42% of Americans Agree There’s No Free Lunch!

A new Rasmussen Reports survey shows 42% of American voters believe “there is a conflict between economic growth and environmental protection…” While the firm reports this is the highest percentage since May, I do find it troubling that 33% disagree with the statement and 25% aren’t sure.

Tradeoffs are a basic reality of life that every adult should understand (see the core article There’s No Free Lunch). In this case, spending more money on environmental protection leaves less for economically productive activities. The result is lower growth than would occur without the additional spending. Of course spending less on the environment would boost growth, but could have other undesirable consequences. It’s a tradeoff.

There’s no right answer for exactly how much to spend, as each of us places a different value on economic growth and environmental concerns. And honorable people can disagree about the exact impact of more or less spending on the environment. But until we accept the reality of tradeoffs and start considering them, it is difficult to make intelligent choices. If someone tells you there are no tradeoffs, he is either a fanatic, a charlatan, or he is operating on a childlike level where you can have your cake and eat it too.

When someone proposes a new regulation, ask “How much will it cost and who is paying the tab?” You can’t add 30 million people to health insurance rolls or place major restrictions on CO2 emissions without imposing serious costs. If they say “it’s going to save money!” do us all a favor and just walk away.

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