If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? The philosophical thought experiment has been debated for centuries but it has real world applications as well. For example, if President Trump’s budget cuts domestic spending but then increases military spending, is that really a cut? In the same way that a tree would technically produce a sound, this budget technically does cut spending. But, there’s no way to appreciate either of those actions. Each are insignificant in the grand scheme and do not affect the forest.
The thought experiment is designed to get one thinking about how we experience reality. It begs the question of whether phenomenon that occur outside our own perception are actually occurring. Observation limits our reality. Only things that we are capable of experiencing are able to influence it. Applying this to the current budget proposal provides some interesting corollaries. While certain parts of the budget are being cut, there is no meaningful change in overall spending. The government will still be spending approximately the same amount as it did under President Obama. Moving money around between departments doesn’t affect the deficit and continues to add to the debt.
These spending changes are similar to how the sound of the tree falling is incapable of influencing the world if there is nothing there to experience it. These cuts will not impact the budget because the money is merely transferred to the Department of Defense for increases in military spending. By cutting spending in one area and increasing it in another the net effect is nonexistent at best. At worst, it’s actually less appealing that more money is being spent on war instead of the benign arts and sciences programs that are being cut. That depends on whether or not you object to your tax dollars being spent on killing people instead of educating them.
At the end of the day, President Trump’s spending cuts are as insignificant as a tree falling in an empty forest. The budget isn’t reduced in a meaningful way as there are still thousands upon thousands of other trees still standing.