The Corner

What’s Unseen

In response to my column, from a reader:

Jonah,

Great article, like always. Led me to two thoughts.

1. I’m an accountant and one client is a used car wholesaler (takes the dealer trade-ins and sells to smaller used car dealers or auctions). He thinks a lot of the smaller used car dealers are going to be run out of business because of this. Those Ford Explorers and such were great sellers and now they’re gone. A whole generation of drivable used cars is disappearing with the government’s help. Strange, but these dealers don’t have union members behind them, I guess.

2. The lottery argument that “The lottery has raised $11 Billion for Education” (Georgia Lottery) etc. What impact would that money have had in the real economy if it had bought light bulbs or books or computers instead of subsidizing quasi-governmental lottery corporations? Just curious. Truth is, I drop a few dollars into the lottery pool, too, so I’m not totally critical of the lottery, but some people probably can’t afford to play.

Sorry so long.

And:

Jonah:

Glad to see everyone piling on the cash-for-clunkers debacle (although a more opportune time might have been when the program was being considered initially).  But I think an important part of Bastiat is not being emphasized strongly enough.  It’s not just that the broker windows or the clunker program leave us with “no net gain”: it’s that they leave us with a net loss, since before the broken window we had a window and a pair of shoes (or a loaf of bread, etc.), and now we just have a window.  Any time wealth is destroyed, we’re going to be worse off.  Broken-window thinking is rampant, so this can’t be said often enough.

Jonah Goldberg, a senior editor of National Review and the author of Suicide of the West, holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute.

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