Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Broken Window Fallacy

The term “fallacy” is described as a mistaken belief otherwise known as some type of misconception. Fallacies are used to add heat to the fires of different kinds of arguments that are ongoing to this day. The use of a fallacy tends to focus on two-sided arguments in which often end with faulty reasoning. This is when overall conclusions aren’t exactly supported by the information given throughout the fallacious arguments. One example of a fallacy is the broken window fallacy.

The broken window fallacy was first brought to attention by a French economist named Frederic Bastiat. In his description of his fallacious tale, a shopkeeper’s son happened to have broken a pane of glass out of what seemed to be carelessness, in which the shopkeeper had to pay out of his pocket to replace. This meant that the money that the shopkeeper had gone towards the window repair rather than towards his external rewards including luxury items such as new shoes, or a new tux for examples.

The money spent on the window repair is referenced to as a maintenance cost because it is money that is being used to replace something that was purchased before - the window.  Although the father had lost some disposable income to the glazier, the glazier now had money that is assumed to be spent on other things which could generally provide a boost in the economy.  In short, Bastiat exclaims “that destruction - and its costs - don’t pay in an economic sense”. This statement is flawed in the sense that the costs to repair different types of destructions can indeed help in an economic sense. The costs go towards the ones doing the work which in this case is the glazier. The glazier can then their earnings to pay their own costs which then could help more and more individuals.

Adding on to that, the so-called “onlookers” in this tale come to believe that the boy who broke the window did the community a favor of doing so, because then the glazier would earn money which he would spend on something for himself as mentioned in the previous paragraph. This is an example of a flaw in reasoning considering the fact that outsiders do not know exactly where the money that the glazier earned would go towards.

Also, the onlookers only know of two parties involved in this tale, the man (shopkeeper), and his son. They either forget or they don’t recognize that there may be a third or fourth party involved. This is a flaw that indicates that the fallacy that is shown in Bastiat’s tale comes from making decisions based on the two parties that the onlookers know of in the short term, rather than constructing decisions based on all possible parties involved in the short as well as long term.

Overall, the amounts of possible conclusions of how this tale could turn out are endless. No matter what could happen, happiness is most likely fulfilled for someone. Yes, the shopkeeper unfortunately had to spend some money to fix the window, however once it has been fixed, he is happy once more. But if the window was never broken in the first place, the shopkeeper could have spent the same amount of money to buy something he’s always wanted.


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