Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Natural Disasters, It Turns Out, Are Bad (Mark Thornton)

Surprise, surprise! Mark Thornton is happy to report that common sense wins out over flawed economic theory:

It seems that we may never rid ourselves of the broken-window fallacy.

Hurricane Katrina certainly did not stop economists from proclaiming the silver lining of natural disasters. On September 9, 2005, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao told USA Today that demand could create a labor shortage that could push up wage rates and that "We're going to see a tremendous boom in construction." On December 3rd, 2005, Nigel Gault, chief domestic economist at Global Insight, said, "We are now at the point where Hurricane Katrina's effects are adding to job creation rather than detracting from it."

And it's not only that disasters just have a silver lining: economists have long believed that natural disasters and wars are actually good for the economy! Until recently they have not made any attempt to empirically test their views. However, in 2002 Mark Skidmore and Hideki Toya published a paper where they found a positive correlation between disasters and human capital, productivity, and GDP growth.

Read the rest, and also read Bastiat's explanation of the broken window fallacy.

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