Who is lazy: The poor or the motorists?

Richard Parncutt
June 2018

Richard Parrncutt ICMPC 2012

These days, with the gap between rich and poor (the wealth gap) steadily growing, you would think most people would vote for the left to correct the situation. The increasing wealth gap alone is an obvious reason to vote for the left, regardless of how much money you have--if you believe in democracy, that is. Unfortunately, either many people do not believe in democracy, or democracy is not working.

Why do people insist on voting against their own interests for the right? Evidently, they do not understand the issues. The reason why they don't understand is because they are constantly being told things that are not true -- or not quite true, which can be just as bad.

The right wing use their money to influence the media, which in turn supports right-wing ideologies by spreading misleading information about the merits of left versus right-wing politics. To take one of many examples: conservatives argue that you can't introduce or increase wealth tax because that will mean that widows who own homes will have to pay tax on those homes. Is that fair, they ask? First, that is not true if the threshold for paying wealth tax is higher than the value of such a home. Second, even if it is not, widows should contribute taxation in the same fair way as everyone else. The argument is nonsense, but people fall for it when it is repeated in the media.

Another idea that the right-wing likes to spread is this: "THE POOR ARE POOR BECAUSE THEY ARE LAZY". People seldom say this directly, but they often imply it, and irrational beliefs of this kind run deep. At first sight, the idea seems appealing. If free enterprise was working, which unfortunately it is not, the amount of money you earned would depend on how hard you worked. This is correct, of course, if you are working independently or being paid by the hour. But it is incorrect for people on benefits if they lose their benefit by working harder (I considered a solution here). Many people are trapped in this situation. And what about the working poor: people who work full-time and still can't afford basic expenses? 

The truth about laziness is this. There are lazy poor people and there are lazy rich people. There are also hard-working poor people and hard-working rich people. I know of no evidence that the lazy-to-diligent ratio is different in those two groups. If only people would understand this, things would change for the better.

So who is lazy and who is hard-working?

If you are looking for lazy people, don't look among the poor or even the rich. Look instead behind the steering wheels of cars. Most trips in cars are unnecessary because the drivers could just as easily use other available transport options (walking, cycling, public transport). That being the case, the main reason they choose to drive is because they are lazy. 

The point of saying this is not to insult people. The point is to wake people up. We urgently need to move toward sustainable transport, if we are going to save the climate for future generations. Electric cars are better than fossil cars, of course, especially if the electricity is mostly or entirely from renewable sources. But electric cars still have a large carbon footprint during the manufacturing phase, which means that they, too, are essentially unsustainable. The best solution is to avoid private car ownership altogether.

The move toward sustainable transport is being impeded because in many situations car drivers represent the majority, and they think that their interests are served by maintaining the status quo. That includes the right to be lazy, sitting everyday behind a steering wheel rather than actually doing something with your body. In fact, maintaining this status quo does not serve their interests, because cities would work more efficiently if more people used public transport, enabling public transport to be improved. Moreover, the health of motorists would improve if they did more exercise. That is another example of democracy not working.

The really interesting point is this: Many of those same car drivers vote on the right side of politics because they believe that "the poor are poor because they are lazy". Need I say more? Perhaps motorists should think about the word "hypocrisy" and whether it applies to themselves.

It's time for the lazy motorists of the world to wake from their slumber and start caring about other people. Because we really are destroying the world for our children with our emissions, and private transport really is a large part of the problem.

The opinions expressed on this page are the author's personal opinions. Readers who know and care about this topic are asked to contact the author with suggestions for improving or extending the content: parncutt at gmx dot at. Back to Richard Parncutt's homepage