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Greed & Laziness

In this most contentious and fascinating of election cycles, when nearly each conversation leads to politics, and when polarization runs so high, I ask myself - what is the essence of the debate between left and right?  What does it really mean to be a Conservative or a Liberal?


I often ask friends this question when engaged in heated and polarized political discussions and have generally been dissatisfied with the answers – which have included: “Conservatives are pro-life;” and “Liberals are committed to wealth redistribution.”  I think that in the end each focuses upon solving for two very different human frailties – greed and laziness- and for prioritizing one over the other.  The Conservative is devoted to free market capitalism and small government, and thus seems to be solving for human beings’ natural tendency towards inertia.  The system of putting people on the treadmill and rewarding those who are most productive seems to me to be designed to inspire hard work and to overcome the tendency to be lazy.  On the other hand, today’s Liberal agenda is dedicated to larger government and is naturally uncomfortable with the free market system – seemingly aiming to solve for human greed, which in the unfettered free market system can move those in power to act in a manner that can be antagonistic to society’s best interests.

I surmise that there is a constant tug of war between these factions and at any given point in time a society is out of balance in one way or the other, and thus needs the pendulum to swing in order to counteract whichever of these two human flaws is most dominant in the moment.

Without judging, but instead just commenting as an observer, it would seem to me that, perhaps in the wake of the ’08 financial crisis and combined with a very lethargic global economy that holds less promise for wealth creation, the pendulum has swung towards the system of increased government and less free market capitalism.  I dare say that this movement will likely dominate for some time to come, until ultimately desperation for productivity causes the pendulum to swing the other way.

The last pendulum swing in this direction occurred in the early 1960’s and lasted until the late ‘70’s or early ‘80’s. This period of time was characterized by a focus on social justice, environmental safety, free-spiritedness, a de-emphasizing of, if not a disdain for capital and materialism, and very creative artistic expression.  With the likelihood of further de-criminalization of cannabis on the immediate horizon, the similarities to the Hippie Generation become increasingly relevant.

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