people who work more cheaply or efficientlythan domestic labor (Hazlitt, 1946/1979, p. 86). Bastiat tackled this issue 150 years before in his
. In it, he recognizes the cord of the protectionistdiscomfort. “They charge it with encouraging foreigners who are more skillful than weare … to produce things that, in the absence of free trade, we should produce ourselves.In short, they accuse it of injuring domestic labor” (1996b, para 3). But Bastiat questionswhy there is no same call to abolish machinery. “If, therefore, it is expedient to protectdomestic labor from the competition of foreign labor
it is no less expedient to protecthuman labor from the competition of mechanical labor
” The protectionists neglect theharm to the unknown laborers who would have been employed and the ultimateconsumers of those goods produced.
His most potent tool was satire, as even his most ardent critics confide. “As an economictheorist, he was third-rate, but as a populist of economic ideas, employing satire and