3.22.2010

No Free Lunch


If there's anything you ought to remember from your Econ 101 class, it's that life is all about trade-offs. Seems patently obvious, yet in our "I want it all" culture, how quickly we forget. Politicians, who are voted in by a populace that has been led to believe it can in fact have it all, are not as dumb as you think: they know that pointing out that inconvenient truth of there being "no free lunch" is a sure-fire way to not have a job after the next election.

And so you have the continuance of irrational behavior to the point that the system is under complete stress. In California and in other states, Democrats refuse to cut services and Republicans refuse to raise taxes, leading to fiscal distress. The current health care debate would be a lot more constructive if one side realized that you actually have to pay for stuff, and if the other side realized that it matters for history what we were able to do for the least among us in terms of health care coverage. People have "conveniently" forgotten that the "inconvenient truth" Al Gore was talking about was that if we really care about the environment, we actually have to change personal behavior and bear financial cost. And let's not forget already that this recession we have just recently emerged from, and that continues to weigh heavily on our employment statuses and public finances, is largely as a result of individuals and companies thinking they could have it all.

This may be unpopular to say, or so seemingly obvious that it hardly warrants stating, but here goes anyway: there's no free lunch. If we will all realize that, maybe we can get to making some real progress in the real world, rather than prancing and preening to look good in the artificial worlds we have made up to feel good about ourselves.

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