Thursday, April 1, 2010

Dueling Fallacies

This Free Exchange piece does a good job of confronting the "Broken Window Fallacy" anti-stimulus argument. To be sure, some of the "shovel-ready" projects funded by the stimulus are a case of solutions in desperate search of a problem (i.e. there's nothing wrong but we'll fix it anyway). But some of the things are things that need fixing anyway and are things that are will only be fixed with help from a little 'nudge'. In other words, the current owners of some buildings might have installed better windows, but for the fact that the crappy window they have is already there and paid for - it's the "Sunk Cost Fallacy" and I'm starting to feel like I'm trapped in it with my current car, but that's another story.
As RA puts it:
can we really say, in a world in which the sunk cost fallacy has power, that the
broken windows fallacy is a fallacy? Let's say my old window is a cruddy window,
and I would derive net benefits from replacing it, but I am reluctant to because
I've already paid for the original window and throwing it out would seem like a
waste. If some delinquent then throws a rock through my window, I'm made better
off.

Trust me, I've hoped more than once on my drive home the last few weeks, "boy, wouldn't it be nice if some redneck rearended me just enough to total my car?" Or, since I'm theoretically gonna save tons with compact flourescent bulbs, why haven't I replaced my incandescents?

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