[FOUNTAIN]Broken itemsA hooligan passing by a bakery broke a window. The startled owner ran out and went after the man, but the hooligan ran away and the damage was not serious. The owner just covered the broken window with paper. A few days later, garbage piled up in front of the bakery and scribbling appeared on the wall. Customers started to decrease. Soon, the area became a place where the hooligans fought each other.
American criminal psychologists James Wilson and George Kelling focused on increasing crime rates in the city and published the thesis “Broken Windows,” in 1982. It says that if the building owner neglects minor damage, such as a broken window, then larger and more serious crimes such as theft and violence occur. People who see the broken window feel the landlord has given up the building.
The theory is that if we take small disorders and crimes lightly, they eventually become a serious matter.
Michael Levine, an expert in marketing and promoting, applied this theory in business management and introduced the Broken Windows Theory. If a company ignores a minor mistake or loophole, then it will bring unexpected losses and a critical failure of management later on.
When paint chips off walls, toilets get dirty, and when employees are allowed to have unkind attitudes, it could lead to the fall of a great company. The message is, whether in criminology or business management, we should fix the broken windows at once.
Early in the 19th century, there was already a debate about broken windows in economics.
M. de Saint-Chamans, a member of the committee to reconstruct France, said replacing the broken window brings a loss to the bakery owner, but since the window shop owner gains that much, there is no loss for the nation. He even said that due to the window shop owner’s consumption, new income is created ― so it is desirable to break windows.
In contrast, Claude Frederic Bastiat, a liberal economist, said if the window had not been broken, the money would have been used elsewhere.
Therefore, the profit of the window shop owner is just the a loss of opportunity for another person. Bastiat argued that wealth created through damage is false, trapped in the error of the broken window.
After the great defeat in the regional election, the government and the ruling party is busy repairing its broken windows. Although they need to repair the broken windows, it will be a double loss if they repair it with a poor product.
by Kim Jong-soo
The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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