Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. There Are No Solutions

 

There are no solutions. There are only trade-offs.
-Thomas Sowell

Our friends on the left have a proclivity for monomania that appears to be getting worse. It is normal for debaters to emphasize the value of outcomes they favor and to minimize the cost of achieving them or to take the exact opposite position. But we are entering a new kind of politics in which we are simply not allowed to consider costs or even frame policy questions in that way. 

To combat COVID, we have imposed hideous costs. We are losing lives to the broad and real effects of massive economic loss, depression, and delayed medical treatments. Our 14-day effort to “flatten the curve” was based on the realistic assumption that we could only delay the spread not really stop it. But that was too much like a reasonable trade-off so now idiot politicians are actually saying things like “if even one life..” as if there are no competing considerations. It is bad form to allude to dead businesses, lost jobs and all that accrues from that damage when Lives Are At Stake.

To combat climate change, we are asked to incur hideous costs and surrender economic rights in order to achieve minuscule decreases in atmospheric CO2. We were supposed to join the silly Paris Climate Accord so that we would be Doing Something About It or ‘At Least it is a Start’ or some other bumper-sticker level of reasoning. Many people don’t even consider that there might be a choice between mitigation and adaptation. The planet is at risk so costs do not matter, even if they will almost certainly be born by poorer people.

Because about one-tenth of one percent of all homicides of African-Americans involve unarmed persons killed by police, we must toss out the Constitution, rewrite American history and each forever live out our assigned identities in a script written by second-rate Marxists. The solutions proposed to cure “systemic racism” are so spectacularly stupid and so divorced from the actual history and substance of the expansion and protection of our rights that is stunning that so many succumb in silence. And if one criticizes the current massive destruction and looting by concerned citizens of the leftist faith, the usual non sequitur response is “how is any of that worth more than a human life?”, presumably George Floyd’s.

Inequality requires the end of capitalism and private property. Young women are not permitted to reject the ideology that gave us hook-up culture, so we have to eliminate all due process in favor of elastic notions of consent instead. Medical care, college tuition, and personal income must be freely provided as if there are no downsides, tradeoffs, or costs.

One problem (among others) in our current political discourse is that it is no longer characterized by reasonable debates among grownups of goodwill about costs and benefits but a series of monomaniacal demands for outcomes that are not likely achievable in any event and which failures will come at an astronomical cost.

 

Published in General
This post was promoted to the Main Feed by a Ricochet Editor at the recommendation of Ricochet members. Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

There are 21 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Misthiocracy got drunk and Member
    Misthiocracy got drunk andJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    When you’re a misanthrope the trade-offs are the solution.

    • #1
    • August 11, 2020, at 11:45 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  2. Susan Quinn Contributor

    Beautifully said, OB. Getting what they demand is all that matters to them. Costs are irrelevant. Until they begin eating their own. That will be fascinating to watch. And it will happen when some of them wake up.

    • #2
    • August 11, 2020, at 12:04 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  3. Richard Fulmer Member

    Why would anyone talk about costs at a time when we’ve racked up well over $100 trillion in debt and unfunded liabilities and no one cares? We can just print money to pay for everyone’s dreams. The only costs are paper and a bit of ink and there are unlimited benefits. What could possibly go wrong?

    • #3
    • August 11, 2020, at 12:04 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  4. OmegaPaladin Moderator

    I propose that we solve this problem by beating Antifa members. All of these problems can be solved by beating antifa members. This defies Dr. Sowell, as there is no tradeoff – regardless of whether it actually does any good toward its stated purpose, we still beat up antifa, and isn’t that the important thing?

    While I was half joking about the above, that’s why all of these solutions are proposed – the Left wants the method, they do not care about the result

    • #4
    • August 11, 2020, at 12:09 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  5. Henry Castaigne Member

    Misthiocracy got drunk and (View Comment):

    When you’re a misanthrope the trade-offs are the solution.

    Please do explain.

    • #5
    • August 11, 2020, at 12:10 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  6. Henry Castaigne Member

    Old Bathos: One problem (among others) in our current political discourse is that it is no longer characterized by reasonable debates among grownups of goodwill about costs and benefits but a series of monomaniacal demands for outcomes that are not likely achievable in any event and which failures will come at an astronomical cost.

