Life is Trade-Offs

My two older children laugh when I tell them that life is trade-offs. They laugh because I have been telling them that all of their lives. I am sure they both think it is the maxim by which I live my life. Even today, if I were to ask them, “what is life?” they would immediately respond, in unison: “trade-offs.

Life is trade-offs. You can’t get something without giving something up. If you give something up, you should expect to get something. It is true in Newton’s Laws of Motion and it is true in the Laws of Thermodynamics. It is certainly true in the laws of economics.

That life is trade-offs is evident in the saying that “there is no such thing as a free lunch.” One way or another, you lunch will be paid for. Somewhere in the economy, somebody has to give something up to pay for your meal. Whoever did so, expects something in return. It might be cash payment from a third party or it might be something more intangible. The payor may expect nothing from the person eating lunch, be he expects something, sometime.

It is as if the person sitting down for lunch passes an invisible IOU forward. It will be passed around the economy, maybe for years. It will eventually find its way home. Okay, maybe the recipient will die before his IOUs find their way home, but you get my point. All debts are paid and everything is paid for. Unless you are God Almighty, you cannot create a free lunch.

The problem today is that a huge percentage of Americans believe they can vote for a free lunch. They believe that they can force others to buy them lunch – or food or housing or medical care or birth control – and there will be no cost. They believe that insurance companies can be forced to pay on pre-existing conditions and there will be no cost. They believe that college grants can continually expand and there will be no cost. As we have seen, however, there is always a cost.

The cost is in economic friction and reduced investment. The cost is in reduced growth and stagnation. The cost is in reduced standards of living and in diminishing prospects.

The recipients of the psuedo-free lunches are unable to make the connection between their free meals and the stagnating economy that is bearing down on them and causing them to become ever more desperate for the next handout. They are feeling the IOUs come due but they don’t understand. They can’t see the connections. They just don’t get it.

Like a garage tinkerer working on a perpetual motion machine, these people believe that you can get something without giving up anything. The tinkerer believes that energy can flow from nowhere and the free lunchers believe that wealth can flow from a ballot box. They don’t understand thermodynamics and they don’t understand economics.

The perpetual motion tinkerer doesn’t much hurt anyone. This week something more than 50 million economic tinkerers decided to vote for an economic perpetual motion machine. It won’t work. Life is trade-offs.

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4 Responses to Life is Trade-Offs

  1. notamobster says:

    I had this argument with a theoretical tinkerer, some months back.

    He was explaining how a video he saw on youtube – could possibly work to create free electricity. It was a maglev (type) motor which required only to be intially push started and used attraction & repulsion to keep the rotor spinning, whereby creating electricity by inducing the magnetic field into the rotor windings, et voila! Free energy.

    I began by explaining the most basic electrical generation principle I could think of: Counter-electromotive force (CEMF). This is the single largest hurdle one has to jump in creating electricity.

    CEMF is the effect of Lenz’s law of electromagnetism. Any time a voltage is induced into the armature of an A/C motor (generator) there is produced, a resistant voltage. It acts in opposition to the induced voltage (input energy) resisting the current – and is at all times – 180 degrees out from the polarity of the input energy. It is always present – and at every instant – exists in direct opposition to the input.

    My “student” began to understand – then dismissed my logical argument and said “It’ll work.” He believes a free lunch can be had, because he refuses to see the payor. Resistance (in this case cemf) is a natural law of electricity. No amount of wishing it away is ever going to change that.

    You can increase efficiency by using better materials or process (as has been done with aircraft over the past 110 years +/-, but you will never be able to get mechanical output – without continuously expended energy input.

    In aircraft, the 4 forces of concern for this mental exercise would be lift/drag, thrust/weight. You can increase any of the positive forces (lift & thrust) but you will have a resulting increase in one of the negative forces (drag/weight).

    For every action, there is an equal or opposite reaction.

    There are always trade-offs. There is no free lunch.

  2. AW Mens says:

    Half of this country is about to move rapidly from lecture to lab in economics class.
    It’s a source of anger for me (but I will handle it in productive ways) that I am forced to participate in an experiment where I already know the outcome. Tuesday’s results brought into focus for me that sometimes things have to completely break before they can be fixed. No amount of engine warning lights or strange sounds coming from under the hood will convince some people (apparently roughly 50% of drivers…) that their car is about to stop in a smoking heap on the side of the road.
    Tuesday convinced me we are past the point of being able to defeat Progressives at the ballot box. Two lions and a lamb…..
    The only thing that will drive a stake through the heart of the free lunch culture is to directly experience the real life ramifications of getting what they want. Unfortunately I’ll have to take that ride with them.
    Because I am impatient by nature I hope the administration gets everything they want and they get it rapidly.
    Kill coal, tax who you want, spend what you want, give the unions what they want.
    Meanwhile I’ll prepare. Mentally, financially, physically….I’ll prepare for a different kind of life. I’m sure I won’t come through the tunnel unscathed. My current “easy” lifestyle made possible by hard work will probably turn into a much less comfortable life style made possible by preparation and continued hard work. The fact that I have that expectation now and am mentally willing to endure that in the company of other like minded people is really the source on my strength.
    America’s greatest generation is yet to come people. I know now what we have to go through to get there. My optimism and resolve are centered around doing my part to get there.

  3. Locke n Load says:

    Um, can I say again…
    Welcome back AW Mens πŸ™‚

    As for crashing the system, amen. Just know its coming and coming faster than these ‘tards realize. Its a mathematical certainty. You better damn well be good with geometry when this SHTF though, beacause wind affects trajectories, and gravity does put a drag on distance..

    And Nota, nice post

  4. Locke n Load says:

    You’ll have to explain magnetism to me sometime Nota. I’ve always thought that the CEMF would depend entirely on the substance induced, and that there would be tangential non linear effects.

    When we meet next time, please be fluent in strong/weak magnetic bonds in saline solutions. Someday someone is going to explain to me why/how water evaporates with/without salt at different temperatures and WHY.
    There has to be a better more efficient de-salinator.