As Hurricane Sandy wreaks havoc on the eastern part of the United States, news media are apparently propagating the myth that such disasters have a silver lining in that the damage done creates jobs and brings about economic growth. Bastiat disproved this fallacy long ago, explaining how society was no better off as a result of some destruction than it was before the destruction. There are two things to demonstrate here.
First, roughly three weeks after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, Hurricane Rita was barreling toward the coast of Texas. Four days before making landfall near Sabine Pass,Texas, Rita was a category 5 hurricane with wind speeds reaching up to 180 mph. How many people in Rita's path, including people in New Orleans, were pumping their fists and relishing in their good fortune that economic growth was headed their way? They weren't.
Second, the argument that today is different than in 2005 since the unemployment rate today is much greater relative to 2005, is, too, a fallacy. Somehow, someone wants to make this argument relevant today since it will "create jobs" for currently unemployed or underutilized labor.
Jobs are no more "created" than lust is created when two teenagers get together - it's always there, it just needed the right time and the appropriate place to reveal itself. There are an infinite number of things we want done and are willing to pay for, almost all of them not even realized yet. (Who in 1980 knew of the demand for programmers for apps for iPods, iPhones, iPads, etc. that would emerge twenty years hence?) There are plenty of entrepreneurs with plenty of ideas and plenty of money to fund those ideas that could employ currently unemployed and underutilized workers. Unfortunately, much of it is just sitting on the sideline at the moment, waiting for the right conditions, whatever that may entail. The question is, what is impeding these conditions from emerging? The solution to idle workers is to fix that problem, not to wreck someone's home, requiring them to pay someone else to make the repairs, and then call that economic progress.