The Parable of the G20 Riots


Rioters unwittingly explicate the stimulus bill.


It’s difficult to understand the destruction of the G20 rioters this past weekend in Toronto, especially since even organized rioters aren’t known for their lucidity. This is why they turn to rioting in the first place.

On the surface, it seems that the rioters protested the economic policies of the G20 Summit. But what they’re actually doing is using their vegan fury to elucidate the agenda of the summit and everything that it promotes.

To understand what I mean, let’s look at the summit through the lens of Frederic Bastiat, a 19th Century French economist and his thought experiment called the Parable of the Broken Window.

In the parable, a young boy breaks the window of a baker’s shop, but instead of punishing the delinquent, the townspeople praise him as an economic savior. The baker, they argue will now have to buy a window from the glazier, and so the glazier will have more money to conduct business with someone else, and so on. This act of vandalism, the citizens contend, is in truth a boon for the economy.

Of course, as Bastiat points out, the baker is never able to use the window money for business growth, like making more bread or hiring an apprentice. Even if the baker wanted to use the money to get his thetans measured by a Scientologist, it would still be better than replacing a broken window, at least economically speaking.

The lesson of this parable is intuitively obvious because we know the Haitian earthquake wasn’t a boon for their economy. We know the oil spill isn’t the economic savior of the Gulf coast. And we know a Julia Roberts movie isn’t good just because it gives men something to complain about.

But our politicians commit the fallacy of the broken window on a much larger scale.

Through the famed stimulus bill, Obama takes money (breaks windows) from people so he could put it back into the economy (buys new windows). The only difference is Obama is the glazier who goes around breaking windows to make himself appear useful.

Even though the G20 countries scolded Obama to stop breaking so many windows, no leader would dare question the validity of breaking at least a few windows. Julia Roberts movies, they declare, are okay in small doses, but a Julia Roberts marathon runs up the deficit.

The G20 protesters, unlike Obama, at least have the honesty to stand by their work as nothing more than a broken window. It’s through this honesty that we can understand what’s going on behind the closed doors of the summit.

When we see a burning cop car or a guy with dread locks smearing feces on a storefront, we get an exclusive press pass to what is metaphorically discussed at the summit.

It’s no coincidence the rioters and leaders both turn to destruction as a solution. Both are blindly rebelling against a world they don’t understand. Rioters don’t understand the political power they despise, and politicians don’t understand the economics and philosophy they think doesn’t matter.

Destruction is the natural response to a world of chaotic, inexplicable events, not unlike the plot of a Julia Roberts movie.

PhilosophyMark Derian