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“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.”

Thus says the great physicist Richard Feynman.

I’ve been trying to wrap my head around both the rhetoric and sentiments of the “Progressives” that live around us. And I do think I am onto something. I’ve talked to folks who work in a variety of industries – health care, high finance, social work, K12 education, university education, small business, and more. And the one element that thoughtful folks who work in those sectors that is common to almost every discussion I have with folks is that they are astounded by how many lazy people they work with.

Of course we are not allowed to talk about laziness. I’m not making an argument here about supposed “welfare queens” or anything like that, I am instead making an argument about us. We are lazy. It is a precious minority of people that are not. I cannot tell you in how many situations I have been in where laziness is an explanation for what you see. And when you combine laziness with a “me first” attitude, we end up in a deep pile of Wintercow Doo-Doo. Walk on a university campus some day. You will quickly learn that it is the embodiment of laziness. All of us could work twice as hard and still have very enjoyable existences. Look around your office one day and see how many minutes folks are dilly-dallying, talking about irrelevant things, or otherwise not going a step above and beyond to do a great job. Walk inside a Wall Street firm and examine how even “hard working” bankers are lazy. Sure they put in 90-hour weeks, but they are slaves to models and routine, and not about to think deeply about the bigger picture of what they are doing. Examine how much true mentorship happens in most employment and even social relationships – we may have handbooks and promotional materials, but is the rare case where young people are taken under the wing of supposedly experienced and erudite elders. Go to a government school board meeting and you will find underlying the discussion an attempt for folks to get sympathy about how hard their jobs are. Approach a one-lane bridge on a road near you and see how often folks take extra effort to figure out if someone is coming from the other way and who actually has the right of way. Even if people end up being courteous, they are largely lazy about getting to that point. How many people who walk their dogs do not carry plastic bags to pick up the mess? Or check out a supermarket parking lot one day. How many shopping carts end up at the front of parked cars and not at the return bins that are placed all over the parking lots?

These are the attitudes of people that vote. These are the attitudes of people who wish to see your taxes raised. These are the attitudes of people who scream bloody murder at the prospect of any decrease in government activity. But this should all make sense to you if you have laziness on the brain. These folks don’t have to be dyed in the wool statists in order to take the intellectual positions they do. They just have to be lazy. There may be a sincere belief among them that they want more safety, that they wish for people to be secure in their old age and for poverty to not spell doom for people. The plain fact is that most folks simply do not want anything to do with doing anything about it. And if showing up once every year (or two years) to a voting booth is all it takes to presumably do something about these sorts of things, then you shouldn’t be surprised that there is so much widespread support for continuing the growth of the state.

And to be honest, this is not just lazy, it is entirely hypocritical. Supporters of public programs like Medicare, who are largely unwilling to have an honest discussion that we all need to be saving more during our working years to fund KNOWN expenditures in our older years, are selfish. By supporting government transfers they are merely excusing themselves with the personal responsibility of caring for other people. And it is supremely ironic that these same people are the ones who decry that we are all “Bowling Alone” and blame it on the impersonality of modern capitalism. You’d think modern capitalism, with its ability to deliver us goods and services much cheaper than ever, would free us to save much more and to be able to take care of each other on a scale unprecedented in human history. Instead we are seeing the opposite. So, we have folks wanting more taxes on the rich. We have folks saying that debt is no particular problem. We have folks not worried about running the monetary printing press. But that is all a red-herring. It is a red-herring that is really saying, “we, ourselves, are simply too lazy to make the changes we want to see.”

In a very real sense, these lazy people, call them statists if you wish, are the worst kind of “libertarians.” I think they do see themselves as bastions of true human freedom. They think that the magic hand of the state enables us all to live more freely, free from worry and fear. But they are wrong. What their worldview redounds to is that a good number of people get to eschew their human responsibilities to take care of one another and then go merrily on their way with their iPads and Facebooks and Words with Friends and treks through Europe and even their poverty tourism throughout the world, while someone else gets to deal with the day-to-day problems of helping other people.

And that is lazy. Or worse.

You see, I am not condemning needy people here. Not at all. There are and always will be a good number of people who need our help and compassion. I am condemning all of us who are not actually there to deliver that compassion, including me. And I’ll comment more on that shortly.

4 Responses to “Real Freedom Ain’t Free”

  1. mark says:

    Dont you know! it’s social justice day!

  2. B. Green says:

    I read this blog everyday at work. Does that count as “dilly-dallying”?

  3. sherlock says:

    I especially like the people who blame a lack of jobs on capitiilsm, yet decry how the rich should pay their “fair” share (ya know, the people that are actually doing something that tackles your job “problem”). Both hypocrital and lazy as well.

  4. Tom Davis says:

    The “laziness”* thing has been kicking me in the stomach a lot recently. I’m the bar lead (a bartender with limited managerial authority and responsibilities) at a restaurant in NYC. My primary duty, beyond actually tending bar, is to act as mentor to the other bartenders. I have tried many different ways, especially by demonstration, that a few simple changes to workflow can have tremendous effects on income, both in increased tips per patron, but more importantly by building patronage. It has been a huge disappointment to me that in general all the changes that I suggest and which I implement on my own shifts are viewed with suspicion and even disdain. And when I encourage managers to insist on the changes, they aren’t particularly interested either. It’s pretty much exactly what you’ve described.

    However, this is a new thing for me. It was never the case when I worked in Chapel Hill, NC, or Washington, DC. In all the restaurants, bars, and clubs I worked at in those locations, everyone was very intent on increasing the money in their pocket, especially when it could be done without having to work more hours.

    I was talking with my dad about this and he mentioned that when his firm (in Charlotte, NC) was planning the construction of power plants around the world, they would do the man-hour estimates for work in the NC/SC area, and then apply a multiplier for the area of the world in which the project would actually be built. This leads to the possibly not particularly surprising possibility that culture matters.

    */ I quoted “laziness” because I’m not convinced that it is the best word. I feel like I’m pretty lazy. I choose to make small changes that can increase my income while decreasing my workload. That seems pretty lazy to me. It only requires that I think more often about my environment and observe what changes are productive, but results in considerably less work. The people we’re describing aren’t more lazy in that sense, rather they don’t believe that they can make those changes, or don’t trust that those changes will help, or are only lazy in the thinking department, or something else. I haven’t put my finger on it yet.

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