    “Let justice be done though the heavens fall.”

    The point has nothing to do with improving anything. It’s about the pursuit of justice in a nihilistic way. The people hurt are secondary afterthoughts if they are though of at all. 

    • #6
    • August 11, 2020, at 12:13 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  7. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnellJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Just a great post, @oldbathos!

    Obvious truths that the Leftists refuse to hear; it’s much more comforting to continue living in their own dream world where mommy and daddy provided all their wants and wishes.

    • #7
    • August 11, 2020, at 12:19 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  8. Hoyacon Member

    I like this quote, but aren’t there some (or a few, if you prefer) solutions that don’t involve trade offs?

    • #8
    • August 11, 2020, at 12:52 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  9. The Reticulator Member

    Old Bathos: off so now idiot politicians are actually saying things like “if even one life..”

    Recently? You mean they are still saying this? 

    • #9
    • August 11, 2020, at 1:20 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  10. Randy Webster Member

    Richard Fulmer (View Comment):

    Why would anyone talk about costs at a time when we’ve racked up well over $100 trillion in debt and unfunded liabilities and no one cares? We can just print money to pay for everyone’s dreams. The only costs are paper and a bit of ink and there are unlimited benefits. What could possibly go wrong?

    • #10
    • August 11, 2020, at 2:33 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  11. Randy Webster Member

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):

    I propose that we solve this problem by beating Antifa members. All of these problems can be solved by beating antifa members. This defies Dr. Sowell, as there is no tradeoff – regardless of whether it actually does any good toward its stated purpose, we still beat up antifa, and isn’t that the important thing?

    While I was half joking about the above, that’s why all of these solutions are proposed – the Left wants the method, they do not care about the result

    Is that like the Russian expression, “If you see a Bulgarian on the street, beat him, he’ll know why?”

    • #11
    • August 11, 2020, at 2:35 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  12. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    I like this quote, but aren’t there some (or a few, if you prefer) solutions that don’t involve trade offs?

    The word “solution” implies the existence of a problem or a real or potential loss to be averted by some action or expenditure which itself can have consequences. Some deals are better than others but something free and costless would not require a policy debate.

    • #12
    • August 11, 2020, at 4:55 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  13. Rodin Member

    Discouraging summary, but absolutely on point.

    • #13
    • August 11, 2020, at 6:19 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  14. MarciN Member

    I wish the covid-19 restrictions would be put to a popular vote by city and town. I think the state governments long ago exceeded any kind of legitimate emergency power. We all welcome their advisories, but that’s it. We need to decide how we will live with this for the next year or two until it burns out, and those decisions should be left up to the people. 

    Create a simple referendum, and if people care enough about the issue either way, they will show up to vote. Make sure there’s a price tag attached to each proposed restriction–whether it’s a direct cost of the restriction itself or an indirect cost of money lost that could have been earned in the absence of the restrictions. 

    Let the people in each town cast votes on which measures, if any, they want.

    I know there is a problem with in-person voting because the retirees feel uncomfortable in voting booth situations. But that is just something we need to figure out, the way we figure out everything else. 

    • #14
    • August 11, 2020, at 6:24 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  15. Suspira Member

    Old Bathos: each forever live out our assigned identities in a script written by second-rate Marxists.

    Do first-rate Marxists exist and, if so, are they better or worse than the second-rate variety?

    • #15
    • August 11, 2020, at 6:33 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  16. Randy Webster Member

    MarciN (View Comment):
    I know there is a problem with in-person voting because the retirees feel uncomfortable in voting booth situations. But that is just something we need to figure out, the way we figure out everything else.

    I’m not a retiree, but I’m of retirement age, and I wouldn’t feel uncomfortable in a voting booth situation. If you don’t want to go to the polling place, don’t vote.

    • #16
    • August 11, 2020, at 6:36 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  17. The Reticulator Member

    MarciN (View Comment):

    I wish the covid-19 restrictions would be put to a popular vote by city and town. I think the state governments long ago exceeded any kind of legitimate emergency power. We all welcome their advisories, but that’s it. We need to decide how we will live with this for the next year or two until it burns out, and those decisions should be left up to the people.

    Create a simple referendum, and if people care enough about the issue either way, they will show up to vote. Make sure there’s a price tag attached to each proposed restriction–whether it’s a direct cost of the restriction itself or an indirect cost of money lost that could have been earned in the absence of the restrictions.

