More on the broken window fallacy and Hurricane Irene

August 28th, 2011

This is getting too easy. From the Times:

On Saturday, when the word was that Hurricane Irene had New York City in its sights, Mike Fenton was proud of himself: “I bought the last loaf of bread on the West Side.”

On Sunday, after the storm had delivered something less than a knockout punch to the city, his mood had changed. The two hours he had spent going to three grocery stores to find the bread? He really did not want to talk about it.

“With all the preparations and all the hoopla on TV, it was all for naught,” he said. “I feel embarrassed that we made such a to-do.”

Opportunity cost. Spending time (and money) waiting three hours on bread was time that could have been spent more productively.

“Around 2 p.m. on Saturday, the grocery stores were saying there was no more bread,” he said. Trader Joe’s — a specialty grocery store nearby — “had a line around the corner. That’s when business started to pick up. We had an extra number of delivery orders — pickups. As the day progressed, people were more and more desperate.”

Like Mr. Fenton, some who had put in their time on long lines had regrets. And the mayor was on their minds.

“Bloomberg, he did O.K., but he made people crazy and spend a lot of money,” said Franklin Rodriguez, a building superintendent on 44th Drive in Long Island City, Queens, just outside the Zone A low-lying evacuation area. He said he had spent $200 on supplies on Friday and $67 on a fill-up.

“Water, batteries, tuna fish, other food in a can,” he said. “For what? Believe me, people spent a lot of money on this. The tuna fish and the other food, O.K., we’re going to eat it. I don’t need all this water and batteries, though.”

Paying to fix the broken window rather than buying a suit. How about buying all these useless batteries instead of,  I don’t know, contributing to pay for rent.

More from David Boaz.