The High Price of Expediency

It has been said that people know the price of everything but the value of nothing. As a child I didn’t really understand this statement but as an adult, the wisdom of its simple message is all too clear.

Take Kevin Rudd’s stimulus package. The price is around $77 billion. The value is questionable because we are now being told to get ready for tough times ahead, rapidly rising interest rates, falling home prices and higher unemployment.

All these things and more have been forecast previously through these comments but today they appear in our major newspapers as some sort of revelation. Rather, they are simply the consequences of imprudent and reflexive government action and should have been apparent to any student of history or economics when the stimulus program was announced.

The fact that few cared to take an objective appraisal of the Government’s action reflects the suspicion that critical thought has often been replaced by a ‘cheer squad’ in the public arena.

But there are some other areas where the real cost of a proposal is not actually considered (let alone the value).

Consider for a moment the price of expediency.

It is human nature to desire that which is personally advantageous and most people recognise that there is a cost attached to pursuing a perceived benefit. But sometimes the true cost is masked by a rather cursory examination of the matter at hand.

Imagine the following circumstance.

You are faced with a choice between supporting or not supporting a course of action that you know will not achieve its stated aim.

You know the proposal will have a negative impact on your family, your community and your country. You have stated this position repeatedly in forums, public and private, as a means of highlighting the flaws in the proposal and why it shouldn’t proceed.

However, you are then faced with a personal cost of maintaining opposition. You decide the price of continued opposition is too high to pay and change your mind. What is the true cost of this reversal of opinion? In most instances, the personal credibility issues created will be borne by the individual concerned who will be seen to be operating in self-interest – an excusable human trait.

It’s a vastly different matter in the public arena of politics.

The political price of supporting something you publicly acknowledge is bad for every family, every community and the country, for short-term expediency is likely to be very high. Moreover, it is payable in the most prized of political capital – credibility.

The value of credibility in the public arena is priceless and when lost, there is little else to lose.

That is the high price of expediency and in my opinion it is a price not worth paying. Whether others agree with me will become apparent in the coming weeks.

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