Monday, March 25, 2013

What the "broken window" fallacy means for you...



Have you heard the parable of the broken window? It's a wonderful example of unintended consequences that applies not only to businesses activity and government regulations, but to individuals as well. Fans of the book "Freakonomics" are given a front row seat to watch the dramatic and always surprising (they are "unintended" after all) effects of unintended consequences. 

But in our haste to laugh and condemn the short-sighted thinking of others, we often don't see the unintended consequences we are creating in our own lives. 

The broken window fallacy, as it is often called, was introduced by French economist Frederic Bastiat in 1850 in his essay, "That Which is Seen and That Which is Unseen." The parable is about a shopkeeper's boy who accidentally breaks a window at his father's store. A bystander commiserates with the shopkeeper, but explains that the broken window is actually a blessing because now the window replacement company gets to earn money replacing the pane.  read more...