“Hard Work”

Posted: October 24, 2009 in Humans

Okay, in previous threads, there have been some interesting comments by Rootie, Eli, SE, so on, re: communism and work ethic and those kinds of things.  Not surprisingly, Rootie and myself have taken the stance that In Our Humble Opinions, ideas such as communism encourage- when it comes to work- an acceptance of the lowest common denominator- as in, if one is going to get paid the same amount as everyone else for the same job- they will not put forth any extra effort in that job because there is no personal benefit to doing so.  In such a system, people will put forth the bare minimum amount of effort to get a pay check- because no matter their level of effort, the pay check will be the same.

I have huge issues with this:  One, I do not want to go to a doctor, lawyer, mechanic, accountant, electrician, (so on) who puts forth the minimum level of effort.  I don’t want that out of police officers, soldiers, teachers, bus drivers, construction workers- or anyone else really.  I do not want, especially when it comes to jobs which have to do with health, personal safety, so on, someone who is merely willing to do the bare minimum and has merely done the bare minimum to get there in terms of schooling or training.  Without reward, the will to excel is largely decreased.  And I wonder if anyone would truly want to, oh, entrust the lives and health of their kids, partners, parents, friends, themselves, to a surgeon who was into “the bare minimum” to get a pay check or what not.  I know I wouldn’t.

Secondly, on numerous other levels I find it to be an affront.  I always have I suppose.  I used to hate back in school when I would work hard for grades, study for tests, so on, and because I would do so I would get A’s.  Yet other people would not do those things and either cheat off those of us who did, or ask to copy homework, or make excuses….and get away with it.  I hated it when we would get assigned group projects, and one or two of us would bust our butts because we wanted good grades and to do it well while one or two others would merely sit back and do little to nothing knowing that the group grade would reflect our hard work and they would get the same rewards for it.   I had worked hard, learned the material, done above and beyond what was required of me to merely get a C.  I’d put in the effort to earn an A.  Others had not and did not deserve A’s.  I hate it now in dancing- in that our company policy is that if one is dancing with another dancer (i.e. a two or more woman show), when it is all said and done, tips are divided equally amid the dancers present- No Matter How Slack, Late, Rude, Lazy the Other dancers might be.  I feel as if I show up on time, ready to work, do my part to the best of my ability, pick up the slack  for those who do not, well then…what tips I get handed should be mine because I am the one who has earned them.  And I should not have to give them over to someone who has not put in the effort I have.  Money I have made in time before a late dancer even steps in the door should be mine, not something that gets “shared or divided amongst” . Would anyone working in a field of any kind want to do that?  Should a waiter have to give half their earnings to another waiter in their section when they had done very little or been late, leaving the work for others to do?  That, I do not think, is fair at all…and I think things like communism encourage this bare minimum ideal.   

I do not want the bare minimum.  I want the best effort that can be put out there, and yes, I think people should be rewarded for best efforts and hard work and should be encouraged to give forth that effort and dedication. 

Lord knows I sure as hell do not want someone who is “just doing the job” as fast and whatnot as they can with the bare basics drilling my teeth or shoving needles into my neck or wiring my house or inspecting my car.  I want someone who will take care, caution and concern, who has worked hard in their training and works hard in their profession to do everything well taking on those tasks.  I know Rootie is with me on this, but I cannot honestly believe we are alone here?

  1. Vladimir says:

    You’re not alone!

    • Ren says:


      I actually freaked myself out imagining someone into “bare minimum” sticking needles into my neck….


  2. Vladimir says:

    “what tips I get handed should be mine because I am the one who has earned them. And I should not have to give them over to someone who has not put in the effort I have.”

    this is the basis of my beliefs right here. No one else is entitled to the fruits of my labor. Oh you can make the case that sometimes a society is set up to allow people to succeed, and they need to give back to society, and hey I am not against taxation and etc beccause there is some truth to that.

    But no one is entitled to reap the rewards of my effort but me, simply because they exist?

    Anytime Person A takes soemthign from Person B to give to Person C to redress an inequality, Person A is a scoundrel.

    • Ren says:

      word….and it is one thing if I then take those tips and decide to give a portion of them to people who actually need help….but to have to share them with someone who does not need help and is merely lazy because they know that is the company policy? Yeah not right IMHO.

