You Can Pick Only Two

There’s an old adage in business that goes “Price! Quality! Delivery! — Pick Two.”  It should seem self-evident that when you have those three options, there is a self-limiting factor among them.  Can you have top quality at a low price?  Certainly.  Just don’t expect the business offering the product to drop everything to rush your order out.  Can you get top quality and rapid delivery?  Yep, you sure can, but it’s going to cost you an arm and a leg.  You have the same trade-off with price and delivery.  In that case, you have to settle for inferior quality.  It has always been, and will always be, about trade-offs.

I don’t care how smart the Cabinet secretaries, czars in the White House, or congressional leaders think they are — they will never be able to offer all three simultaneously on anything.  It is now, and always has been, a matter of making choices.

Look how Britain currently (and America in the future under ObamaCare) has suffered with health care that simply reflects the truth of that old adage:

You want low-cost and high-quality health care?  Fine, you’ll have to wait for several months to see a doctor, but that’s OK — you got two out of three. 

Don’t want to wait?  OK, we can do that, too.  It will be fast and cheap, but we can’t guarantee top quality.  Now are you happy?

Oh, you want top quality and you want it immediately?  Fine, we can do that, too, but you can forget cheap.

And these trade-offs apply not just to health care, but to everything else that government (or private industry, for that matter) provides.

There are only two choices.  Live with it, or find some of the fairy dust Obama thinks he has in a closet somewhere in the White House.

And if anyone thinks that this limitation applies only to the health care segment of our government, think again.  Look at the Defense department.

Democrats, for example, generally want to spend less on national defense.  OK, we can do that.  Until we need that military.  Low cost means you have to give up either rapid response or top quality.  Which will it be?  And if the lower cost was achieved by reductions in our force levels, then you also give up rapid response, since it takes time to induct new soldiers and train them.  You don’t just hand draftees a gun and say “Go get ’em, boys!”

In the 18th and 19th centuries, America was literally protected by two vast oceans.  During the American Revolution it took England months to move their armies across the Atlantic to bring force to bear on our people.  Now?  We have perhaps 90 minutes if an enemy decides to toss a missile our way.

And, on that same subject of trade-offs, if a missile does come our way, do we really want a lower-quality defense?  Do we want an anti-missile shield that works only 50% of the time?  Or only 25% of the time?

Choosing the option of “make it cheaper so we spend less” requires losing one of the other two desired traits, quality and delivery.  Which will it be?

The president made clear from the firsts that his priority for generating  job growth to pull us out of this recession was to be based on “green” jobs.  The problem, for those of us who need jobs, is that we can’t all go to work at “green” companies.  Obama has selected “quality” and “delivery” as the two things he wants, and logic says that “price” is the thing that suffers.  And it has suffered — to the tune of about $850 billion.  And apparently it’s still not enough.  So instead of getting high-quality solar energy in the near future, even at a cost of nearly a trillion dollars, we got…nothing?  Could the president have spent even more?  Of course he could have.  And we still would have gotten nothing.  More money would not have, by itself, generated a breakthrough for cheap, reliable, readily available solar technology.

I think that better results could have been achieved at a much lower cost.  Offering a completely tax-free $10-billion prize for the first person or corporation to develop a cost-effective solar energy technology that successfully competed head-to-head in terms of cost and reliability with existing fossil fuel technology would have cut the development time in half, and the nation would have ended up with more green jobs that we could fill.

I will stipulate that $10 billion seems like a lot of money, but if the technology was successful, then the overall savings to our economy would be something on the order of three to five trillion over the usual ten-year budget horizon.

That, Mr. President, is what an “investment” really means.

And as a bonus, it costs exactly zero dollars to offer the prize.  It would be a future expense that a future president would be responsible to pay out.  You’d think that would appeal to politicians on both sides of the aisle, wouldn’t you?

Originally published at American Thinker.


About Jim Yardley

Retired after 30 years as a financial controller for a variety of manufacturing firms, a two-tour Vietnam veteran, and independent voter.
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4 Responses to You Can Pick Only Two

  1. Jerry Thomas says:

    As one with a production planning background, I tried to find the optimal solution in planning production (minimize inventory, maximize timing of shipments, and maximize efficiency). It is a balancing act between all three as opposed to picking two.

  2. Jim Yardley says:

    I agree completely Jerry — in the real world. But anything run by government? Optimality is never a priority for the government at any level.

    But thanks for the comment.

    • Jerry Thomas says:

      Thank you. The problem is in determining what is optimal (what is the objective measure?). With two, the measures are much more objective but it is in the wisdom of subjectiveness that defines our success!

  3. googlepo says:

    Thank you for this valuable post. It changed my attitude

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