Feb 11, 2010

Are Blizzards Good? It Depends!

As a guy who spent 30 years of his life living in Buffalo, NY, I think I know a thing or two about blizzards. Ask any Buffalonian of a certain age where they were during the Blizzard of '77 and they will probably tell you more than you want to know about their harrowing experience. (I was stranded at my grandmother's house for five days in case you were wondering, thanks for asking.)

Here is what I have learned about blizzards over the years:

#1. They stink unless you are at the age where playing outside in snow still seems attractive.

#2. They are incredibly frustrating as you generally get stuck somewhere for a long period of time.

#3. Sooner or later you are going to be asked to shovel a driveway or a sidewalk or maybe even a house.

#4. Driving in them is a huge drag and extremely dangerous.

OK, what I have recently learned about blizzards is this- they are really, really expensive. D.C. has spent what, like $500 zillion dollars in the last week trying to recover from the load(s) of snow that was dumped on there?

Blizzard costs have me thinking about my favorite econ answer, the one that you can use whenever someone asks you anything about economics..."It depends."

Question: Are blizzards good for the economy?
Answer: It depends.

Bad if you can't work because you are snowed in for a week. Bad if you own a restaurant and nobody can make it out to eat. Bad if you are a teacher and you learn that you have to make up snow days well into June.

Good if you sell shovels or snow blowers. Good if you own a snow plowing business. Really good if you sell Snuggies and goose down jackets. Fantastic if you are the power company!