Most of life and nearly all of society is about balance. The study of economics is about how societies allocate scarce resources. The same scarcity allocation goes on in every family and in the life of each person. We take it for granted as a necessity of living.
Why then does rational thought disappear at election time?
I don’t really know, but I think it is because at election time everyone talks about benefits of doing this or that. Talking about benefits creates a very large body of potential thought. Every policy has some benefits and if that is all you look at, it could make sense to do anything. Each has a cost. There is nothing for nothing.
Recall that there is no government money. All they have they take from us. It therefore behooves us to ask about each benefit, “How much will that (does that) cost?” That question is the basis for allocating scarce resources.
High value/ low cost before low value/ high cost.
You will not hear candidates talk about cost much, except in relation to the cost of their opponents programs. We must fill in the blanks ourselves. If we fail to do so, the government can and will allocate some of our resources in ways that provide little real value.
Balancing their budget, should they even believe in such a thing, will necessarily mean that they must unbalance our budgets. Government spending limitations must be imposed by the voters. Governments seem to have little intention of doing it themselves.
Honourable people can disagree on priorities. There is no disgrace in opposing something others find necessary and similarly there is no disgrace in supporting that same policy. The disgrace is in believing that we can do everything and we can do it now and we have enough money.
People will disagree on the methods and the timing of solution, but they can all agree that there is no merit in a a good policy that we cannot afford. That is what allocation of scarce resources is about.
The other side of the question involves the resources themselves. There is sometimes a tendency to behave as if what exists is all that can exist. Some regulation looks like it rights a perceived injustice, but if it merely reduces the available resources to deal with hurt feelings, it serves no one.
Even governments cannot choose how to allocate money until they have it and it is easier if there is more.
Remember that everything has a benefit, but it may not present the greatest benefit for the resources we have to allocate. Good government solves the most important problems first. Please vote and help all of us by voting wisely.
Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international public accounting firm and is now with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario.