Saturday, January 22, 2011

Diminishing Returns

When gas prices are high, there's a lot of advice on all the things someone can do to increase mileage. Properly inflated tires save a few MPG. A properly maintained engine is more efficient and uses less fuel. Driving with the AC off and windows rolled up will extend a tank of gas a bit further. Personal driving habits can have a huge effect on efficiency.

One can almost imagine that at some point it'd be possible to drive forever on nothing.

Nonsense of course, but who hasn't wished it to be so? There' s a point of diminishing returns. Will spending money on special low resistance tires save enough fuel to pay for their cost? A tune up every year saves money. One every week doesn't.

Not every energy saving device works with all the other devices. Just today I removed the flow restrictor from a shower head. Helped my buddy install a propane tankless water heater, (very efficient,) but it doesn't play well with low flow fixtures. They don't let enough water pass to keep the propane jets lit.

My friends happen to have an excellent water source, are frugal in their other water usage, so opening up the shower fixture is a good trade off. Someone else with tight water restrictions might come to a different conclusion.

Extra house insulation is usually a good deal, especially as fuel prices rise. Two feet of insulation in the attic is much better than one foot. Is six feet of insulation worth it? Probably not. There's a crossover point when more insulation will never pay for itself in one person's lifetime.

Nobody gets too insulted when we weigh the benefits to an individual's saving strategies. How about when we take a good hard look at a nation's strategies?

Is the US getting a good return on its investment as a world cop? Has the expense of maintaining an empire exceeded the return on investment? Maybe it has. The problem here is that those who benefit from the empire aren't necessarily the one's paying the costs. Private security firms and companies in the defense industry are doing really well. So well, in fact, that they can afford the best politicians money can buy.

They have way too much influence over the process. It's as if your mechanic had the power to schedule your tune ups and scheduled them for every week, and you had to pay for it.

I really shouldn't pick on the military industrial complex. . . exclusively. The big banks and financial firms do the same thing. There's a revolving door between government and big business. Maybe some bail outs made sense, but who's to decide when we've reached the point of diminishing returns? The one's who are making money hand for fist? That'd be too much to expect.

Those who have some faith in the political process are welcome to try and change it at the ballot box. While I do still vote, it does feel more and more like tilting at windmills. Good thing it doesn't take a lot of energy to vote as there's a very limited return on the outcome.

On a personal level, I can make decisions on what's going to benefit me in the long run. I can weight the cost of more insulation against the price of fuel. As for the national investment in empire and financial shenanigans? Well, I can't turn off the whole money spigot myself, but I can limit my contribution to it. The argument could be made that's it's immoral to spend any more money on taxes than absolutely (and legally) necessary. At the very least, to me, it seems like giving money to the government has reached that point of diminishing returns.



  1. I don't give a crap about "ROI"... I just think we should get our noses out of other countries' business. Let's clean our own house before we go preaching to others how they should live. And let's come to terms with the fact that not everyone wants "democracy". Hell, I don't want "democracy". Because I'm one of the rare few who understands that it is tyranny of the majority...

  2. was taught "to live within my means" balancing between expense paid versus income earned. too much negative credit owed is what collapsing the market. it is true to finance vetures there will be debt; but the insane schemes to balance the books by packaging off massive debt as as a investment package, repeatedly to redicuously giving large amounts of loans and credit finally collapses the system.

    simply put when you have eaten your seed corn and vapoprized the farm; you just can't make a new crop appear out of thin air..

    but this is what they did..... and now a slow decline into a market hell..