Sunday, December 07, 2008

Economics in One Lesson - Saving the X Industry

What's ol' Henry talkin' 'bout here?
We are concerned only with a single argument for saving the X industry—that if it is allowed to shrink in size or perish through the forces of free competition (always called by spokesmen for the industry in such cases laissez-faire, anarchic, cutthroat, dog-eatdog, law-of-the-jungle competition) it will pull down the general economy with it, and that if it is artificially kept alive it will help everybody else.
And the results of tariffs, subsidies, price fixing and government bailouts of automakers and banks?
It is obvious in the case of a subsidy that the taxpayers must lose precisely as much as the X industry gains. It should be equally clear that, as a consequence, other industries must lose what the X industry gains. They must pay part of the taxes that are used to support the X industry. And customers, because they are taxed to support the X industry, will have that much less income left with which to buy other things. The result must be that other industries on the average must be smaller than otherwise in order that the X industry may be larger.

But the result of this subsidy is not merely that there has been a transfer of wealth or income, or that other industries have shrunk in the aggregate as much as the X industry has expanded. The result is also (and this is where the net loss comes in to the nation considered as a unit) that capital and labor are driven out of industries in which they are more efficiently employed to be diverted to an industry in which they are less efficiently employed. Less wealth is created. The average standard of living is lowered compared with what it would have been.

From Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt.

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