Let's Nuke Chicago!

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Whenever some disaster resulting in massive property damage occurs, the media will always find some economist to quote who says that it's really a blessing in disguise. The devastation, he claims, will actually benefit the economy, because of all the economic activity necessary to rebuild and the jobs this creates. When buildings are destroyed, construction workers and tradesmen get work, sellers of raw materials do brisk business, and all sorts of goods need to be manufactured in great quantities for people to resume their lives. Earthquakes, Hurricane Katrina, violence in Iraq, war in general, and even the 9/11 terrorist attack have been said to have this upside. This position is endorsed by many, including such luminaries as New York Times economics columnist Paul Krugman.

Other economists, and especially libertarians, have disputed this by saying that it is an example of Frdric Bastiat's Broken Window Fallacy. They argue that the productive energies channeled into rebuilding destroyed property could otherwise have been used elsewhere. The labor and capital that are used to repair the damage left by disasters do not spring into existence from nowhere, they claim; they are diverted from resources that would have been used for other goods and services. Thus, they say, it is fallacious to claim that the destruction of wealth can make us wealthier

But it occurs to me that these critics are, perhaps, being too hasty. Maybe opportunity costs aren't an issue in these situations. Maybe mass destruction of property really does create prosperity. Some fairly popular and respected economists have said so. Therefore, using the best in modern economic science, I have devised a brilliant plan to stimulate the economy, create thousands of jobs, and bring prosperity for years to come, for my home state of Illinois and for the entire nation.

Let's nuke Chicago!

Not with the people still there, obviously. That would be inhumane. No, we would of course evacuate everyone first. Ideally, for maximum economic benefit, everyone would evacuate empty-handed and on foot or on mass transportation, leaving all cars and possessions behind. The government can compensate them. Once that's done, the city and everything in it would be destroyed utterly.

If the economists the media always loves to quote are right, the result would be an economic bonanza like none we've ever seen before. Housing would have to be built for millions of displaced people. Massive amounts of infrastructure would have to be restored. People would need to replace billions of dollars worth of consumer goods. The amount of spending and job creation would be staggering.

The plan allows for plenty customization according to the specific needs of the economy. If rebuilding the entire city is too much to handle at once, we can fine-tune the amount of economic boost we receive by using a larger or smaller nuclear device, as necessary. If the long-term health effects of radiation are a concern, a bombardment of fuel-air explosives can be substituted, though that would mean foregoing major benefits to the health care industry. Further, this need not be a one-time event. We have a huge stockpile of nuclear weapons, so we can continue our newfound prosperity indefinitely by frying another city whenever the economy needs another boost.

On a less grand scale, smaller acts of destruction can be carried out all over the country to keep demand up and keep the economy healthy. Local governments could periodically tear up their roads and burn down their own government buildings, then rebuild them. Houses could be bulldozed at random. The government could pay bounties to people to break and replace their own possessions. The possibilities for wealth creation are endless!

The precise details can be hashed out later. I'm a visionary man of ideas, not a technocrat. Whatever the details, however, the plan is sound, unless there's some basic point of economics that economists employed by the mainstream media keep missing. But what are the odds of that?

John Markley [send him mail] is a freelance newspaper reporter from Illinois. He maintains a blog at The Superfluous Man.

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