No-one who says ‘Talk is cheap’ ever means it as a compliment.
They mean to devalue conversation and debate, to say ‘Shut Up and Do Something’ especially when they know they’re guaranteed thunderous applause from an impatient and frustrated audience.
And it’s true: Talk really is cheap… it’s action that carries the true cost.
Which is why I think we can afford to talk a little more.
It’s always been cheaper (and faster, easier and safer) to discover our problems in debate than to crash into them in the real world. Ask any designer; it’s better to make mistakes on paper than in concrete.
Of course, talk rarely solves a problem on its own.
Sooner or later, there will need to be some kind of action.
But consider how many of humanity’s greatest tragedies have come from an irrational desire for action. Think of all the half-baked social reforms we’ve launched without sufficient debate, all the colossal infrastructure projects we’ve fast-tracked for a political photo opportunity, all the horrendous wars we’ve declared because the peace talks were dragging on a bit too long.
Weigh the price of ill-conceived action against cost of careful debate and you’ll see just what a bargain talk can be.
Talk IS Cheap.
That’s why we can afford more of it.