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The Brutality Report - Opportunity Cost

What does opportunity cost mean for you? Well, first off, you could've been a veterinarian. So you blew that one.
Sam McPheeters
Κείμενο Sam McPheeters
15 Νοέμβριος 2011, 4:00pm

Opportunity cost is one of those slippery economic terms whose immense bearing on one's life is directly proportional to its fuzzy clusterfuck nebulousness as a concept. In a nutshell, this term refers to the cost, in lost opportunity, of any particular action. You measure the opportunity cost by computing the value of the road not taken. And although opportunity cost is generally used in cost-benefit analysis, it can just as easily apply to real life scenarios. What does this mean for you? Well, first off, you could have been a veterinarian. So you blew that one.

Opportunity costs may appear vaguely fractal, in that they retain their shape no matter what size you view them at. But on the brutality scale, they get harsher and harsher the smaller you go. There are at least five levels to this concept:


Nearly painless. This is the stuff of armchair historian brain puzzles. If only FDR had married Josephine Baker, he might've been so preoccupied with his White House sexual exploits that the US wouldn't have entered WW2, Germany would've conquered Europe, and the Eurozone wouldn't be in the mess it's in today. Every alternate history "what if" book ever piled on a bargain table at Barnes & Noble has trafficked in level five opportunity costs. Have you ever considered buying one of these books? You have not. Next.


Mildly harsh, inasmuch as you will have to endure the political beefs and conspiracy theories spawned by Level 4 opportunity costs. I_f only the Amish hadn't bankrolled Obama's state senate race, we wouldn't have all these Muslim code words embedded in iCarly, etc., etc., etc._


Things start to get personal at this level. Opportunity costs are the red meat of professional jealousy. They're also a major factor in many divorces. Just think about the warring couples you've overheard having the following exchange:

HIM: "Your bizarre obsession with paying the mortgage every month prevented me from buying my own personal submarine."

HER: "If you hadn't puttered around in bands for 15 years, we could have had our own Build-a-Bear franchise by now."

Ever wonder what you could have done with the money you blew on their wedding present? You certainly didn’t use it to buy yourself a nice ski trip. That is yet another opportunity you have been cost.


At this stage, opportunity costs become a kind of mental calculator through which you can compute your standing among ex-coworkers and former classmates. It can get rough. What is high school, after all, but a perfect scientific control group through which all alumni can gauge their lack of progress? The math here is simple: the time you spent dredging up memories of your former frosh year bully, spurring yourself to achieve some tiny morsel of professional accomplishment to prove your superiority over your former tormentor (all the while tracking his whereabouts through Usenet, Alta Vista, Google, and finally Facebook), COULD HAVE BEEN SPENT in prison (for murdering him) where you would have grown tough and hard and 30 pounds of muscle heavier and read all the great classics. Plus, you would've been free at 38, which is what you're going to be next June anyway.


This is the brutal one. The time you spent watching online videos of puking newscasters could have been spent writing the Great American Novel. Only, if you did that, your mountaineering career would never get off the ground. Why do you keep costing yourself so many opportunities?!/sammcpheeters

Previously – Nagging the Childless