    • Ren says:

      I mean, sure enough, A LOT of people have helped me out here lately and I do appreciate that, and try to pay it forward when I can as it were….but yeah.

  3. rootietoot says:

    I worked as a waitress long time ago, briefly the manager tried the “pool the tips” idea, and service went straight in the toilet. I mean, I wasn’t going to bust my ass so Candy, who stood by the grill cook and flirted instead of minding her tables, could make the same $100 a night that I did. Heck no.

    And charity- the more I make, the more I have to give. Forcing it causes the “I already gave at the office” reaction.

  4. I’m in favour of everyone who has to work for a living kicking out the bosses, taking over the factories etc and running the system ourselves. When I talk about that, this sort of objection is one of the first ones that crops up. Despite all the crap people have to put up with just to make a living under capitalism, very few people are prepared to reject capitalism when they think the alternative is the dull, grey police states of Eastern Europe up until 1989 where “We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us”.

    I don’t really have a well-thought out answer at the moment to your objections, but I do have a few ideas about what would be needed to make an economy work after a communist revolution.

    First of all, I don’t think wages would be exactly equal in the years immediately after a revolution. You don’t change centuries of habit just because you win a civil war/revolution, and you can’t exhort people into changing those habits either. Despite what ultra-lefists would say in that situation, you’d need to have material rewards for jobs and you’d need to reward people based on how well they did their jobs. That would probably mean people would have to be free to set their own rates for professional services.

    However, there is are two things almost as strong as the desire for material reward – idealism and pride/ego.

    Idealism – you’d need to work with the idealistic people in society – maybe 5% – 20%, at a guess – to start building enterprises that weren’t just based on material reward. These are the people who’d need to come up with new ideas to make things more efficient, who’d need to think of ways to keep the vitality in an economy. Even though no-one would own factories, people would still have effective control of them. In the Soviet Union, this meant that factory managers were the owners in all but name, and enriched themselves at the expense of the workers there – so you had all the bad things about capitalism with none of the inventiveness.

    Pride/Ego – Already in the Internet we can see the awakenings of people creating things, not for money, but for other reasons. As you likely know, Linux, an entire computer operating system has been created, with a lot of work done by people who weren’t getting paid to do that work. (Yes, I know Linux has major problems, but a lot of those problems are not because of the way it’s been created, but because of patents covering software drivers). So, in the case of getting needles stuck into your neck, why couldn’t pride and ego (desire to be recognised as the best doctor) inspire at least some people to strive for excellence? Combine that with a system that lets people choose which doctor they go to, and pay doctors per patient seen, and you might be able to create a socialist society with enough doctors.

    I agree with what you’ve said recently that humans aren’t going to get nicer or kinder anytime soon, or probably ever. Any sort of communism that relies on people just loving each other more is doomed to fail.

    I’d add that the ultimate goal of communism is to change people’s habits, not by lecturing them and having unrealistic idealistic goals, but by changing their conditions. If a communist society had managed to create a world where most people got most of the material possessions they want without having to work for a stupid boss for 40 hours a week or more, then it’s likely that people’s material greed would diminish. Not because people would get nicer or better, but because greed would become irrelevant. We don’t kill each other for air – not because we’re good people, but because there’s enough for everybody.

    • rootietoot says:

      “the ultimate goal of communism is to change people’s habits,”
      Habits haven’t changed in the (however long people have had them). They tried in the Soviet union and that lasted 70 years, long enough for 2 generations to grow up under it, and now that it’s fallen, you have rampant capitalism without the guiding influence of a moral imperative (in the form of religion, or Puritanism, whatever you want to call it). Look where that has gotten them.

      What I see in people who espouse communism is a pie-in-the-sky attitude that has no real understanding of human nature and it’s inherent selfishness.

      • hexy says:

        There are quite a few societies that have only had capitalism and the associated habits imposed on them for a very short period of time. Don’t treat the habits of the Western world as universally engrained in all humans.

