Baby Carrots

One of the chief attractions of power to many people is the way that they can lean on their authority and no longer have to think about ways that they need to appeal to what others want. Most of us want things in life that other people have to provide, hopefully willingly, and it can be a real challenge to come up with mutually acceptable terms for how people are to provide what others need and want. One of the appeals of capitalism with all of its limitations, is that it allows us to find easy means of exchange by which we can all get things that we want or things that we can convert into things that we want. That which we need from others that we are unwilling or unable to provide for ourselves can be paid for by means of some sort of reasonable system of exchange, so that the people we pay can then use that in order to obtain that which they want. A lot of complicated aspects of motivation are going on that is disguised through the exchange of money. It is not that the things which have no price have no value, but rather that there are some things we are only willing to do for the sake of love or generosity rather than money, which we would feel degrades certain things.

In life, one of the chief difficulties we have in getting what we want is the question of motivation. This is a problem on multiple levels. We may not always be motivated (enough) to get what we want. Other people may not be very motivated to give us what we want, or may not recognize the aspects of exchange that are going on, whether explicitly or implicitly. To the extent that we feel we are entitled to what we want, we are less motivated to seek to obtain that which we want by offering something in exchange that others would want. Even though all genuine and worthwhile systems of morality are reciprocal in nature, we seek to decouple this reciprocity, either by demanding what we feel ourselves due without giving others what is their due, or by threatening to withhold what we know to be due to others because we feel that we have not received our due.

The types of things that motivate people can be divided roughly into two categories, carrots and sticks. Sticks are motivations through coercions, beating until morale improves, the abuse of authority that tries to convince us that some horrible sanctions or penalties or punishment is far worse than the cost of doing something that we are not highly motivated to do that someone really wants us to do. The carrots are the more positive lures, the ways that increase the benefit to do that which someone might want that seeks to overcome our resistance in a positive way. By and large, people do not feel the need to bribe us to do that which we would do already. We only bribe those who are willing to do what we want, but only for a price. If people are not willing to do what we want for a price we are willing to pay or not willing at all, or willing to do that which we want without our paying a price, no bribes are necessary.

When we think of the life lessons we are meant to learn while we are young, one of the most important is that life goes better for us if we are more easily motivated to do the right thing. Those who are not easily motivated to do what they are supposed to be doing will find that life tends to give them a lot more sticks and a lot fewer carrots, since they are less motivated than the average person to do that which is socially acceptable and beneficial to others around them–particularly those in positions of authority who are capable of giving rewards as well as punishments. Most of us spend a great deal of our lives doing things that we are only willing to do for pay because it is what allows us to obtain that which others are simply not willing to give us for free. At some point in the recent past, and it is worth knowing when that is, people lost the thread and no longer saw that sort of an arrangement as a life worth living. Perhaps people think that others are willing to give them what they want for free, but they are deeply mistaken, and the truth is far more worse than is often imagined. That is, however, a subject for another day.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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