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Michael O’Hare, making the case that Boston’s leadership “has kind of lost it,” writes:

“the back of my envelope says the price tag for this is 3 million x $56000 [median per capita income for Boston] x 1/200 [fraction of working year lost] = 840 million dollars”

The math is right but I have to take issue with the underlying assumptions. If all “work” were analogous to, say, Bitcoin mining, this would be true, but:

a) If you’re only looking at foregone economic production Boston is also filled with retirees and children and unemployed persons and students. Not sure where he gets 3 million from, it’s somewhere between the city pop and the MSA pop, but assuming that’s the right number a far smaller share are actually not working today when they would be working.
b) Some people can work from home!
c) Every organization has some amount of slack. Some days you do more work than average, some days less. I have a feeling a lot of Beaners will go to work on Monday and just compensate for today.

So while the final tabulated Boston GMP for 2013 will undoubtedly be lower, it won’t be that much lower. In 2010 the relevant MSA had a GMP of $313,690,000,000, so O’Hares $840,000,000 number is roughly a quarter-of-a-percent of that; if you end up measuring the cost of today’s lockdown by total foregone wages, my guess is you’ll see the real loss will an order of magnitude less. I’d wager the majority of Bostonians would be glad to pay that price to see the suspects in custody (or worse) by day’s end.

Frankly, I think if we took more “everyday” urban homicides a tenth as seriously as we take attacks like this, there’d be a whole lot less of it.

UPDATE: First, here’s an alternate estimate from Bloomberg BusinessWeek.

Frankly, let me adjust my above argument. Looking solely at pecuniary costs, I don’t think you can make the case against today’s lockdown. But there’s a lot going on here that is definitively not pecuniary in nature. Whether this “demonstrated resolve” or “gave the terrorists what they wanted” is hard to know. But it might be fuzzier, more qualitative, longer-term questions about our civic fabric that make the difference, not forgone productivity.

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