    • rootietoot says:

      “If a communist society had managed to create a world where most people got most of the material possessions they want without having to work for a stupid boss for 40 hours a week or more”

      The fact is, someone has to lead. Someone has to tell people where to go and what to do. There are people in this world who won’t do squat unless someone tells them. I have family like that. I also have family who leads, and gets paid well for it, because under their guidance the company produces a product that it can sell for a profit and use the money to pay it’s workers commensurate to their work. If we all sit around and smile, and wait for things to happen, nothing gets produced, nothing sells, and no one has anything. I guess that makes us all equal, but equality kinda sucks, if those are the conditions of it. People *need* to work, to have a feeling of accomplishment and to be able to say “look what I did!” even if it’s as basic as twiddling a widget 40 hours a week. At least they can hold up their paycheck and have that sense of accomplishment, take that away and you have all the folks sitting at the river singing Joan Baez and going woo. Bleh- no thanks.

      • “The fact is, someone has to lead.”

        Absolutely, that’s why I’m a Marxist and not an anarchist.

        “People *need* to work, to have a feeling of accomplishment and to be able to say “look what I did!” even if it’s as basic as twiddling a widget 40 hours a week.”

        Yep, that’s what I’m basing my whole theory on. People will still want to work, to achieve things, even when the need to twiddle a widget for 40 soul-destroying hours has been eliminated. I’m talking about what might motivate people to work if and when that happens – and I think pride, ego, desire for approval and so on are some of the things that will motivate people to work.

        So my ideas have nothing to do with peace, love and Joan Baez singing (which really doesn’t appeal to me anyway), and a lot more to do with how we can harness humans’ actual needs, desires and drives to serve society.

        • Roy Kay says:

          Actually, leadership does emerge in anarchy. The problem is that some of those leaders are totalitarian and create a state or quasi-state. I don’t know that Marxism, not even my dear Libertarianism has quite evolved the formula to prevent this from happening.

          • Well, Mao and Jefferson both pointed out that you have to watch the bastards. There’s no formula to stop it happening, you just have to fight and defeat people who try to take over again – as they will.

    • “I’m in favour of everyone who has to work for a living kicking out the bosses, taking over the factories etc and running the system ourselves.”

      Well, that’s more or less what’s happening in Argentina right now with the “occupied factory” movement, and unlike a the majority of previous historical “socialist revolutions”, this is an actual movement from below rather than something imposed by leftist rulers. Time will tell if this kind of workers control will actually be a workable or lasting thing, though.

  5. “Habits haven’t changed in the (however long people have had them).”

    But they have. Humans don’t have the same habits today as they have in Roman times. We don’t assume that a thunderstorm is the sign of an angry god, for instance. Nor are most people in the Western world in the habit of keeping slaves. Habits don’t change quickly, in just the space of a few decades, but human history shows they do change.

    I’d also suggest that part of the problem with Russia is that they’ve NEVER had any history of democratic life, which makes it very different from, say, Australia, where I live. No history of assuming that people have any rights, no history of assuming that State power should be limited. That existed long before the Communist Party ruled there – to understand Russian political culture you have to go back long before 1917 (not that the twentieth century is unimportant).

    “What I see in people who espouse communism is a pie-in-the-sky attitude that has no real understanding of human nature and it’s inherent selfishness.”

    Well I’ve just suggested a few ideas that indicate I do understand that humans can be very selfish. However, as I pointed out at the end, if we are so inherently selfish, *why don’t we fight each other for air*?

    • rootietoot says:

      Oh but we do fight for air, North Korea, North Africa in the form of Sudan, Eritrea, etc, fight mightily for basic food, holding it and their people for hostage for the essential right to eat.

      Habits haven’t changed. Science has enhanced our understanding of the universe, so we don’t think the gods are cursing when it thunders, but people still bash other people over the head to get something the person has, and they want. that’s happened since neolithic times, and still goes on.
      Don’t confuse thinking thunderstorms and angry gods with basic selfish human nature.

      • “North Korea, North Africa in the form of Sudan, Eritrea, etc, fight mightily for basic food, holding it and their people for hostage for the essential right to eat.”

        So why doesn’t this happen in the UK, in Australia, in the USA? *Not* because people in those countries are nicer, or better, or more moral than people in North Korea, Sudan or Eritrea, but because they/we live under different conditions. Change the conditions of a society and, over a long time, you change its habits.

