This might be part of a more general question about the concept of gain and loss. If it is, please refer me to that. My question is:

  • Is it possible to say that we always lose as much as we gain?
  • Is it possible to gain a lot without losing much?
  • really good question Commented Apr 5, 2014 at 11:39
  • related: philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/8182/…
    – Lucas
    Commented Apr 5, 2014 at 18:01
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    Please at least expand this question further to explain why any of a number of trivial examples of gaining without losing do not apply? (E.g. someone paid you 10 bitcoins when they were worth $20, and you sold them a few months ago when they were worth $1000.)
    – Rex Kerr
    Commented Apr 5, 2014 at 22:22
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    Are we talking about thermodynamics? If so, as long as we're talking about an open system it's possible to have a net increase in usable energy. Are we talking about weight? You could make the argument that, once we decompose, we've made a complete gain-loss cycle (starting at nothing, ending with nothing). Are you talking about physical lots? There are some cheap, vacant ones available here in town that won't set you back much. Are you talking about some sort of karma-esque quantity? If so, could you at least include a link to a definition and a way to measure/compare karma quantities?
    – Dave B
    Commented Aug 1, 2014 at 18:48
  • I agree that it's an interesting thought, but as for most things that ask "Is such a thing even possible?" the answer is usually "Yes it is," because you just have to find one example. The question would yield more interesting answers if it was more specific. Commented Aug 2, 2014 at 1:27

4 Answers 4


Life is not a zero-sum game. This means there are situations where all can gain. Additionally there are many opportunities to gain without significant loss such as when two parties trade things they don't need for things they do. As different people have different needs and values they can both gain something of great value to them while only losing something of lesser value.


There's a common phrase in Economics, "There's no such thing as a free lunch". This refers to the opportunity cost of any action or transaction, and it holds true in all of Economic study. However, to say that because there is an opportunity cost means the gain and loss is equal require two conditions.

  • The cost is applied to you. In many cases this is not inherently the case. Receive a free lunch from your parents, they are really the ones paying the literal cost, not you. Your opportunity cost is really only the best thing you could have been doing instead of eating lunch. Same with something like government subsidies, you aren't really paying the cost, the government is. However, in both and most cases, this cost is very likely to trickle back to you, whether it's that much less money for your college tuition or that much more you have to pay in taxes next year.

  • The cost is equal to the free lunch This one is much harder to show is true, and in fact I'm not sure it is. My reasoning would be that, given the total amount of things you could do with any given amount of time or money, then this number is so large that it's very likely that the "next best thing" has a value as great or greater than whatever you are currently getting. That hour you spend eating a free lunch could, in all likelihood, have been used to do something as good or even better, and you are suffering the loss of not doing that thing even as you eat.

  • In terms of the cost coming back to you state benefits are a good example of when they often don't, in the UK the majority of the population are beneficiaries over their lifetime due to progressive taxation policies. On your second bullet - it comes down to individual circumstances and values. A free lunch for someone out of work and starving would most certainly be a significant gain compared to their alternatives. For an affluent person (pleasure and company associated with free lunch aside) could well spend that time productively elsewhere. Good answer.
    – Andy Boura
    Commented Aug 2, 2014 at 13:00
  • @Andy_Boura It's true that from a purely financial perspective many people have a net benefit from government programs. However, if we assume that the well-being of the state in some way affects the well being of its citizens, then other costs must be counted. For example, money spent on you isn't being spent on new parks or roads or schools, and so part of the cost of your "free lunch" is the lack of other utilities, of course diluted down for scale. On the second point I think you are absolutely right, to actually insist that the cost is equal to everyone is too far a stretch to be real.
    – Cain
    Commented Aug 5, 2014 at 15:05

I don't like logical arguments much because they create false feeling of being close to the creator.

But here i would like to refer you to logic.

Think about your second question: Is it possible to gain much without losing much?

There is logical answer - if your gain is really MUCH then it is immediately cancelling the importance of your original possessions which have to be little then.

In real life you never have little, so it is not possible to gain much. All gains in my opinion are not real gains but rather ACTIVATIONS of already existing ideas and feelings inside of a given human.


According to karma you get what you give. Karma = cause and action (Wikipedia)

Now if you gain/retain you somehow get more than you give.

So there is an imbalance between the receiving and the giving part. Eventually the gap/difference between the giving potential and the actual giving could become to great.

But what you get must not be of the same form as what you give.

So that means you can offset your gain in one currency by providing or giving in another currency.

For example leadership.

So you could be a leader that gives leadership and receives sustenance and power in return. If you keep on giving good leadership then the universe or karma or people or your subconscious will help you in getting compensated accordingly.

So instead of asking, can you gain without loosing I'd ask. Can you loose without gaining?

The answer is of course yes. Every possession is a burden. If you loose a possession like an amulet or watch or anything ornamentally. You have lost an item but gained space to replace the item with another one. In essence you have regained freedom.

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    Can you explain the justification for your assertions? Commented Aug 2, 2014 at 1:32
  • Let me know if my justifications are justified enough to justify their existence. =) Commented Aug 3, 2014 at 16:48

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