Sunday, February 20, 2011

Work Smart, Not Hard

Hard work vs. efficient work is an interesting debate. One Hayek covers during the last portion of chapter six.

It is an American ideology that 'Hard Work' is both respectable and desirable. Or as Hayek points out, deserving of moral merit. Hayek puts this sentiment in a fairly familiar tone on page 95, "If we know that a man has done his best, we will often wish to see him rewarded irrespective of the result; and if we know that a most valuable achievement is almost entirely due to luck or favorable circumstances, we will give little credit to the author." The tendency is to assign value not based on results but based on merit.

Merit is in Hayek's vernacular defined as involving great effort and labor.
According to Hayek, judgement based on merit is bad. Not only is it exceedingly difficult to measure the amount of effort one puts into a task, it is impractical to ignore their natural talents. Basically Hayek feels that measurement of results is the only ethical or effective way to assign value. To quote him, "we do not wish people to earn a maximum of merit but a maximum of usefulness at a minimum of pain and sacrifice and therefor a minimum of merit."
This is the basic concept of comparative advantage. Efficient work is king.

Bothersome. What if one's natural talent is their willingness to put fourth an incredible amount of effort? What about the people who yield great results due to their diligence and hard work?
It is my opinion that we should not only value that which is efficient but also that which deserves merit. The individual who pursues their comparative advantage is on the right track but I feel praise should be rewarded when that individual works hard, thereby gaining a level of merit on top of some inherent efficiency.

Merit is not an inherently inefficient concept, but when held above all else it is meaningless.

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