        If human nature is as unchanging as you say, why is there no slavery in the USA, why is it no longer legal to import Pacific Islander slaves into Australia, and why does the UK not rule India any more?

        Things do change, even in a world with great human greed and selfishness. So why can’t even bigger changes happen in the future – *not* because humans become good and nice and kind and all that hippie rubbish, but because the conditions they live in change?

        • Roy Kay says:

          Slavery was abolished in the West because the state ceased to enforce it, thus reducing slavery to a type of kidnapping. Part of the cause was the view that “all men are created equal”, but the other part was that they were “endowed … with certain inalienable right; among these the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. This is pretty much the opposite of any system that dictates who people have to work for, be it a lord or “the masses”, because it inheres rights to individuals.

      • hexy says:

        You are aware that there are societies that survived intact right up until the last couple of hundred years without a concept of personal property, right?

        It’s a product of the things that helped establish capitalism, not of human nature.

    • Ren says:


      I agree people do often do things, work even, for no reason other than the statisfaction of / joy in doing so. I don’t get paid to blog, to draw, to write fiction, to mow my lawn…yet i do those things because I get a sense of accomplishment out of them and actually enjoy doing them.

      However, a sense of accomplishment and joy do not pay my electric bill or put food on my table…so, when I work to get those thinks taken care of…hell yes I damn well want to be rewarded for it.

      And sure, we may not kill eachother for air. However, plenty of humans are willing to kill eachother over *nothing at all*…and nothing is another thing we sure as hell have plenty of.

      If someone convinced people air was running out, you can sure as hell bet people would kill over it.

      • “…a sense of accomplishment and joy do not pay my electric bill or put food on my table…so, when I work to get those thinks taken care of…hell yes I damn well want to be rewarded for it.”

        Yep, and for most people in the sort of society I’m talking about that would go on as before, at least in the early years. You’d work, you’d get paid, you’d pay bills and buy stuff you want. But maybe in your spare time you’d come up with some sort of invention that would cut the costs of providing food for everyone. You might want to be paid for that, or you might want to give it away because of the joy of seeing society work beter, or because your ego is pleased that you might become famous.

        That invention (and everyone else’s) would make food (and other things) cheaper and cheaper until, slowly, chasing material possessions just becomes a lot less relevant, because most of them are so easy to get. It’s not until that sort of point is reached that you’d see any real change in society.

        “And sure, we may not kill eachother for air. However, plenty of humans are willing to kill eachother over *nothing at all*…and nothing is another thing we sure as hell have plenty of.”

        I doubt that it’s *nothing* in most cases. I’d suspect that the vast majority of murders or killing have some sort of motive, usually power, money, possessions, hatred or jealousy.

        “If someone convinced people air was running out, you can sure as hell bet people would kill over it.”

        I agree 100%. My point is that people’s behaviour changes, not because they get better or nicer, but because the conditions they live in change. So by altering conditions, you have a chance of seeing people’s behaviour changing once again, without expecting people to all hold hands and sing Kumbayah around the campfire.

  6. rootietoot says:

    The conditions in the USA are a free-market economy, and people all over the world are fighting to get in. Not because the air is free, but because the opportunity to get ahead through hard work exist.
    I suppose one could change one’s own attitude, as one changes one’s own living conditions, but one person can only *really* change one’s self, not the whole world.

    The condition in the USA changed because there *is* a baseline moral imperative that doesn’t exist in Sudan et al, Scoff as you will, but Puritanism runs deep here. Call it the Protestant Work Ethic, or what you will, but it is indeed a serious part of our culture, and why people believe in working for their living. Even non-Protestants.

    “Change the conditions of a society and, over a long time, you change its habits.”
    Look at North Korea.

  7. Audrey says:

    This post reminded me of a book I’ve been meaning to read – Punished by Rewards by Alfie Kohn. The description from the book flap:

    “Our basic strategy for raising children, teaching students, and managing workers can be summarized in six words: Do this and you’ll get that. We dangle goodies (from candy bars to sales commissions) in front of people in much the same way that we train the family pet.

    “In this groundbreaking book, Alfie Kohn shows that while manipulating people with incentives seems to work in the short run, it is a strategy that ultimately fails and even does lasting harm. Our workplaces and classrooms will continue to decline, he argues, until we begin to question our reliance on a theory of motivation derived from laboratory animals.

