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Idleness May 27, 2016

Posted by Sobek in News.

Back in 1973, Marion G. Romney gave a talk in which he warned against the consequences of people not working for a living.

Recently my secretary put on my desk an article which reported an experiment carried on by the National Institute of Mental Health. “A tiny Eden for mice” was built. In it was placed everything that could be included “in a mouse’s dream of paradise. Food, housing supplies—everything was there in abundance.” In it were placed four pair of mice. There was room for “4,000 mice. Every 55 days the population doubled. But when there were a little over 600 mice things began happening. Not only did the population fall off; but big problems arose in the mouse society. … the mice were becoming lazy. Many appeared greatly distressed, some utterly frustrated. Their behavior became quite unpredictable. The making of nests dropped off. Some of the mice began to eat each other!

“The planned mouse population never did climb to 4,000. They had reached slightly more than half that figure when reproduction came to a complete halt. The mouse society turned into an emotional mob!

“The population in mouse-Eden has now dropped to a little more than 600. No new baby mice are being born. The mouse society is doomed. And not a mouse shows any interest in saving his dying paradise.” (Lon Woodrum, Applied Christianity, Sept. 1973, pp. 28–30.)

Idleness is just as devastating to men as it is to mice.

“Give [men] everything they ask for while making no demands on their own efforts, and they will deteriorate into an unfit mob.” (Ibid.)

When I heard that, I thought about a recent article on the tragedy of modern Venezuela.  I can’t find it, which is too bad because it really captured the helplessness of watching a slow-motion destruction that no one can seem to stop, like the whole world going simultaneously mad.

So instead, here’s a guy on Liveleak arguing that Venezuela is just fine. I can’t figure out when that was first published, but it was some time before November, 2013, when the author should have known better.  It’s the kind of thing you have to laugh at because otherwise you’ll cry.


1. geoff - May 27, 2016

Wow – that guy (who wrote the article for The Guardian, so, you know) should never be able to live that down. His name is Mark Weisbrot:

Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Centre for Economic and Policy Research in Washington DC. He is also president of Just Foreign Policy. He co-wrote Oliver Stone’s documentary South of the Border.

He had an article this month, where he continued to claim that Brazil’s, Argentina’s, and Venezuela’s problems were the results of various bad policy decisions, rather than an indictment of socialist policies.

I loved one of the comments he got on his recent article:

John Ward · Redondo Beach, California

Does anyone else get the sense that if Mr. Weisbrot had been writing 25 years ago he would have been telling us that the recent events in Eastern Europe were not a repudiation of Leninist-Stalinist policies and that the Soviet Union, East Germany, and Romania would soon emerge stronger than ever?

May 17, 2016 5:56pm

2. geoff - May 27, 2016

I agree with Romney’s point – people always talk about the wonderful things they would do if they didn’t have to work, but very few people are self-motivated to maintain productivity in a useful activity. So all this talk about a guaranteed income is likely to lead to crappier lives, not happier lives.

I remember reading a sci-fi short story when I was a kid about the impact of extending people’s lives by something like 500 or 1000 years. Progress came to a halt, because with that much time available, everything could be put off until tomorrow. The bottom line is that people don’t get much done without external pressure.

3. Sobek - May 28, 2016

The linked article contains an absolute goldmine of stupidity. It would be kind of fun to fisk. That sounds like an interesting story, Geoff, and one we see in real life about any time someone retires from work without something else to do. I had a law professor die like three days after he finished grading his last final exams.

4. lauraw - May 29, 2016

Next time, they’re going to be smarterer and do socialism the *right* way. Just you watch.

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