    Let the people in each town cast votes on which measures, if any, they want.

    I know there is a problem with in-person voting because the retirees feel uncomfortable in voting booth situations. But that is just something we need to figure out, the way we figure out everything else.

    I would be happy if legislators maintained the power to veto emergency decrees that are no longer emergency measures.

    • #17
    • August 11, 2020, at 6:50 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  18. Randy Webster Member

    The Reticulator (View Comment):
    I would be happy if legislators maintained the power to veto emergency decrees that are no longer emergency measures.

    My guess is they can already. It’s called legislation. Getting the executive to sign off on it is another question.

    • #18
    • August 11, 2020, at 9:43 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  19. The Reticulator Member

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):
    I would be happy if legislators maintained the power to veto emergency decrees that are no longer emergency measures.

    My guess is they can already. It’s called legislation. Getting the executive to sign off on it is another question.

    The problem, here in Michigan at least, is that they didn’t write such provisions into the laws that gave the executive the power to invoke an emergency. It needs to be fixed. 

    • #19
    • August 11, 2020, at 10:06 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  20. Mark Camp Member

    Regarding two statements by Old Bathos.

    #1 

    To combat COVID, we have imposed hideous costs.

    This is incorrect. The costs were imposed by government, not by us. It is only true if one equates the will of the state with the will of the citizen.

    #2

    We are losing lives to the broad and real effects of massive economic loss, depression, and delayed medical treatments.

    Lives lost is a measure of collective cost. It is useful to the decision-maker in a collectivist country in making collective decisions, but only if he also measures collective benefit, and then weighs the two.

    Making such decisions is the essential function of the collectivist state. For example, if deciding whether to permit freedom of worship, the state must weigh

    • the collective benefit of people going to a house of worship
      against
    • the collective cost represented by the risk of individuals being in a car accident while traveling to and from worship service, or catching a cold from another parishioner and dying of it.

    These are both subjective values of the ruler or the ruling class. One ruler may reasonably decide to allow freedom of worship. Another, perhaps one who regards the existence of a segment who value their guns and religion too highly as a problem, might decide the opposite.

    Now, the ruler (or ruling party) may recognize the compromises in making collective decisions. For example, for one person, the risk of a car accident is trivial, while worship is one of the most highly valued things in life. For another person, the risk of a car accident is quite high, and worship is just an annoying obligation, not very valuable at all.

    But a collectivist ruler must disregard this inefficiency, even if he has the humility, empathy, and analytical and moral intelligence to recognize it.

    • First, there is nothing he can do about it, if he is to function as a collectivist ruler: issue general orders and expect his police and citizen-informants to enforce them promptly and ruthlessly.
    • Second, there is the famous knowledge problem: he has no way of even discovering what preference individuals would have, were they free. Such complex evaluations are based on feelings, desires, individual conditions, and the like, all of which are buried in the heart and mind of the individual.

    In a republic, only individual judgements about the costs and benefits are valid.

    I wish more of my fellow Americans, including my Ricochet friends, wanted to restore our national quest to make an ever more perfect republic, rather than make an ever more perfect collectivist society.

    • #20
    • August 12, 2020, at 6:18 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  21. James Gawron Thatcher
    James GawronJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    OldB,

    Your topic reminds me of when I was a young process control analytical instrument sales engineer (the earth had just cooled and the dinosaurs were still roaming around). I took the new VP of marketing for a small instrument company for a visit to the GM tech center. While in the car we started talking. He had worked for IBM corporate for a while before taking this current job. So somewhere in the conversation, he told me about the “hundred, hundred, hundred theory”. He said that at IBM there was always somebody claiming that they could do anything by the hundred, hundred, hundred theory. So I said, “OK, so what is the hundred, hundred, hundred theory?”

    He said, “It’s simple. I can do anything if I have 100 of the smartest people in the world, 100 million dollars, and 100 years.” Obviously, he was very pleased to be free of IBM. The hot new little instrument company he was working for was making the best analyzer in the world for this particular kind of analysis and was selling like hotcakes all over the world. He was having a great time.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #21
    • August 12, 2020, at 11:13 AM PDT
    • 4 likes