precursor: bitcoin.stackexchange.com/q/1851

How can it be economically responsible to destroy property which has value?

If a property is destroyed (which is the right of the property holder in most cases, I do not dispute that) then, the holder robs themselves of the economic benefit of otherwise disposing of the property which has value and that they no longer want, rob the economy also of that passed on benefit or, at least their heirs and the future economy are robbed of the benefit.

How can this be economically responsible dominion over property?

I take it that under most jurisdictions a company would be prevented from doing the same as it is not in the best interests of the company, a principle which the directors must uphold.

I wish to gain an economic view of flaw/benefit this practice.

Can this even be justified in such extreme circumstance as; I possess the only ten copy Picasso's, they are validated and dated and, there is no surviving original. I destroy nine of the ten copies.

  • $\begingroup$ If I say that a fool and his money are soon parted, this destroying property with value seems to exemplify the statement. $\endgroup$
    – Willtech
    Commented Apr 23, 2018 at 10:03
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Well, this is simply not economics. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 23, 2018 at 10:04
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelGreinecker It is true, it seems like the opposite of economics. It is not an entirely new trend, however. $\endgroup$
    – Willtech
    Commented Apr 23, 2018 at 10:07
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Economics is a field of research, it has nothing to do with "economical behavior." $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 23, 2018 at 10:13
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @willtech I feel like the answer to your question is No, it is not economically responsible to destroy property that has value. Humans are not always economically responsible. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 25, 2018 at 13:56

1 Answer 1


The general answer would be that it is wasteful and selfish to destroy assets with value. I'm referring to assets as something you own, as property can be confused with land or real estate properties.

Still, I tried to list a few motives for destruction of assets

Responsible destruction

The only cases that come to mind as "responsible" destruction of assets, are when the assets in cause can harm others. Disarmament is a good example here: arms have value, but its destruction reduces the potential arm they can cause.

Destruction for personal gain

The case you provided goes more in the direction on "in which cases can you destroy value for self gain". The Art example you provide is a good one: increasing the scarcity could be economically profitable, when one is sure that the increase in value for the remaining asset is larger than the loss of value from the destroyed asset. If you consider fraud, burning your own house or car for claiming insurance is another example.

Irrational destruction

As many referred, you need to consider that humans don't always act "rationally", and in times of frustration and desperation people feel like destroying stuff. An historical example from the US: In the great depression in 1929, farmers were destroying their own production as the price of crops was below the cost of producing it. At the same time there was hunger around the whole US (source).

Creative destruction

As you tagged this question as reference-request, I believe that you might be interested to read the Wikipedia article on creative destruction, a term coined by Schumpeter, described as

The process of industrial mutation that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one.

Although this doesn't answer your question per se, is the only reference I could think of on the topic of "destruction".


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