Good Policies are a Big Deal

I really like this post by Russ Roberts at Cafe Hayek.

In it, Roberts explains why he thinks we should fight a policy like the ban on trans fats, rather than let it go because it’s really “No big deal.”

The argument is that, while each individual encroachment on liberty is not a big deal, in the aggregate we do lose a great deal. And, if we talk ourselves out of fighting each small incremental loss, we’ll find that we have lost a lot.

This reminds me of a problem with diet and exercise. It’s easy to convince yourself that one instance of having a snack that’s off your diet, or skipping one exercise session will not have a great impact on your goals. It’s easy because it’s true, and I think it’s reasonable to go ahead and indulge in these things on occasion.

The danger, though, is making this argument with yourself every time! Even though each instance has a small effect, the total effect of adopting this policy can be dramatic. Whether straying from our personal plans, or defending important political principles, we can find that what we’ve lost through repeated “No big deal” arguments is much harder to get back than it would have been to maintain through consistent support of good policies (and resistance to bad ones).