People want to live their lives, not your agenda

Most politicians seem to have some vast idea of these huge groups of people that need to have “something done about/for them.” As a result, they take these actions that are vast generalities that end up harming as many people (or more people) than they help.

In fact, most human rights disasters throughout history are the result of this sort of generality. A politician (or author) says, “This whole group of people needs to be helped by harming this other whole group of people.” It wasn’t true that the first group all had a single problem, and it wasn’t true that the second group was the source of that problem, even if that problem did exist!

The truth is that most people are living normal lives and they don’t want to have some vast complexity enforced on them by inflation, war, threats of violence, propaganda, lawsuits, punishment, extreme taxes, loss of their property, etc. Most importantly, they’re living individual lives, each different from each other. Some people are experiencing oppression. Some people are in danger. Some people are out to harm others for their own profit. But most people just want to be free to live the lives they want to live. They want to finish that book they are reading, start that painting they wanted to make, go see their friends, go to the movies, get that piece of clothing they were thinking about, ride their bike, post memes on Facebook, throw rocks at the pond, spend time with their kids—an infinite variety of individual normal things that make people happy.

Governments around the world have a historical tendency to destroy those things in the name of some “vast and important” political crusade, usually based on an ideology written by somebody who lives in an ivory tower and has rarely ever interacted with much of actual humanity. It’s not just governments, too—large financial institutions have done the same thing, since they have power over currency and the economies of whole countries. In some totally blind attempt to “save” some semi-imaginary group of people (or perhaps, to increase the money in their own bank account) they end up destroying the normal, daily happiness of millions of people.

It’s not always evil people who are doing it, either. Very often, it’s well-intentioned people whose education didn’t cover the consequences of applying vast generalities to a population of different individuals.

Sometimes governments do good work. I’ve seen local governments do many helpful things. If you want to know if a government is necessary, go find a road with a sign on it that says “not a government-maintained road,” and look at it. Every time I’ve seen that, it’s either a dirt road or a road that’s so poorly maintained that you can hardly drive on it. I’ve never seen good roads exist without taxes and a central authority to administer those roads. But here’s an interesting point–roads do not have individual opinions. They are something that, by and large, can be regulated based on general laws.

This principle actually works in a lot of areas, and it scales down to things smaller than “a whole country.” It works in businesses—people want to work the way they want to work. Depending on who you’ve hired, they might be more or less motivated to do a good job, so that might determine how you structure your rules. You might believe you have come up with the “one ideal way” that everybody at your company should work, but maybe that’s just something that works for you. Getting too strict on specific work patterns, on too general of a basis, saps people’s willingness to help you, because you’ve actually created barriers for them when what they really wanted was to do the job they were hired to do.

On the other hand, policy is totally necessary at a company. It just has to be policy that describes the rules of the road and gives people principles to think with–ideally policy that motivates a direction forward or eliminates unnecessary distractions. It’s a fine line to walk, and you have to understand what decisions an individual needs to make (and wants to make) and which they actually don’t want (or need) to make.

Like, if I work in an office with a closed door, I should be able to choose how I sit in my chair or if I stand up at my desk. It would be absurd to write a policy that says, “all workers must sit up straight at all times,” even if I think that would be better for everybody’s posture. On the other hand, if I’m a front-line worker at a store, it seems reasonable to me for the company to say, “here is the uniform you are going to wear” (as long as that uniform makes sense for the job) because there’s a sensible reason for that—it helps people recognize that you work there, it assures everybody has something nice-looking to wear, and it helps establish the company’s brand. I might not like the uniform, but this is a place where my opinion doesn’t really matter, and so it’s fine to have a pretty generalized policy.

So just keep all of this in mind next time somebody wants to help “all the people in that other country,” or “everybody in that vast group of people.” They don’t know all those people. They haven’t done detailed research into the lives of each individual person and come up with a specific plan for how to help each one of them. Instead, they either have a delusion that one solution will solve “the problem” that that whole group of people has, or they have an evil intention to twist your help into supporting their self-serving agenda.

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