Posts Tagged ‘Henry Hazlitt’

John Stossel on the Broken Window Fallacy

Posted: March 21, 2013 by ShortTimer in Economics, Journalism

From a couple years ago, but vividly illustrated:

And the Broken Window Fallacy in a more classical sense, with the glazier and the baker, and the forgotten tailor explained how Henry Hazlitt explained it.


Just today, Obama went out asking for police chiefs and law enforcement to support his assault on the Constitution.

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama kept up pressure on Congress Monday to pass tough new gun legislation, seeking help from law enforcement leaders in three communities that have suffered the horrors of mass shootings.

At a White House meeting, Obama said that no group is more important in the gun debate and he said he recognizes the issue “elicits a lot of passion all across the country.” But Obama also said he believes Congress will respond to appeals from police.

“Hopefully if law enforcement officials who are dealing with this stuff every single day can come to some basic consensus in terms of steps that we need to take,” he said, “Congress is going to be paying attention to them, and we’ll be able to make progress.”

Law enforcement leaders are bureaucrat politicians.  They’re there to avoid liability and make decisions that will make sure they can retire.  They take their oaths less seriously than their desire to lord over and control populations, because they’re used to lording over and controlling a police force, and see “the public” as something else to be controlled – and all of that lording over and controlling makes for a stable element for them to retire from.

Law enforcement leaders often do things that are illegal as well.  One rather famous one was drug checkpoints inside the US in the case of Indianapolis v Edmond.  The short short version is you can’t go violating the 4th Amendment “in the general interest of crime control”.  Stopping everyone on the road and searching them for anything illegal may be effective, but it makes for a police state.  A police state, to a police administrator, is an okay thing.

Keep in mind police already get special rights when it comes to the Second Amendment, whether active or retired.  Some animals are more equal than others.  There are good reasons for those statutes, and in free states they mirror what citizens can already do.  In states ruled with iron fists, they give special privileges to the state enforcers.

Out in San Diego, the anti-rights police chief there says that the destruction of gun culture and massive gun confiscation can be done in a matter of a generation:

San Diego Police Chief, William Lansdowne said in an interview that the implementation of new gun laws will take guns off the streets of America within a generation.

According to San Diego 6, Lansdowne said that it may take a generation but guns will eventually be taken off the streets through new laws like Senator Dianne Feinstein’s proposed assault weapons ban:

“Chief Lansdowne, who plays an active role in the western region of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) association, said it may take a generation but guns will eventually be taken off the streets through new laws like Senator Diane Feinstein’s proposed assault weapons ban legislation. Some of the items his organization is addressing include; a ban on assault weapons, restricting high-capacity magazines, closing loopholes that allow firearm sales between private owners without background checks, and implementing much stricter background checks by using a comprehensive database.”

Ban modern guns, ban effective guns, ban citizens from selling to each other without begging permission of the state, and have the state simply deny everyone while tracking everyone for further confiscation.  Shall not be infringed is meaningless to this bureaucrat cop.

Lansdowne called for tougher gun laws in an interview with KPBS, and praised President Obama for his initiative on gun control.

“I could not be more supportive of the president for taking the position he has,” he said.

“I think it’s courageous with the politics involved in this process.  But I think it’s going to eventually make the country safer and certainly safer for my officers that have to respond to these calls.

And there’s the key.  As a bureaucrat, he thinks this will make the mob he lords over and controls safer.  It puts the individual citizen at a disadvantage (especially the woman who now is given the “right” to fistfight her rapist).  It also ignores that the police are not responsible for your safety.  They can’t be everywhere at once, so they can’t be held accountable for your individual misfortune.  But they can make you into a criminal if you fight back; and they can make you into a criminal who can’t own tools of self defense; or someone who they will prosecute later for using those tools to defend yourself.  Police don’t stop crime.  To quote the intro to Law & Order, the police investigate crime and district attorneys prosecute the offenders.  Nowhere in there are you defended – you’re the body found by the jogger at the beginning of the episode.

The bureaucrat cop doesn’t care that the public is disarmed at all.  He isn’t disarmed.  You’re the one without the gun – not him.  If he’s in law enforcement for too long, he gets that jaded “everyone sucks” mindset, wherein the only people who matter are cops, and everyone else is going to be a criminal sooner or later.  That isn’t the purpose of the police in a free society.

Lansdowne believes that the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut weakened the gun lobby’s power and has opened the door for new gun control legislation.

“We broke the NRA,” Lansdowne said off-camera.

This would be the equivalent of him saying “within a generation, with Connor’s reforms, we should be able to stomp out any integrationist ideas…” and off-camera “we broke MLK”.  And yes, I will keep right on going there – gun control is racist.

Lansdowne’s position on gun control appears to be in the minority among sheriffs across the nation, however.

