Discover more from Blue Collar Notes
How was Scarowinds?
And a discussion of Laziness and your Grandpa Bill
It’s Saturday morning and I am sitting at work again here in Argentina. I don’t know if I told you, but I a going to finally get to leave next weekend. I’m pretty happy about it. I miss US food.
Yesterday your messaged me asking if I had read People Aren’t Lazy (Including You!) by Rachel Meager and Karl Muth over at the Noahpion substack. I hadn’t at the time, but I was able to read it this morning. What an interesting read, but I think the author is using a straw man argument to refute those who are concerned about the implications of welfare, cash, unemployment and benefits, and especially a Universal Basic Income (UBI).
I am not sure if you are familiar with the term UBI, but it was popularized by Andrew Yang two or three years ago when he was running for President. His idea is that technology is going to eventually put a lot of people out of work, and that we should use our wealth to basically give everyone in the country a UBI, which will allow people to have the freedom to not have to work if they don’t want to. His idea is that maybe if people didn’t have to worry about basics, maybe they would even be able to start new businesses, or make art, etc…
One of the main arguments against this idea is that giving people money will make them lazy. Instead of starting new businesses, the will do nothing.
This article attempts to rebut this argument.
Personally, I am conflicted, because I think that there is potential in the idea of a UBI, but I also think that the authors of this article don’t make as strong a case as they think.
For example, they use Michelangelo as an example because he received a fixed income, but still accomplished so much.
Michelangelo (a part-time painter of ceilings) received a fixed income from Lorenzo de’ Medici and Pope Leo X. Donatello (a part-time sculptor of nude men) received a similar arrangement from Cosmio de’ Medici. Leonardo (part-time failed helicopter designer) received a fixed wage for any project from architecture to engineering he deemed worthwhile, authorised by King Francis I.
I think the authors are completely off base here though. Michelangelo wasn’t receiving UBI for doing nothing. He was only given an income because his productivity and genius was already recognized. The income was more like a salary or a sponsorship. Michelangelo was an exception. As you get older, when you read articles like this, you have to be careful when writers try and use single incident to prove their point.
My next issue is when the redefine the laziness that people are worried about. For example they speak about the person who would use their time to play with their dog, learn cooking skills, or to play videogames. They then attempt to redefine the fears of opponents in this paragraph:
When pressed, thoughtful people may admit they do not really mean that “laziness” is doing nothing. In fact, it is “not doing enough.” But this “not doing enough” is a foggy middle ground quickly dispelled with a few additional questions.
My issue with this, is I am literally worried about people doing nothing. In the real world the lazy person doesn’t learn how to cook or go walk their dog more while working a little less. Many people will literally do nothing except laying on the couch, playing video games, and will contribute literally nothing to society.
The authors make the mistake of many progressive upper middle class of overestimating people. They are surrounded by college educated people, come from middle class families, work in fields where people work for the fun of it. Their whole experience is like the Michelangelo experience from above.
Perhaps you are the wrong person to be having this discussion with, since you are the opposite of lazy (except when laying on the couch watching CSI). You are literally the most conscientious and hardworking person I know. I know I have a lazy streak. I was pretty bright as a kid, but I never did my homework, or studied, and I barely passed High School. I didn’t develop my motivation until after I joined the USAF.
You are the complete opposite. We have never had to tell you to do your homework, and in fact we have never had to even help you with your homework. I joke with you that you received my brains and your moms drive (though she is pretty smart as well), but I have only ever met one person in the world who is like you, and that is your Grandpa Bill, my dad, who died before you where born.
He was born to working class parents like you. His mom was a housewife, and his father was a welder, but your Grandfather was a genius, with work ethic. He was Salutorian of his High School Class (he would point out that the girl who won Valedictorian took easier classes). He started as an English Major at the University of Riverside, but then switched to Mathematics. He spent a year at Kings College in London on some scholarship, and then went on to Carnegie Mellon to get his masters in Mathematics. Carnegie Mellon is no joke… it produces Nobel Prize winners. In his entire life, he never got a grade lower than an A.
I really wish you guys would of got the chance to meet. You would of loved each other. A lot of people say we looked alike, but I think I am way better looking that he was.
The point that I am trying to make, is you are blessed and privileged. You are an exception. When you think of political and social issues in the future, you will have to take care to take that in to consideration. Not everyone is as blessed as you.
Anyway, my biggest worry about ideas like UBI is that they will make some people lazy, and remove their motivation to go to work or to accomplish anything. My belief is that accomplishing things, even if its cooking cheeseburgers at McDonalds, gives human beings a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment, even if they don’t like it, even if they don’t want to do.
I believe there is a real danger that psychologically and emotionally that without the motivation to work, they will suffer as human beings. Depression, apathy, resentment.
What do you think?