Why/when would discrimination of people who do less, try less and pursue a path of "easiness" be wrong?

Since if we accept their attitude, then that would mean that we in some respect regard it "irrelevant" as to whether one "puts in more" or "puts in less". Yet, the functioning of a good society quite definitely relies on the "puts in enough" and the "reward system" associated with societies should support the idea of "putting more in".

It seems absurd to treat and expect "less trying" to be treated well, except when its reason is independent of the subject (e.g. sickness). Because they may be perceived to create extra burden and costs.

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    This is known as the free rider problem in ethics, see SEP. The notion of collective good and the composition argument against free riding you sketch are questioned by libertarians like Nozick, and even by Rawls. Arguably, the discrimination can only be justified if the free rider "bought into" the benefit towards which she puts in less, otherwise others can impose an obligation by acting cooperatively to provide some good from which she happens to benefit.
    – Conifold
    Dec 31, 2018 at 19:32
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    Who are you to decide what people should do with their lives. For starters you can't even tell me what you want people to do 'more' of?! Simple work? Like breaking rocks, or mining coal? Do people who work 13 hour days sewing up western training shoes deserve the same renumeration as those that spend 4 hours moving quantities of money around? If not.. then why not. Life is unfair. Work for what one needs. not what someone like you thinks one needs.. and be happy with one's lot. Leave everyone else to their business.
    – Richard
    Dec 31, 2018 at 21:55
  • @Richard If we decide to obey communal principles, then that means that people should abide to communal principles. Otherwise one could as well dismantle "society" as being "questionable", since it's possible to break against it. The problem is people who may take "free riding" advantage under the principles of societies. De jure moral, but de facto immoral. Conifold is on track.
    – mavavilj
    Jan 1, 2019 at 13:38
  • @Conifold What does "buy into the benefit" mean? I would question your expression of "discrimination can only be justified". It's not a hard fact. Racism can be justified, but with perhaps lesser accuracy than no-racism.
    – mavavilj
    Jan 1, 2019 at 13:40
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    @mavavilj that's the problem isn't it. What defines a society worth supporting. What determines 'fitness'. I for example was not lucky enough to have been given a multimillion pound education .. or be schooled to Olympic standard by a collectivised state after being scientifically evaluated by body shape as an infant. Most of us never reach our potential for reasons beyond anyone's control. THAT is reality.. that is sadly the natural order.. luck. Dumb luck. Is that what you want to re-enforce?
    – Richard
    Jan 1, 2019 at 20:44

1 Answer 1


Enforcing a standard of what one should be expected to contribute to one's society removes a major force for shaping the society to genuine human needs, instead of the whims of its leadership.

From the POV of Maslow and his hierarchy of needs, people are not, in general, naturally lazy. They are motivated in many different ways, but motivation itself is an essential fact of life.

At a bizarre extreme, we find that people with impaired memory formation feel a draw to take part in whatever they see around them and to contribute. If you put someone with Korsakoff syndrome in a room with an unmade bed, unless they are tired enough to get into it, they are quite likely to make it. We know they are not motivated by their future self-interest or anything that complex, because their thinking has been too simplified to really consider such things. They are acting from something relatively immediate, because that is their only option.

This kind of natural drive to belong and contribute suggests that we learn to withhold ourselves from our environment. We learn that leisure indicates prestige, or that we are obligated not to seem to easily controlled, or that we are not competent to contribute well, or a dozen other messages that make us less involved than we would be in our naive state.

Shaping this drive for our common welfare is important, but it is not an individual's problem. It is the culture's job to involve individuals in its process. If it does not succeed at that, it should not succeed as a culture.

From that point of view, if the individuals contributing do not see the result in a meaningful way, or if they are too busy competing to cooperate, or if they are too afraid to make mistakes, or if they otherwise fall prey to those psychological forces that damp our need to belong and contribute, that is a problem in the structure of the system.

When leaving is an option, we may wish to encourage those who do not fit into our system, but may fit into another to leave. In the interest of peace, we may express disapproval of them. But if we do so too readily, we are not allowing the full diversity of corrective feedback to improve our culture. And that is an old solution we have used too much. More and more, leaving really is not an option. So in large, dense systems (like global capitalism?) it is really in our best interests to figure out what would engage those people, or whether we have broken them somehow.

There is also an insidious property to this notion, in that it tends to be emphasized as a judgement of those with less resources. It is easier to tell manual laborers that they are lazy than it is to tell that to bankers, because we all have a feeling that we understand manual labor, and don't understand finance. But we cannot be objective about this. Since leading well is notably hard, but we can't know how hard, when overemphasized, this notion displaces blame away from control, and over time solidifies despised underclasses while whitewashing over the failures of those in charge. Therefore it is naturally encouraged by those who benefit from it -- the elites whom it generally lets off the hook. So it should always be questioned.

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