    “Drawing from hundreds of studies, Kohn demonstrates that people actually do inferior work when they are enticed with money, grades, or other incentives. Programs that use rewards to change people’s behavior are similarly ineffective over the long run. Promising goodies to children for good behavior can never produce anything more than temporary obedience. In fact, the more we use artificial inducements to motivate people, the more they lose interest in what we’re bribing them to do. Rewards turn play into work, and work into drudgery.

    “Step by step, Kohn marshals research and logic to prove that pay-for-performance plans cannot work; the more an organization relies on incentives, the worse things get. Parents and teachers who care about helping students to learn, meanwhile, should be doing everything possible to help them forget that grades exist. Even praise can become a verbal bribe that gets kids hooked on our approval.

    “Rewards and punishments are just two sides of the same coin — and the coin doesn’t buy very much. What is needed, Kohn explains, is an alternative to both ways of controlling people. The final chapters offer a practical set of strategies for parents, teachers, and managers that move beyond the use of carrots or sticks.

    “Seasoned with humor and familiar examples, Punished by Rewards presents an argument that is unsettling to hear but impossible to dismiss.”

    It sounds interesting, and based on my own experiences, I think he’s right – people who are motivated to do things for internal rewards tend to do better work than people whose goal is external rewards. Another thing about people who are motivated for external rewards is that they’ll seek greater external rewards – so, for example, they may decide to go into business rather than be a teacher because they know they can make a lot more money, even if it’s not their favorite thing and they’re not as good at it.

    • Audrey says:

      Oops. I guess I forgot to close one of the italics codes.

    • Ren says:

      well, I for one think teachers should be paid a hell of a lot more…

      I guess I am a hard ass. I know for me, getting good grades was as much of a personal thing as it was about rewards…because of punishment. And I am not talking about mom and dad being pissed about a F in Algebra, but the punishements levied upon people deemed to be stupid. I also know it sure as hell pissed me the fuck off when someone else who DID NOT work shared in the benefits of mine.

      I do not think other people with zero motivation to do for themselves deserve to live off of those of us who do. People who need help, sure, they should get it, but people who just drain others and do nothing? Nope.

    • I guess I’d be hugely suspicious of any book written for management that justifies fewer monetary rewards to employees. Intrinsic motivation is great when you’re talking about self-employed people, cooperative structures, non-profits, etc. But in a typical, hierarchical profit-driven structure, if those on top aren’t sharing the wealth and rewarding hard work with good pay and bonuses, those on the bottom and the middle are damn well going to hold a great deal of resentment.

  8. rootietoot says:

    I never got good grades, because there was no tangible reward for it. I scored high on the SAT and got into college, and then the need for good grades kicked in. But in grade school, not so much. My parents attitude toward grades was that they wouldn’t really affect them, so they didn’t care what I made. People thought I made fantastic grades because I was eloquent and knew my stuff, but I made lousy on the tests because I didn’t care. 27 years later, I still am not sure what difference it would have made in my life. College is different, because I was working toward something real- a career, and the more I knew the better I would be at it. Of course, that wound up being moot as well, as there is no degree for “housewife”. At this point my motivation is to keep the household income-earner happy and productive, by managing things so he doesn’t have to worry about it. it’s a symbiotic relationship.

    AS for teachers being paid more- absolutely, but on a performance basis. It annoys the heck out of me that the 4th grade teacher 3 of my kids had- who was unbelievably fantastic- gets paid the same as their 7th grade teacher, who was lazy, unmotivated, and bitter. If teaching were performance based, perhaps we’d see more teachers doing it for the joy of it, and fewer doing it because they can’t do anything else.

    so sayeth the very cynical Rootie

  9. machina says:

    The main benefit of communism is that the lazy cheaters living off the labour of others aren’t billionaires 😉

  10. Eli says:

    Much clever things have been said already, so I don’t have much more to add…

    Ren raised the problem of the mechanic who does the bare minimum because he gets paid the same anyway. I agree this is not a good situation. But I think that a mechanic motivated exclusively by greed isn’t guaranteed to do a good job either: he’ll cut corners, or steal the good parts out of your car and replace them with worn ones so you’ll be back for more repairs later on, cheat on his taxes and dump toxins in the drain.

