Trade Offs

In my utopia - every young person will learn about the economic idea of "trade-offs." When we engage in political discussions, we often ignore the explicit trade-offs that each party wants to make.

I think we ignore discussing trade-offs when debating political alignments. My history teachers presented the Cold War as a war between "Capitalism" and "Communism." The Capitalists were the good guys - fighting for freedom. The Communists were the bad guys who were taking freedom away from ordinary people. The lessons from our history classes trickle down into how we discuss economics as adults. Political alignments or economic systems become akin to religious beliefs. We see this when Democrats - neoliberal globalists if there ever were any - are called "Communists" or "Socialists" for suggesting any government expansion.

If we could shift the conversation to trade-offs:

Efficiency vs. Equality
Private property vs. Public Ownership
A representative democracy with the principal-agent problem vs. pure democracy with the challenges of inefficiency and majority rule vs. authoritarianism with less representation but higher efficiency.

There is an infinite number of economic trade-offs. But I think that if we are more explicit in what trade-offs we are willing to make and why our conversations will be more productive.

For example, I fully accept that a syndicalist approach to economic thinking has the following trade-offs with capitalism:

1. Economic growth for worker autonomy
2. Greater overall wealth  for equal distribution of wealth
3. Politicians with power for workers with power
4. Passive participation in the political system by most for active involvement by all
5. Stability for Equality

In all of these trade-offs, it isn't either/or. Capitalism isn't entirely stable, and syndicalism couldn't be completely equal. But each decision involves implicit trade-offs that passionate advocates for economic theories like to ignore. I think to ignore trade-offs is a mistake and can only lead to deeper political rifts.

Photo by Jens Lelie on Unsplash