This world is full of tradeoffs – diametric values, ideals, or positions whose increase seems to inevitably come at the expense of its opposite. What follows are a few of my favorites (which is to say, they are interesting and fairly relevant); what are some of yours?
Equity vs. Efficiency: Putting resources (human or material) to use in a way that optimizes productive output (high efficiency) generally leads to the unequal distribution of said output (low equity). Conversely, allocating resources in a more egalitarian manner, e.g. redistributing income across classes, or assigning people to a task indiscriminate of skill level (high equity) tends to lead to decreased productivity, e.g. the incentive of the most productive economic actors is hampered by their lessened enjoyment of the fruits of their labors, or lower total skill level applied towards a task (low efficiency), respectively.
Freedom vs. Order: This one is pretty self-evident. The fewer restrictions placed on behavior, the more chaotic and disorderly things tends to be. Just look at any household with a disparate ratio of children to parenting presence.
Freedom vs. Equality: This is one I had never considered until I read it in one of my brother’s old political science textbooks recently. The idea behind this is that a government/society which seeks to promote equality generally does so at the expense of individual freedom (e.g. affirmative action in the work place curbs the freedom of the employer to make its own hiring decisions). I’m still thinking this tradeoff through – it seems to be based on the premise that freedom invariably leads to inequal treatment of others, but this may or may not actually be true, depending on your definition of “equal”. The tendency in today’s debates is to frame “equality” as absolute sameness, which I think is absurd and impossible, not to mention not the only possible definition of “equality”.
Personality Psychology (it’s no secret that this topic is one of my favorites, but I offer this tradeoff by way of subjective observation, not judgment)
Depthiness vs. Upbeatfulness: Emotional and/or intellectual depth and sophistication tends to preclude being lighthearted and fun (when you’re focused on the weightier matters of the cosmos, jocularity can seem distant and disingenuous). On the flip side, what’s the use of sitting around ruminating in your ivory tower when there’s so much life to enjoy!
Justice vs. Mercy: The quintessential Christian dilemma, this dichotmoy is, I believe, reflected throughout various facets of life, including the areas above. But it can be troublingly problematic. If we believe in a God who adheres strictly to divine standards and can neither overlook any bad behavior nor leave unrewarded the acts of the true and faithful (justice), can we believe that that same God can also forgive us when we inevitably fail to live those high standards, if not fall far, far short (mercy)? Stephen E. Robinson, author of “Believing Christ” said it best: the answer is a resounding “YES”! Jesus Christ, as the mediator of all mankind, provides a way for the demands of justice to be met while offering mercy to those who truly want Him to be their savior. Strangely and sadly enough, there are some who would gladly take mercy, but only if it came with no strings attached; such people, I think, fail to grasp the significance of either justice or mercy. But the most important thing here is that Jesus Christ makes both justice and mercy fully efficacious and coexistent without requiring any sort of compromise which would render either divine standard arbitrary and fatally unreliable. What an inestimable blessing!
(as an added temporal benefit, this divine reconciliation of opposing ideals gives me hope that the other above mentioned tradeoffs may also somehow be settled satisfactorily.)
Any thoughts or tradeoffs of your own to share? Please do!