    Actually I think a job well done IS its own reward. At least it is for me. Of course the satisfaction doesn’t pay the bills, but that is because of the way society is set up.

    I’m not totally against rewards, but I think it’s overrated. And unfortunately, a lot of people are working hard, not because they want to live on a golf course, but because they don’t want to starve, and I think *that* is messed up. We now have a system where we rely on abject poverty as a means to terrorize people into doing work that nobody would do willingly. There have to be enough starving people to keep the workers sufficiently motivated. I don’t like that kind of set-up. For me the major problem is this, rather than that the “productive workers” are rewarded too much…

    Liberty and equality will always be at odds. I think we need solidarity to balance the two. I’d rather feed a few occasional parasites along the way than denying basic needs to people who are unable to support themselves for whatever reason, because I feel it undermines everyone’s dignity to treat people like either labor units or garbage, and also someday I could be one of them.

    What is a society to do with “unproductive elements”? Support them (at the cost of the “superior” ones)? Throw them off a cliff? Pretend they don’t exist and let them rot?

    • Vladimir says:

      As a whole society should do nothing, except in cases of vast socail good (such as a general vaccination program and natural disasters). All social charity should be driven by the individual. If you wish to help a cause, do it yourself, give yourself, don’t mandate others have too. If we look at the 2004/2005 Indian Ocean Tsunami relief effort, while the US government did not pledge the most aid, the US when private contributions were figured in gave the most support.

      This is how all such issues should be handled. In a modern western society there is no excuse for anyone to starve, beyond that society as a whole owes you nothing. That does not mean to say tha we as individuals do not owe sometihng to each other, but in a free society everyone needs to be responsible to themsleves in this.

  11. rootietoot says:

    I’m pretty sure that this die-hard capitalist isn’t going to convince you committed communists of anything, and I know for a solid fact you won’t convince me, so I’m bowing out of the conversation. It has been fun, and I’m off to do something fun and non-profit (but only because I want to, not for any Higher Purpose).

  12. Gaina says:

    You’re definitely not alone! I am nodding my head furiously when you were talking about school grades because I had a situation like this recently when someone got pissy because they had slacked off and come essay time I wouldn’t carry them. I will help anyone who’s genuinely struggling because they’ve missed classes through illness or whatever but I will NOT carry someone who’s had the same opportunities to get the job done in good time as I have.

    The only person I really compete with is myself when it comes to grades but the work ethic still stands, in that I get what I deserve so I pull out all the stops and I think my grades should reflect the work I put in. This ‘mini project’ I’m doing now won’t be marked, but I still have to satisfy myself that I’ve put in effort that I can be proud of, purely for my self-respect.

  13. Eli says:

    Up until university I usually got good grades without much work because I was smart – except for PE where my grades sucked no matter how hard I worked. I had asthma but it wasn’t identified at the time… I’m not sure school life is a good metaphor, though. The purpose of school is to teach and to grade the acquired competence, but life is hopefully about other things…

    I’m curious about something; what do the proponents of the rewards of hard work make of somebody like Paris Hilton? Did she “earn” what she got?

    (Also, for the record: I’m not a communist. I believe communism is really state capitalism.)

    • Ren says:

      Paris Hilton iswhat I like to call “lucky”

    • Vladimir says:

      one caln argue that Paris Hilton is the recepient of the hard work of Conrad Hilton. Shouldn’t people have the abilty to pass ont he fruits of their labors to whoever they want, even if they might be a bit of an idiot?

      • Eli says:

        Shouldn’t people have the abilty to pass ont he fruits of their labors to whoever they want, even if they might be a bit of an idiot?

        It’s an interesting question, I think, without a clear-cut answer. Ultimately I think it boils down to one’s premises about values and priorities…

        Mind you, I’m not exactly trying to make a serious argument against inheritance here, I brought it up mostly to point out that inheritance – and by extension, wealth in general – is a cultural convention, not a universal law of nature. Tribal cultures often take pains to make sure that the wealth of a person is destroyed or distributed upon death, to avoid the associated problems.

