essay

Two Thoughts on Economics and Life

1.

I was sitting in church, listening to a lesson where we were talking about helping each other and how it is good to receive help. We often find it difficult to be vulnerable and ask for the things that we both need and want. We try to do it all on our own, thinking that that is the best way.

Well, I was in a microeconomics class at the time and I had recently gone over a chapter about the advantages of trade. Basically, trade can make everyone a lot better off. In my textbook, we had examples like when two different countries make shirts and airplanes. Even if one country is better than the other at making both shirts and airplanes, they might have a comparative advantage making airplanes, while the other one has a comparative advantage of making shirts. So the countries become better off specializing and trading instead of just doing it all themselves.

And I think that’s applicable to life. I can do everything myself, but I am really good at some things while other people are really good at other things. And if we come together and trade, we will both be better off.

Of course, we don’t really usually think about trading too much with other people in small ways. But I think we could more often: If you watch my kids, I’ll bring dinner. If I do this website for you, you can help teach my kids. That sort of thing. We are more efficient when we work together, so there’s no point in always trying to do it all on our own.

Sometimes, I have had people visit me and I clean while they are there. I don’t need them to help, though they can if they would like. Then when we are done, we are both benefited by a clean house and by the conversation with each other. I would rather do that than visit in a messy house.

And we don’t always need to trade straight across, but we can have a general understanding that if we help one another and both give and receive help, that we will all be better off.

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2.

One of the principles of economics is that everyone faces trade-offs.

Sometimes we think of life as a bunch of choices between right and wrong. If we choose right, then everything will be okay.

But instead, many of the choices we face are not between right and wrong or good and bad. We might face two good options. Or two bad options. Or dozens of options that are all just okay. We have trade-offs.

I’ve faced a lot of trade-offs lately. I have had to try to decide what is the best option instead of having one exactly right option to choose from. I want there to be right and wrong answers, but often it’s much more complicated than that. I have to figure out how to make complicated, life-changing trade-offs.

It can get really tough, particularly because we don’t know the future and sometimes it’s really hard to know how to weigh things right. I’m not certain of many of the results of the major decisions that I make.

I can crave for decisions that don’t involve any trade-offs, decisions that appear completely black and white and easy. But that’s not life. Life is hard and messy at times. It’s just how it is.

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