In a struggle to be happy and free

Drystone Wall

Responsibility and desire

I’m going to quote two things Sethra wrote in an entry on her site, from God’s Weigh. She’s masterfully distilled some things I believe into just a few lines.

I was told, and believe to this day, that you will never get everything you want. You might occasionally get something you want, and most of the time you’ll have the majority of what you need, but it’s never cake and eat it, if you know what I mean.

This is pretty much why I believe a communist utopia would never work, and if by some miracle it could, it would result in stagnation for society. We’re built to need to strive. Everyone works because they want something, and the things we want fall into three categories: necessity, desire, and fulfilment.

Most people’s work includes a mix of all three things. The way our society is structured, most of us must work. We need shelter and food, and working is the easiest way to get these things. Most of us also want things. I feel it’s fairly safe to assume most people wouldn’t be satisfied with a warm room and enough food. Why else do we have televisions, cars, and all sorts of other things? We could either save a lot more, or work a lot less if we were willing to forgo these wants. And finally, we want a job we like and derive satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment from. We want to make some sort of difference.

What would happen if we decided to get rid of money and do work that we enjoyed, freely providing the fruits of our labour to anyone who asked, and also receiving all we need from those who perform other tasks? I firmly believe society would collapse within the week, if not before. There are many things people do not want to do. Take farming for example. Who wants to put in long hard days simply because they love the work? Granted there are some people who would, but are there enough of them to feed the rest of us through their labours? At this point in history, they’re more likely to be able to produce the required food through mechanization, but will enough people want to work on the assembly line to build the machines? For most goods, there’s required work somewhere along the line that is hard/dirty/dangerous/monotonous enough that it wouldn’t get done. Who would collect the garbage and sweep the floors? Would people still work through a decade or two of medical school if they could expect no more from their labours than someone who did something requiring little training? Again, some would, but would they be enough to get the job done?

The reason I believe virtually every task would suddenly be short of the required number of people is the ‘need’ and ‘want’ drives would largely disappear. If I could live the lifestyle I currently enjoy and either not work or work less, would I work as hard as I do now? I would not. The vast majority of people wouldn’t. The exceptions are those rare people who really love what they do. These lucky individuals would keep working if they won the big lottery prize. These are also probably the same people least likely to buy a lottery ticket. I have no doubt these incredibly lucky people exist, but they’re more rare than we’d guess.

Since people don’t need to work, and most wouldn’t, how would everything get done? It wouldn’t, because no one has any inducement to do it. There must be a carrot to convince someone to do the work no one wants to do. This is precisely why these ‘pie in the sky’ ideas never work in the real world.

I was also taught, and still believe, that regardless of what you have not gotten, you still have no right to be jealous if someone else has it.

Judging by the way some advertisers shill their wares, fewer and fewer people share this point of view. Every time I hear a company tell me they’ll give me the credit I deserve, or that they’ll overlook bad credit that’s not my fault, I silently sigh inside. I deserve what I show I can manage, and just about any lender will give me what I show I can manage. ‘Deserve’ doesn’t factor into it. Bad credit is the result of a varying number of bad choices. Whose choices? The choices of the person with the bad credit. These ads simply feed a pervasive entitlement many people today feel they have. It sickens me.

This same jealousy is where some of the desire to ‘spread the wealth’ comes from when the wealth doesn’t belong to the person who wants to spread it. If you have no wealth and feel entitled to it, of course you’re going to want to spread it around, right?

The way so many think rich people are somehow automatically bad astounds me. How does simply making money make one a bad person? And why shouldn’t someone who’s worked harder, enjoy the fruits of their work? Many people believe the rich and their companies should be taxed more. “They have more than they need” is usually the reason. Who is entitled to make this judgement about someone else, and why is simple need the delimiter? Set up a system in which all wealth past a certain point is taken and given to others, and two things will happen. Some people capable of generating more than the quota will go elsewhere, taking their abilities and future earning potential. The majority of the remaining people will simply adjust their work so they generate the quota-allowed amount of wealth and no more.

I believe the failure of logic in thinking simple need should be the upper quota of one’s rewards is the unconscious assumption that there is only a certain amount of wealth. If someone is poor, the cause is someone else being rich, preventing the poor from collecting their due. Not only is this assumption is deeply flawed, it shows jealousy and a misplaced sense of entitlement.

Everyone feels jealousy at times. It’s human nature. What separates us is what we do with jealousy. If my neighbour buys a new car that I want but cannot afford, should I take it, or should I work harder to get one of my own? Whether through theft or taxes, many clearly feel the former course is the best and most fair.

A belief that either of these ideas, a money-free utopia or sharing all wealth equally, would actually work in the real world, shows incredible naïveté, an unwillingness to take the initial suggestion to its logical conclusion, or a remarkable and largely misplaced faith in humanity.


Resolution status IV




  1. Jonathan

    I think a famous person once said:

    I saw her today at the reception

    In her glass was a bleeding man

    She was practiced at the art of deception

    Well I could tell by her blood-stained hands

    You can’t always get what you want

    You can’t always get what you want

    You can’t always get what you want

    But if you try sometimes you just might find

    You just might find

    You get what you need

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