Self-centered, Intellectually Lazy Cowards

Stephen Yearwood
5 min readMar 24, 2024

There is way too much at stake to be worried about any person’s self-image.

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

As Kris Kristofferson put it (in a song, “Bobby McGee”), “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” Historically, that’s the kind of freedom that has led to societal revolutions. An undoubted historical irony is that the form of an economy that Liberalism unleashed upon the world has created too many people with too much to lose to want to risk revolutionary change when such change is desperately needed to preserve the positive accomplishments of Liberal civilization.

Of course, people do object to the idea that they might be too self-centered, intellectually lazy, or cowardly. I have had plenty of people here in Medium “clap” for my ideas and even “Follow” me, but demure from advocating for them or even merely endorsing them (to my knowledge, at least). When anyone has volunteered to me why not, that person has invariably said that he or she “can’t understand them,” or is “not a philosopher,” or “not an economist.” While, again, they would doubtlessly object to being labeled as being intellectually lazy, anyone who can read and understand this sentence is fully capable of understanding anything I have ever written — given sufficient effort on any person’s part. Is being intellectually lazy better or worse than being intellectually deficient? I’ll leave that to others to decide. At this point, anyone who fails to advocate for — or at least endorse — these ideas must show good (intellectually valid) cause or accept one or more of those unflattering characterizations.

I came to Medium (in 2017) certain that I would find here intelligent, engaged, people who cared deeply about the present and future of civilization. I most certainly have.

To my eternal dismay, those same people have furthered for me the terrible lesson that even the most well-intentioned human beings in that regard are self-centered, intellectually lazy cowards. Some are more of this or that, but all people are too much of some combination of them to do what is actually necessary to preserve civilization in its only form that is really worth preserving: with maximum liberty for all under the rule of law and a democratic political process (while extending democracy to the economy via a democratically distributed income — in an amount sufficient for a materially sufficient life). Who would object to any of those societal goals?

In a nutshell, (other than the part about a “democratically distributed income”) that describes what a Liberal nation is taken to be. We are witnessing at present the approach to the end for that meta-ideology. Its conceptual and practical limits are being exposed. As a result, Liberal nations are either in crisis or on their way to it.

What is needed is an approach to an ethical/just governance of governance to replace Liberalism. Given Liberalism’s conceptual and practical accomplishments, such a society would surely still look much like a Liberal nation, at least institutionally, building on those achievements as opposed to tearing down.

I am not saying I have the only possible ideas for achieving that goal. I am saying I happen to have stumbled upon the best approach to it. As I have written many a time, if anyone does know of a better way, please do apprise me of it. Given that I happen to have happened upon ideas that can actually ‘save the world’, it is perhaps an irony of historical proportions that I am not a superior kind of human being in any way.

Am I above average in ‘I.Q.’, i.e., raw intelligence pertaining to conceptual abstractions (as opposed to intelligence of a mechanical or even physical or emotive kind)? I probably am, if not by very much (having never known what my ‘I.Q.’ is — though it was known to me in high school that, given my solid ‘C’ average, including B’ and D’s, I was considered to be an underachiever). I am ‘smart enough’ — to understand philosophical and economic concepts given enough effort but that’s about it.

I’ve not been self-centered because I have had a rather low opinion of myself as a human being. That came from having known full well the wretch of a person that I was in too many ways. (In my seventies being better as a human being is a whole lot easier.)

I am not intellectually lazy because it just so happened that I have had an innate interest in history, philosophy, and economics. I do have a few other interests, but even there sports is the only one that is not an abstraction of some kind (to include a keen personal, not merely intellectual interest in matters of the spiritual realm). Where any of that came from I have no idea (other than the part about spirituality: I was required to attend Sunday School, the morning church service, and usually ‘MYF’ — Methodist Youth Fellowship — most every Sunday). It has just been the way I have been.

I am not a coward for the simple reason that I really have never had anything to lose. I have never had any family of my own (wife/children) or any property to speak of (such as a house) — or even a steady income — or a reputation worth anything (which takes us back to my opinion of myself as a person). I have had a few friends, and we have joked that prison — ‘three hots and a cot’ — would be a step up for me materially (provided it was a minimum-security ‘Club Fed’ facility, I always added). [To be clear, I have been no kind of ‘trust-fund revolutionary’, but scrounged and sponged my way through life materially; the G.I. Bill (along with a tuition waver granted me by Atlanta University for excellent scholarship) paid for graduate-level education as far as an M.A. in economics before it ran out.]

Still, all that has somehow added up to one good thing: I have never had anything better to do with myself than the intellectual pursuit of a better approach to governing relations among human beings in our direct interactions with one another, the political process, and the economy — while making that pursuit the focus of my adult life.

In the final irony, this proposed revolutionary change in the governance of governance would cost no one in any Liberal nation anything. Liberty would be maximized. Democracy would be shored up conceptually (and I also have an idea for improving it practically). There would be a minimum guaranteed income in an amount a person could actually live on, with no unemployment or poverty and a chance to get rid of all taxes/public debt for all funding government, at any level, along with systemically increased sustainability.


for those who are not self-centered, intellectually lazy cowards: “Sounding the Alarm Is Not Doing Enough To save democracy further action is necessary.”

All linked articles have further links. All are here in Medium. None of my stuff is behind the paywall.



Stephen Yearwood

unaffiliated, non-ideological, unpaid: M.A. in political economy (where philosophy and economics intersect) with a focus in money/distributive justice