finem respice

The Fourth Deadly Sin

Submitted by ep on Sun, 03/01/2009 - 09:25
inventor to be

I have always hated the phrase "necessity is the mother of invention." Necessity is not the mother of invention, sloth is the mother of invention. Give me an incentivized master of sloth anytime over someone who values mindless "hard work" for hard work's sake. I still marvel at people who brag about how many people their business employs and wish that practice would go the way of programmers who brag about how many lines of code are in their application. Hard work has no intrinsically redeeming properties except among body builders. Mammals grew to dominate this planet by being clever, not having big teeth. If you align incentives properly, you get the most done with the least work and innovations pop up all over both to game your incentives and to get the work done faster so that your employees can hit the ball game and stimulate the economy.

When I hear phrases like "hard work" and "shared sacrifice" I suspect that what I am really hearing is "you need to get your hands dirty," (dirty hands, you see, are the ultimate badge of worthiness) or "you have exceeded your lifetime fun allotment." A bit of social leveling, social justice at work under the guise of ethics, or fairness. Dangerous business.

Greed and laziness are tools. They are part of the human condition and no amount of legislation, moralizing or idealistic preaching by any political superman will change this. Deal. It is the collision of incentives and sloth that powers the central engine of progress and innovation. Tamper with this- be it for the capricious cause of social justice, "fairness," or simply the political expedience of class warfare- at your (our) peril.

[Art Credit: Rosiehardy "Sloth," Photograph (2008), Unknown Source. From the photographer's "Seven Deadly Sins" series.]

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