        (I think one could probably make a case that situations like Paris’ border on child abuse…)

        I like how the people here have been reasonable, nuanced, and non-ideological so far. A lot of discussions derail because people only defend or attack “-isms”…

  14. mary says:

    The lowest common denominator is money and the acquiring of more stuff.

    People doing a job just for the paycheck aren’t the ones doing the best job, they put forth the minimum level of effort to get paid. People who enjoy their work and want to contribute and help people are the ones I want working for and with me.

    Give people what they need, eg, food, health, safety and community, then they won’t be concerned with how much they make.

    I’m not thinking of changing a country’s economy, but of changing my own and maybe a friend’s view of wealth. A hi-def TV or an expensive vacation won’t make us any happier, so why work any harder to have them?

    I’m glad to see we’ll (in the US) be getting better health care. I’m for additional taxes for those making more than $200k. These are happening in the current system.

    • Ren says:

      Mary- I dunno, I am pretty happy with my television. It does, in fact, bring pleasure to my life.

      Agreed on the tax thing.

      • Mary says:

        Sure, but you could have gotten as much pleasure from something else. People were happy before TVs.

        • Roy Kay says:

          There is the TV and there is the freedom to buy the TV vs. buy something else vs. simply banking the money. Are you really saying that it’s illegitimate to buy something if you could still eke out happiness with a lyre?

          I tend to be reasonably happy without much stuff in comparison to others. However, I would be highly irritated if someone were to decide to deprive me of what they considered “luxuries” simply because my “luxuries” do not jibe with their aesthetic tastes on what a right and proper life looks like.

          One non-material joy some people (not necessarily you) seem to take is in policing other people’s pleasures. All in all, I think materialism is a lot better for the individual and society than policeism.

          • One non-material joy some people (not necessarily you) seem to take is in policing other people’s pleasures. All in all, I think materialism is a lot better for the individual and society than policeism.

            I agree with that. I’ve been having a discussion at this Australian website about a bloke called Clive Hamilton – he’s just been chosen as a candidate for the Green Party in a fairly high-profile by-election (special election).

            Hamilton is well known in politically aware circles for being against modern consumer culture – he wrote a book called “Affluenza“; the title gives you an idea of his attitude.

            Unfortunately, this hatred of consumption is called “left-wing” by many people. I think it’s left-wing to want the standard of living to rise, and instead of being left-wing, he’s actually right-wing – he’s like old-style Catholic intellectuals who hated the modern world, who wanted workers to give up materialism and go back to living as peasants.

            If working people want jet-skis, MP3 players, mobile phones with net access and hot sports cars, then they should have them, without people trying to guilt them out of liking material comforts and pleasures.

          • Mary says:

            “Are you really saying that it’s illegitimate to buy something…”

            Not at all, Ron.

  15. Roy Kay says:

    People work hard (and smart) for all kinds of reasons, but the big one is that they are INVESTED in the result. Money and privilege are motivators, as are quiet satisfaction in a job well done. A system can help one get invested and stay invested or it can extinguish that investment.

    While we have focused on the left’s redistributionist approaches, there is also the insidious disdain for greater accomplishment as a de-stablizing de-equalizer in the presumably evolving social structure. Crediting those low in the social structure disrupts the sense of importance of those high in the social structure. That raises the question of what THEY have done to earn their greater powers and perks. How does their performance compare? The simple question of who shall watch the watchmen undermines the power of those on top of the heap.

    The way to protect political position is to denigrate those lower in the structure who do perform well. When praise is given, let it be to a dehumanized mass. Sooner or later few will invest, because there is not recognition or compensation and the achievers will see that they are secretly despised but those who have real power.

  16. Amber Rhea says:

    Hear, hear (or is it here, here?) to this post, Ren. Agree 100%.

  17. rachel cervantes says:

    Ren, have you read Walden II by B. F. Skinner?

  18. SirPuck says:

    Im not sure how kosher it is to put linking into the comment section, but this article highlights Ren’s point. This is a co-op. All member working together, just like communism, to help each other and provide a needed and wanted service. HOWEVER, they have to have extremely strict and nit-picking rules for their members. Now if all the member are working equally, why the rules….hmmmm 😛

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