Anorak News | There ain’t no such thing as a solution: only tradeoffs

There ain’t no such thing as a solution: only tradeoffs

by | 28th, August 2012

THERE’S a point that the subject of economics really tries very hard to get across. There’s no such thing as a solution: there are only tradeoffs. These tradeoffs come in a series or more or less acceptable ones, true, but tradeoffs there always are.

Stepping entirely outside economics for a moment here’s an interesting example:

The production of France’s Roquefort cheese is being threatened by the return of the wolf to the country’s southern mountains.

The sheepies that produce the milk that makes the cheese are, by definition, left free to roam the mountains. The wolf coming back (actually, illegal immigrants from Northern Italy) threaten those free roaming flocks. We can thus have more lovely wolves and wildlife and less cheese or fewer wolves and more smelly fromage.

There’s no particularly correct answer to which we should have either. Some people will value the wildlife more than the food, some the other way around. We can ask people which they prefer, sure, but simple logic doesn’t provide us with an obviously correct answer.

This is of course a trivial example: but the same problem runs through all of the economy. Inflation reduces the lifestyle of those on fixed incomes, like pensioners. Yet some inflation also makes adjusting the economy much, much, easier. A minimum wage does mean that some will be made unemployed and that others will benefit. A low minimum wage will mean few unemployed and few benefiting very much: a high one lots of both. Lots of tax to reduce inequality is important to some: lots of tax also will mean slower economic growth.

There is no right answer to any of these points. There is only a series of tradeoffs. Which one you choose is entirely up to you and your prejudices morals. But don’t ever forget that you are making a tradeoff: for there are no solutions.

Posted: 28th, August 2012 | In: Money Comment | TrackBack | Permalink