Thursday, November 3, 2011

Perk vs Motive

I truly enjoyed the Fountain Head.  Being an author, Ms. Rand knew a lot about the world of art critics.  She dealt with them all the time.  But I had major problems with Atlas Shrugged.   Rand made a ton of rather bad simple political mistakes. One of her primary ones is still found in the political (and philosophical)  world today.   She confused a Perk with Motive.  You can like something for multiple reasons, and some of those reasons are 'bonuses', rather than the main motive.

At heart, the problem is ignorance.  It comes from thinking that the only reason to do something is that you like it.


I do things for three main reasons:

  1. I like doing it.  Examples:  Looking at pretty girls, drinking, skiing
  2. I agreed to do it to get something else I like.  Work for money, ride on a plane to get to a vacation, 
  3. I hate the consequences of not doing it:  Breathing, obeying laws,
These are three entirely DIFFERENT motivations.   If you don't know which is the main motivation, you can't take proper precautions.   For example, people like driving fast cars, so if you own one, you need to take steps to prevent un-authorized people from driving your car.  You don't need to stop people from filling your gas tank.   So there is a lock on the car door, but not the gas tank.

But you don't need to take steps to prevent people from mowing your lawn.  No one wants to mow your lawn.   You have to pay people to mow your lawn.  So you do have to take steps to ensure that people you pay to mow your lawn actually does it.  If they could get money without mowing your lawn, they would do it.

People don't give to charity because they enjoy giving to charity, Nor do we give to charity to get the tax credit or the applause.  We don't even pay because we like what the charity is doing.   We give to charity because we hate the idea that the charities' work won't get done.  Take any charity.  Suppose the charity were to somehow 'win'.  That is, suppose the  MS Society cured Multiple Sclerosis.  The people that gave to it would stop giving to the MS Society. Oh, a new charity might form, it might even have the same people, but the point is, people give to the charity not because they enjoy it, but because they hate the idea that no one is working to help/cure MS. We don't like giving the money, we don't like people working on a cure.  We hate the idea that the cure doesn't exist.   That is a very different motivation, something Ms. Rand never thought about.

Now, they might actually enjoy giving.   We might like the praise for giving.  We might like the idea of employing doctors.  But those are PERKS, not the Motive.  

For a non-charity example, consider the case of eating lobster.  I love lobster.  It is delicious.  When I eat it, I do so because I like to do it.  There are times when I will eat it even if I am not hungry.  My motive for eating lobster is that I enjoy it, not to gain substance or to avoid hunger.  My pleasure was my motive, the sustenance was a perk.    Now consider if I get shipwrecked in Maine.  Then, I might hunt down and eat a lobster (OK, for the sake of argument, let's pretend I am the kind of guy that can hunt down a lobster, catch it, and cook it all by myself.).   In that case, my motive would be sustenance, and the taste would be the perk.

People often confuse motive with perk.   Members of both the conservative medical industry and the alternative medical industry get accused of being more interested in the money than in helping people.  Whether you are involved in alternative or traditional (doctor/hospital/FDA approved drugs), everyone gets accused of being motivated by money and being 'perked' by helping people.   Honestly, most people in both industries are probably motivated by helping people.   There are some that care more about the money, but they are the minority.

The same thing gets done in politics. People focus on perks and think they are motivations, and vice versa.

Honestly, it doesn't matter.   All consequences need to be examined.   I don't care if you want a flat tax because it will simplify things, or if you will benefit from it.  It doesn't matter WHY you want it, the question is is it a good idea.

And you need to admit the various things you claim are perks, so that we can discuss them.  It doesn't matter if you are not motivated by them.

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