Friday, August 17, 2012

Hard Work does more harm than good

The first problem with Hard Work is that we really don't know what we ought to be doing.  Many of the things we are told to do, or tell ourselves we must do--even though we don't find them pleasureable or rewarding in and of themselves (this being a good approximation as to what we mean by "work" as opposed to "play"), are the wrong things to do.  They will cause more suffering than pleasure for ourselves and others in the future.  We often don't know that, and in some cases if we had we wouldn't have done what we did, but it often turns out to be the case, especially in a long enough time frame.  Certainly for such wrong things, we would be better not doing, or doing them very poorly, than doing them well.

I am cynical enough to believe that most of what people believe are the things to do are wrong.  First, of course, people are often foolish.  But also at any given time, and nowadays especially, at least half of the people in the world disagree with the other half about what needs to be done.*  It would immediately follow that at least half of the people are wrong.  And since most of the people think they are not wrong, thinking you are not wrong proves nothing.

(*This is simplification, of course, since there are not merely two such camps.  It may be more like 1/10th of the people disagree with the remaining 9/10's, etc., which only makes the probability of being wrong greater.)

If most of the people are wrong most of the time about what needs to be done, we'd be far better not working hard, or even at all, in order to accomplish those things, and my conclusion that hard work does more harm than good immediately follows.

A second problem with Hard Work is that it often leads to making mistakes.  Even if we were lucky enough to tell ourselves or be told the best thing to do, many kinds of mistakes along the way could reverse that partly, or entirely, or even cause more harm than the thing we accomplish or were trying to accomplish.  I also believe this happens a lot, and that less hard work avoids it to a significant degree.  For example the aphorism "Haste makes waste."

A third problem with Hard Work is that given that it is already not pleasureable in itself, it starts by immediately tipping the long run balance toward suffering.  So the activities we choose to pursue by Hard Work need not only accomplish more than the lack of such accomplishment, they need to accomplish so much more that it negates the initial investment of suffering in accomplishing them.  My feeling is that this is almost never the case.

A fourth problem with Hard Work is that it deprives of concurrent opportunities to do something pleasureable immediately instead.  So Hard Work needs not only recover it's own investment in suffering in the long run, it needs to recover the cost of lost alternative opportunities as well.

A fifth problem with Hard Work is that it is self-debasing.  If Hard Work produces more stuff, but the demand for stuff remains the same, the value of that stuff will diminish accordingly.  So Hard Work debases itself on the supply side.  But Hard Work may also debase itself on the demand side, by depriving us of the time or energy to enjoy the very stuff produced.

A sixth problem with Hard Work is that it relatively deprives others of the opportunity to contribute to society, and, thereby, the possiblity to earn a decent living.  For the sake of these others, it would be best that we work less hard, and that then their contribution would also be demanded.

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