Would shoplifting create jobs?

Matt says yes.  Having fewer goods on the shelves prompts retailers to replenish their inventories, which spurs economic activity.  You don’t even need to break any windows!  But there’s more to it than that.  As Matt points out, a key question is what storeowners expect to be the future rate of shoplifiting.  If a lot of shoplifting is expected, costs of supply go up and output will shrink, with some offsetting employment boost in the security guard sector.  In other words, the shoplifters who do the most good are those who don’t get caught and who in fact leave no trace.  If you are caught shoplifting, insist that you have no compatriots or allies and that you are a fully atypical individual and therefore that no Bayesian updating should go on about the likelihood of future retail crime.  Don’t dress or talk like a shoplifter!  (Be creative.)  Similarly, it is best if the invading aliens insist that they too are bothered by the Fermi paradox.

If it’s a durable good monopolist, the shoplifter is destroying/restricting output, benefiting the shop owner, raising prices, and helping the economy only in the strangest of the liquidity trap models.  The benevolent shoplifter will seek out the more competitive markets or perhaps grab ripe strawberries, put down those hardcover books.


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