Thursday, February 18, 2010

No pain, no gain

That's a slogan you hear a lot from tighty righties, who borrow it from something they heard from their Neanderthal gym teacher back in high school. They state that the only way to excel is via pain. The only thing is: It's not true, whether we're talking about economics, or about athletics training.

Exercise physiologists have discovered that no pain no gain actually HINDERS athletic adaption. Pain is how the body indicates that you're doing something wrong. If you push yourself to the point of outright pain on a regular basis, as vs. merely exerting yourself to the point where your muscles exhibit some discomfort and are forced to adapt, then you are hindering your athletic training and you will perform less well than someone who listens to his body and pushes hard, but not hard enough to cause painful overtraining effects that interfere with adaptation.

Similarly, if your economy is undergoing real pain -- a large increase in people losing their homes and livelihoods, a large increase in businesses going broke, etc. -- there is no gain to be had. Know pain, no gain. Some degree of "slack" or discomfort is needed in an economy to allow it to adapt. But once you go over that boundary into actual pain, you are hindering the function of the economy. An economy where a significant percentage are underemployed or unemployed is an economy that is not operating at its full capabilities, because those unemployed people are neither producing nor consuming goods and services in the economy. An economy whose businesses are failing at a greater-than-normal rate is an economy that is not employing and providing a livelihood for people. Some mild easily-treated discomfort is necessary to allow economies to adapt to changing conditions. But once you get into outright pain, economic aspirins cease to work properly, and the resulting surgeries to fix the situation could take you out of contention for months or even years -- allowing other people's economies to sprint past yours and make your economy no longer competitive.

In short: some small level of discomfort is necessary in both athletics and economies in order to force the muscles (or supply and demand of goods and services) to adapt to changing conditions. But once you go past that boundary into actual pain, you're doing it wrong. Period. Conservative nostrums of "no pain no gain" simply are not backed by facts. Period.

-- Badtux the Painless Penguin


  1. Actually, it's at least potentially a lot worse than that. If the economy - like weather - is a chaotic system, then it's possible to transition into a new realm where the equilibrium is at a different level.

    Just imagine. A depression that lasts decades. Or centuries. The lat time THAT happened, we called it the dark ages.


  2. What they mean is "No pain for you, no gain." When it's THEIR pain, my gosh, that's a crisis! Quick, government -- do something!

  3. Actually, back at the time of the first great depression, conservatives seriously thought that it was a GOOD thing, for reasons that only make sense to Puritans and possibly Adam Smith.

    I think that idea is again floating around out there somewhere far, far to my right.

    jXb the doesn't think depressions are good for anyone trombonist

  4. Nothing like trying to run a national economy on principles regurgitated year after year by a fucking gym teacher. At least until it becomes THEIR pain, at which point Bukko's observation kicks in.

  5. Dude, where were you when our coach gave us all tendinitis?



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