The Importance of the “Full Picture” for Public Policy

In his latest column for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, George Mason University professor Don Boudreaux brings up a very basic economic point: “The first act is not the full story.”

“Experts” routinely ignore this point when proposing corporate welfare schemes. To illustrate this fact, Boudreaux examines the impact of trade on the domestic steel industry.

“It’s true that more imports of steel destroy some jobs in the domestic steel industry,” he writes, “But keep watching to see what happens next. The lower-priced steel enables domestic manufacturers of automobiles, farm equipment and machine tools to produce at lower costs.”

Thus, lower input prices for those industries enable greater output and, likely, greater employment.

Looking at the whole picture is vital to sound public policy. Doing so includes considering what 19th century economist Frédéric Bastiat calls “the seen and the unseen.”

More Blog Posts

04-01-2021 07:38am

Order and chaos: Embracing an emergent order mindset

We are surrounded by order that occurs without design or control on all sides. Yet we rarely think about this order.

Read more

03-24-2021 08:16am

Supporting the emerging generation of tech leaders

An employer and associate perspective from the Emerging Tech Policy Leaders Program, which received 90 applications for its first cohort.

Read more

03-18-2021 08:42am

Where should K-12 go next?

We ask two of our partners in K-12 education to tell us what they’ve learned in the last year, and what they think should happen next.   

Read more

Sign up for updates