What Do ‘Laziness’ and ‘Productivity’ Mean?

Last week, my opinions were gently criticized on Conan Tanner’s podcast  regarding something I said or wrote about laziness (around 1:48:10). I would like to gently respond to that criticism. 🙂 

When I was interviewed by Conan on his podcast, he asked me what I thought about a mandatory minimum income (around 1:02). I don’t think this is what Dr. Salinger was referring to when she referenced my prior comments about laziness, but Conan thought it was (so he told me later).  I think Dr. Salinger was referring to my above-linked blog post.  (I would like to thank her for being a MOE Reader!) Regardless of which comment(s) she was referring to, I will respond to both possibilities.

Truthfully, I had never given the concept of a mandatory minimum income much thought prior to my discussion with Conan. When he asked me about it, I said I would “play devil’s advocate” and noted that I wasn’t crazy about the idea of paying for people who sat around all day doing absolutely nothing. But after that, Conan challenged me, and I came around. He noted that if people have their basic needs met, they are less likely to do harm, with which I wholly agree. However you interpret my comments that day, everything I said on Conan’s podcast was pure contemplation. My ideas were not well-developed. I was merely thinking out loud. (My ideas are still not well-developed on the subject, and I invite further conversation about it. I would love to talk about it with Econ-Mom, who I would expect to have well-substantiated views on the subject.) 

Later, however, I did formulate some of my feelings about laziness (as a general topic) in the above-linked blog post. That post was in response to something Conan said while he was talking with Econ-Mom. I do not remember if it was said in the context of talking about mandatory minimum income (and I’m not going to go find out because I cannot remember where in the podcast it was said). Regardless, my response was solely to something that Conan said: “What is so wrong with being lazy?” To which I said: “Everything.” 

Let me emphasize something about that opinion: it is based largely on *feelings.* I can have feelings about something and still, rationally, come to a different conclusion about things. So, I *feel* like it is inherently unfair for some lazy people to get something for nothing. (The Little Red Hen agrees with me.) But that does *not* mean that I do not believe in social welfare. I believe in social welfare because I care about people. And I know that many people require assistance because they are just down on their luck. Furthermore, most people, including myself and my family, are just one or two tragedies or emergencies away from homelessness and bankruptcy. I am incredibly fortunate that I *can* work. I am blessed with a healthy, functioning body that allows me to do things. I know people who are unable to work because of their health issues, and it is *not* their choice. And they are *not* lazy. In fact, I bet some of the most struggling people are some of the hardest working, most industrious, and least lazy people on the planet. 

That brings me to what I really wanted to write about: What does laziness mean?  To me, laziness means selfishness and entitlement. It means not lifting a finger to help out when others are tirelessly working to help you and serve you. Laziness means not making the most of one’s abilities and/or not making the most of a day and what it brings to the table. It means expecting others to do something for you. It does not mean resting or relaxing after working a long day. It does not mean exploring hobbies or being creative.

We can also ask, what does productivity mean? To me, it does not mean productivity for the sake of productivity. It does not mean working oneself to the bone in the pursuit of the dollar or personal achievement. For me, productivity means taking care of what needs to be done. Because *someone* needs to do it. I put in long, tiring days because I have to. Food needs to be put on the table. A roof needs to stay over our heads. Kids need to be tended to and cared for. Clothes need to be cleaned. Homes require a basic level of cleanliness or chaos and squalor result. To me, productivity is the sheer force of necessity. It is not the mindless pursuit of acquisition and achievement. 

So, those are my terms and how I think about them and define them. Econ-Mom: What do you think? 

Econ-Mom has given me permission to post her response email to me:

“I read the post quickly yesterday….All I can say at this point is that I’m clearly too “productive” to do anything!! I just freaked out this morning because I couldn’t find the Xmas card for DH’s aunt. I’m pretty sure I put it in the mail with the other cards, but it’s supposed to go to Canada and will not get there on one stamp!! 🙁 ARRGH….Holidays!!!! 

But I will try to write an actual response soon, I promise!! 🙂 Or, if you want to publish with a note that Econ-Mom was too “productive” to respond, I’m fine with that too!”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *