The Concept of Trade-Offs

Thank you to author Jay Kennedy for sharing his views on trade-offs when it comes to our economic and political health as a nation. Read on and comment below with your opinion!


As a young man, I was introduced to the great economist, Thomas Sowell, by my father. As a child, I heard what he said and read a lot of what he wrote, but could not comprehend it. About three years ago, I decided to reacquaint myself with his economic concepts. As an ultraconservative I, like many of that belief, unfortunately allowed the over-aggressiveness of neo-conservatism to convince me that fiscal irresponsibility is justified in the name of a strong national defense. As I began to research and study what Dr. Sowell wrote, my personal disdain for fiscal responsibility began to change.

One of the things I listened to quite a bit was his expunction of the concept of trade-offs. Political ideologies, namely conservatives, liberals, and libertarians, all claim to have the perfect ideology. Each one thinks that their own ideas are infallible and perfect. But in reality, no one has the perfect ideology and no one has the monopoly on freedom. While some may be closer than others (and some may miss it all together) no one is infallible.

Thomas Sowell expounded on this idea several times. While an idea has positives, it also has negatives. These are called trade-offs. When an economist looks into a particular plan, strategy, or idea, the economist looks for something to compare it to. For example another idea, statistics, or history. The economist understand that every idea, however well-intentioned or studied, has positive and negative effects, and each one needs to be carefully looked into in order to choose the one that has the fewest negative effects, as well as the greatest possible outcome.

First, let’s look at the liberal ideology. This ideology is one that believes in government intervention into even the minutest details of domestic life in extreme cases. They believe that things like education, welfare, healthcare, and infrastructure should all be nationalized and controlled. While these ideas, based increasingly off of socialism, are well intentioned by many there are many effects that are detrimental. First, any time something is subsidized by the government, there will be an increase of it. When the government increases domestic spending, it must continually raise taxes to pay for it. This reduces job production. Meanwhile, work ethic goes down, as people continue to become more reliant on the government. After a time, long or short depending on the wealth of the nation, deficits will run high, and will subsequently tank the economy and the country.

Conservatives are taught that part of a strong country is national defense. It is one of the government’s jobs. I agree with this, however, I believe that Republicans like John McCain, Lindsay Graham, Mitt Romney, and others who fly the banner of conservatism but in all reality are more moderate in how they legislate, have, like many others in past years, pushed for irresponsible budgets on defense. They believe that defense spending should have no limit; that we can never spend too much on it. This is just as irresponsible as unchecked domestic spending. Remember, although conservatives do have better fiscal ideas than liberals, the Republican Party has often spent a lot of money through unchecked defense spending and war. Our last Republican president spent $5 trillion, a huge portion going to that very thing. If this type of thinking is not checked, it will also have the same outcome as the previous one, destruction of our country.

Libertarianism is an odd ideology to me. It is partially disturbing but also partially appealing. I believe that the libertarian ideas of total dissolution of the war on drugs, nonintervention and legitimization of prostitution are all negatives with unintended effects, or possibly effects that are seen but willfully ignored. Ending the drug war would create a vacuum in which increasing addiction would ensue. The drug habits that would be formed would increase dependency. The black market, which libertarians say would be greatly reduced, would actually reform and continue on, as addicts would need a cheaper way to acquire their habit. As legalization ensues, the commerce clause would give the government the authority to regulate it, and would in effect grow the government more, or at least replace the big government already in place. Legitimization of prostitution would cause an increase in child abductions and sex trafficking, as they would have legitimate businesses in which to hide. Total nonintervention would leave vacuums in the world, allowing an increase of violence and death. Because of these, although the financial irresponsibility would be solved, the other effects would make this null and void, which is why I think this would not be a good choice.

Wise decisions are the difference between good leadership and bad. The reality is that any one individual’s convictions, or a complete version of it, may not be what the country needs and is definitely not what the country wants. Instead of trying to get a total ban on abortion, get some better regulations on the industry first. Instead of totally disbanding the war on drugs, work on getting marijuana legalized first. Instead of being totally non-involved or totally involved in the world, help other countries rise to the occasion of defending themselves. Everything is trade-offs. Governance is about compromise. No one ideology should ever have total control, because it will become dishonest in its governance. Every decision we make should be examined thoroughly. No one ideology should ever have total control, because it will become dishonest in its governance. Every decision we make should be examined thoroughly for the good and bad things it will create.


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