In a brilliant scene from Heinlein's classic The Door into Summer, written in 1957, the main character seems to channel Bastiat himself when confronted in a futuristic world with a government program essentially the same as Cash for Clunkers. The main character goes on a long sleep in 1970 and awakes in 2000. His first steady job upon waking is crushing new, unsold cars. This is the conversation he has with a coworker upon his first day of work:
“It’s a simple matter of economics, son. These are surplus cars the government has accepted as security against price-support loans. They’re two years old now and they can never be sold...so the government junks them and sells them back to the steel industry. You can’t run a blast furnace just on ore; you have to have scrap iron as well. You ought to know that even if you are a Sleeper. Matter of fact, with high-grade ore so scarce, there’s more and more demand for scrap. The steel industry needs these cars.”
“But why build them in the first place if they can’t be sold? It seems wasteful."
“It just seems wasteful. You want to throw people out of work? You want to run down the standard of living?”
“Well, why not ship them abroad? It seems to me they could get more for them on the open market abroad than they are worth as scrap.”
“What!—and ruin the export market? Besides, if we started dumping cars abroad we’d get everybody sore at us—Japan, France, Germany, Great Asia, everybody. What are you aiming to do? Start a war?” He sighed and went on in a fatherly tone. “You go down to the public library and draw out some books. You don’t have any right to opinions on these things until you know something about them.”Sound at all like the familiar parable of the broken window? There truly is nothing new under the sun.