Saturday, March 22, 2014

Opposed to Busywork

I had to rant today about the waste of human potential that is busywork. Over the past election cycle, there was much talk from vaunted economists across the news shows about economic policies to stimulate the economy in a way that amounts to paying people to 'dig ditches and fill them up again.' And lo, over the past several years, I have been stopped countless times in long lines for road construction where people are literally digging ditches and filling them up again. (Most of the roads had already been recently resurfaced and were in fine shape.) A sign usually stands nearby proudly declaring: "Your Tax Dollars At Work." I am not impressed.

The idea seems to be that the government wants to pump money into people's hands so they buy more things and stimulate the economy. That may a fine strategy and am not debating it here, but if that's their objective, why give people busywork to take up all of their daylight hours in the process? Why waste their energy like that, their creativity? It's an insult to human ingenuity not to mention productivity.

If you truly intend to stimulate the economy with the true spirit of freedom, instead of paying people to burn energy (busywork), offer a grant to people who present a reasonably viable entrepreneurial strategy. Why not essentially give them a boost to start their own business? The very material prospect of receiving funds if you can come up with a business model would encourage people to really think about what they could offer. It would engage people's creativity, their enthusiasm, their true hope for what they can contribute to the future.

Some new businesses may indeed fail, but the experience for those new entrepreneurs would still be incredibly valuable, and would help inform better strategies for their future endeavors, whatever they may be. And at the end of the day, a failed attempt at starting a business would leave that person (and the environment) no worse off than if they had spent that energy digging a ditch and filling it up again. Regardless of the outcome, it would encourage a certain spirit of integrity, ownership, and authenticity.

And many of these new businesses would succeed, many by filling a demand for a currently unoffered service. Who knows where that creativity could lead? What unexpected options it could bring to the economy? More options and more stability. I suppose this general idea of an entrepreneurial spirit is similar to microcredit or microfinance in that it sees the dignity and value in what the 'masses' have to offer.

Busywork is bad enough for children and teens as a kind of 'babysitting' in schools, but it continues in subtle ways through adulthood with different fancy sounding names like: Keynesian economic policies. Is it to bamboozle people, or do the policy makers not realize how amazing people are if given the chance to think? Busywork treats adults like children; assuming they won't do anything productive if left to their own devices. We can do better! People can be amazing if given the chance, and especially if given incentive to be inventive. Get the creative juices flowing!

End of rant - thank you. :)

Blog Post by Laura A Knauth

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