Idle hands are the devil’s workshop. That phrase, and the many variations attributed to it, has Biblical origins. Yet it was co-opted by the humanists of the day to take on a collectivist meaning. Juan Luis Vives, a 16th century philosopher, was among the first to interpret idle hands as meaning that of laziness. Stay busy and your mind won’t wander into wicked thoughts.

“Even those who have dissipated their fortunes in dissolute living – through gaming, harlots, excessive luxury, gluttony and gambling – should be given food, for no one should die of hunger. However, smaller rations and more irksome tasks should be assigned to them so that they may be an example to others. […] They must not die of hunger, but they must feel itspangs.” Whatever the source of poverty, the poor are expected to work. “Even to the old and the stupid, it should be possible to give a job they can learn in a few days, such as digging holes, getting water or carrying something on their shoulders.” The point of requiring such toil from the beneficiaries of the scheme is in part to make them contribute to the funding of the latter. But it is also to make sure that “being busy and engrossed in their work, they will abstain from those wicked thoughts and actions in which they would engage if they were idle”

There’s a load of b.s. if ever I’ve heard one. Ask anyone who has ever worked in a shop if those busy factory workers are abstaining from any impure thoughts while they work. No, busy hands don’t forge a disconnect between mind and sin.

References contained in scripture illustrate that idleness isn’t correlated to laziness or physical traits. It is geared toward an idle mind spiritually that allows sin to fester. Stay busy and focused spiritually and you won’t allow Satan to enter your thoughts.

However, it has been this gradual modification of what being idle refers to that has allowed modern thinkers to dilute it even further. At least the humanists were attempting to come up with a way to keep an entire community busy at work in an effort to increase productivity. Being idle physically was seen as a gateway to crime and other sins. Government handouts in exchange for work was seen as a solution.

Not so today. Today we see the original idea morphing into a political payoff. Ideas such as a universal basic income have gained traction even among conservatives and libertarians. Not as a way to keep a community busy to avoid wicked thoughts but as a means to incorporate dependency. Give people a standard, equal stipend on a regular, repeating basis without any demand in return and create the opposite effect of Vives’ original thinking.

Of course, it is sold as a solution to an unjust, unfair system we live under. Eliminate poverty and hunger. Everyone has the means for a basic subsistence and decent life. The right is starting to buy in as a way to eliminate the layered, duplicitous nature of government with its many welfare programs. Shrink government by minimizing welfare.

Yet what is the natural conclusion to such a program? Productivity and efficiency decline. Remove the incentive to produce and the reward for achievement and this goes beyond what communism ever hoped to aspire to. The overall pie must shrink and that is the source of a universal basic income. A self-defeating prophecy. Require nothing in return of recipients and in short order the pool of providers declines to an unsustainable point. After all, the elites and super rich wish to retain the status quo. Eliminate the core middle class that usually pay for these types of things and the strain on the resources of those elites eventually overwhelms them. It simply can’t last for long.

The UBI is just another scheme in a long line of attempts to keep the masses pacified enough to ensure that the elites can continue to skim off their portion of the proceeds. They just may over think this one and bite off more than they can chew.

As we so often see, it isn’t that philosophers and thinkers fail to correctly identify problems. It’s the solutions that create even bigger problems. Juan Luis Vives wanted to eliminate wicked thoughts and sin. However, a material solution to a spiritual problem never works. No man made solution to defeat Satan will ever supplant the path that God has already laid out. And if you’re not a believer anyway, you couldn’t care less. Think you can take on the elites without some Heavenly divine intervention? Be a sheep. And get back in line for your welfare check.

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