Michael Munger’s reference to Bastiat’s proposal to grow the French economy by burning Paris is a worthwhile reminder.
For that lesson alone, readers should give it a few minutes. But this paragraph near the end captures something far more intimately relevant to our times than even Munger may have intended:
Once you are duped into believing destruction is productive, almost everything that a rational public policy would label as a cost becomes, by some judo move of seraphic intuition, a benefit. If need is wealth, then it makes sense to outlaw fossil fuels immediately, because of all the jobs created trying desperately to provide basic transport and energy.
How well this captures our current moment! It does so for two reasons. First, we have been duped as Munger suggests. From economics to unions to social issues and identity groups, the solution on offer to cure our ills is always destruction. Smash the patriarchy!
Second, for many of the people leading that march, other people’s need is the advocates’ wealth — directly, in the sense that they are in the business of selling other people’s deprivation for their own gain.