As previously reported, sheriffs from Florida to California have stated publicly that they will not comply with any new gun control measures proposed by the federal government.

That’s the good news.  Sheriffs, unlike police chiefs, are ultimately accountable.  They have elections to own up to, and voters to be responsible to.  A police chief answers only to a mayor – and many mayors have used the Curley Effect to totally destroy their cities, leading to police chiefs who are simply their paramilitary functionaries.  Most places, it takes more work to destroy a county than it does to destroy a city.

Something else that police chiefs as well as outright politicians will say are things like this line:

Still, one murder is one too many. One illegal gun is one too many, too, because when someone is murdered in New York City — although that happens much less frequently than in the past — odds are an illegal handgun was used.

Mind you in NYC, an “illegal gun” pretty much means any gun that isn’t owned by the police or political cronies of the mayor.  But this is also a Broken Window Fallacy argument.

Due to all the peaceable people willing to surrender their rights for what they think will be safety, there are a lot more people who are harmed, hurt, assaulted, robbed, murdered, and raped because they lack tools to fight back.  But these crime statistics that would be prevented with defensive gun usage never materialize.  In the rest of the country, DGUs are overlooked because they are underreported – if a crime is deterred, there is nothing to report, and the citizen who deters it is unlikely to call the police just to be hassled for a DGU.

Taking the idea that “one murder is too many” into “so we must disarm all the citizens” means that there will be more murders.  And the “odds are an illegal handgun was used” statement is because virtually all handguns in NYC are illegal.  But Bloomberg and his lackeys, like all dictators, can never control a populace entirely.  Prison guards work very hard to do so and know that it can’t be done.  Bloomberg then takes the usual route of all dictators and claims it’s because his system isn’t implemented everywhere.  The problem is there’s still freedom somewhere, and he must destroy it.  Police chiefs already have a subjected population – their officers, and a subjected area – their city.

Actual officers’ groups often oppose gun control, as they are the ones answering the calls and going to see people who were unable to resist criminals.  A few police chiefs also understand this, but the vocal ones, and the ones calling for gun control yesterday, today, and tomorrow, are those that hate that they can’t control everyone (thus destroying all risks and making their life easy).

From “On the Other Hand” by the western Canadian Frontier Centre for Public Policy:

What these Canadians intially note about inflation and how governments fight inflation isn’t quite true, given quantitative easing and how the fractional reserve banking system works in the US.  They note later on that the US is operating on the “mistaken assumption that the money supply can stimulate the economy and create jobs”.

Milton Friedman discussed this several times, explaining that it’s basically a hidden tax:

“Inflation is the one form of taxation that can be imposed without legislation.”


Broken down:

From “On the Other Hand” by the western Canadian Frontier Centre for Public Policy:

Especially worth noting in this era of politicians telling companies what kind of profits are okay and what kind aren’t.

From “On the Other Hand” by the western Canadian Frontier Centre for Public Policy:

Very much worth watching.  For those who haven’t Hazlitt’s book, I highly recommend it.

Very much worth noting that the effect is the exact opposite of what is intended.  With little or negative profit incentive to make low-income rentals, landlords and developers don’t make more of them, and instead build expensive housing that is profitable.  Landlords of low-income rentals often end up with bills that exceed what their housing can pay – examples of folks in big cities who’ve lived there for decades, or handed rentals off to their children mean that their rent is never inflation-adjusted, while prices in the rest of the world have changed.  Landlords then become stuck on fixed incomes and can’t maintain their properties without losing money on them.  This creates the unintentional effect of landlords who become slumlords, whether to escape from the housing that they can’t sell – because no one will buy a property that has a fixed income below the cost of repairs, or because they want the housing to be condemned and destroyed in order to free them from the financial burden of it.  Nothing good comes of rent controls any more than any other price controls.

From “On the Other Hand” by the western Canadian Frontier Centre for Public Policy:

Price-fixing doesn’t work, and they make the important point that wages are also a price – they are the price an individual chooses to sell their labor at.  When the government sets a minimum price for labor, it means that someone who’s labor is not worth paying the minimum wage for, like young people, disadvantaged folks with limited skills, etc., can’t even get entry-level jobs that would then let them boost their potential wages through acquiring experience.  They can’t add value to their labor, because no one wants to buy their labor at the price the government sets.

Minimum wage laws by themselves don’t work, something we noted waaay back on the old site, with the Job-Killing Impact of Minimum Wage Laws.

From “On the Other Hand” by the western Canadian Frontier Centre for Public Policy:

They still make fun of Newfies.

The short discussion of how Canadian agriculture works with regards to “stabilizing” commodities makes it a lot more palatable.  Without US politics around a discussion of how product prices change, it makes it easier to understand.  There’s no fallacious argument for or against industry protection that’s inherent and intertwined with the discussion, since few folks outside of Canada pay much attention to their agribusiness politics.