A Short Post (promise!) About Needing More Economic Freedom to Realize Your Potential

“But wait!” some of you naysayers might be shouting after my last entry about creating a world where people don’t have to spend all their time working just to get by, “if people didn’t have to work, then they’d just sit around playing video games until they ran out of money, and then society would fall apart!  The only way to keep people from being lazy is to make sure they’re working hard so they can learn responsibility!”

I hear different versions of this argument a lot, and it always irks me because it assumes that the majority of people are innately Lazy and Useless, so we have to force them to work just to teach them a lesson.

This argument falls apart when you consider that being forced to work uninspiring, mindless jobs makes you see work solely as a chore, like that dishwashing metaphor I always use for unpleasant tasks that have to be done.  If the work you’re doing is unpleasant and you’re forced to do a lot of it, of course you won’t want to do that work any more than is absolutely necessary—you’ll avoid work as much as possible and probably do a shitty job of any work you can’t avoid.  If you keep this attitude up long enough, that’s when you’ll become Lazy and Useless at every moment you’re not being forced to work—not because you were born that way, but because you developed that attitude after doing too much uninspired work.

To put it another way: if we treat people like work horses and metaphorically whip them to make them work, then they’re not going to work at all without that metaphorical whip.  Simple, eh?

Now consider a more optimistic viewpoint where people are encouraged to pursue work that’s meaningful to both them and the rest of the world.  They’ll feel happier knowing their work has purpose, so they’ll be more focused and work at it more diligently, especially when they can engage with the challenges that come up along the way.  They’ll work better, not longer, treating their work with more respect and avoiding that Lazy and Useless feeling that everybody’s so worried about propagating.

Finally, if people’s work has personal meaning to them beyond the material goal of earning a paycheck, they’ll choose to do that work for more important reasons than because it makes them a lot of money—like how I choose to work on my writing even though I don’t get paid to yet.

If we as a society placed more value on the spiritually fulfilling aspects of work (e.g., that satisfaction that comes from working on something you’re really invested in), more people would feel happier about their jobs rather than treating them as a chore to be endured, or as just another step toward retirement where you don’t have to work ever again.  When people have these more materialistic attitudes about work, they’ll always do the minimum, half-ass everything they can get away with, and do that really annoying thing where you pass your work on to other people just because you can.

I’d much rather live in a world where people feel passionate and connected to what they do.

If you view all people as inherently Lazy and Useless and force them to do a bunch of work just to get by, you’ll build a world full of people who begrudgingly do that work like slaves rather than independent thinkers.  You get a society of tools who can’t make their own choices or create real ideas with meaning because no one’s forcing them to.

Wouldn’t life be way better if we could all focus more on realizing our potential rather than making a lot of money?

I believe in this potential, within myself and within others—I always have, and I always will.

Maybe that’s why I can’t ever give up.


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