Day 30 – Good Intentions

January 30, 2009

“The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.” ~ Louis D. Brandeis

I leave everyone with this quote for the weekend. After listening to lectures on the dangers of government intervention and the bailout of two major auto industries, I found that this quote is very relevant to what is happening. Keep in mind, though the government may have the best of intentions in what it is doing, ultimately, the legislator falls prey to the Broken Window Fallacy. The legislator takes into account the immediate seen consequences of acting or not acting, as the case may be; however, he fails to take into account the unseen and less immediate consequences of his actions. 19th century economist Frederic Bastiat wrote an essay about this in 1850, titled That Which Is Seen And That Which Is Not Seen

 

When you are tempted to use your government to act in a way that might seem desirable, remember to look for “That Which Is Not Seen”. Also, before you act, or before you decide to support some sort of government legislation, remember that good intentions do not guarantee desirable outcomes. Make sure you look for and weigh all consequences that may arise from your action–the easily seen as well as the not-so-easily seen. This seems elementary, but an overwhelming number of people make this mistake very often. (Including a Nobel Prize winning economist who refers to WWII as an economic stimulus, entirely disregarding that the massive amount of resources spent on war and reconstruction could have been better spent elsewhere. Talk about falling prey to the Broken Window Fallacy!)