Freeloading

December 15, 2011

Political Theory


When the professors asked us to pick two of the three components, I immediately eliminated the group project. Historically, they have not been my favorite. Not because I cannot work with others or because I work better alone, but because I fear being the team’s weakest link.

Time and time again we have been faced with people who decide that the effort put into the project is not worth it to them. The rest of the group is then forced to pick up the slack. Naturally, “freeloaders” exist everywhere and in varying acts of life. Freeloading takes many forms. The most common is cheating; most of us understand it is not fair. No person in his or her right mind would ever condone cheating openly. Yet we see people everyday allowing people to read the papers or carrying them along in project. I, myself, help people in this fashion daily in group work in another one of my classes.Image

What causes this great double standard? Last I checked double standards were also looked down upon. I have come to the conclusion that we all have an innate sense of Rawlsian theoretical concepts. Rawls states that the greatest benefit should be for the least fortunate, in this case the freeloaders. This is only true given that there was a fair equality of opportunity. In our eyes we see equality in those we know (or think we know) could do it but either chose not to or are for some other reason incapable. Cheating, in a way, means succumbing to defeat and our brains categorize this differently. Cheaters have an unfair advantage over everyone else when they use resources that should not be available to them but are anyway. We all have the same basic skill set and we all did get into the University of Michigan; therefore, we are have the same opportunities, but some fall below, thus creating an inequality.

So, what do you think? Do you think our brain differentiates between the two without conscious knowledge? As students, are we obligated to help people to remove the so-called inequality? Does Rawls actually apply to this situation?  

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4 Comments on “Freeloading”

  1. akmcoy Says:

    I think that Rawls’ beliefs can be applied here to an extent. I would say that helping the less fortunate in this case would be helping them study or working with them, rather than just giving them answers or letting them avoid doing work in group projects. People who copy papers or on tests aren’t benefiting or learning more, so the inequality really isn’t fixed. Instead, the less fortunate in these cases just get to get the grades and further separate themselves from those actually doing the work and learning the material. In order to truly help close the inequality gap, students would have to work to teach the others the material and work, rather than just feed them the answers. Also, I would tend to think that most of the time a majority of students wouldn’t feel obligated to help those who struggle or are slacking. I think students only feel obligated to help others in situations like this if they know them and are friends with them, then again, that could just be me.

  2. jps3520 Says:

    Like you, I immediately threw out the idea of the group project to protect myself from freeloaders and to protect others from my freeloading (I am a very busy person, I feel like I would have definitely been a freeloader in the situation). Though I would have been a freeloader in this situation, before college I was always the guy doing most of the work. I was at least viewed to be the smartest in the group and therefore it fell on me to do most of the work. I always at least tried to help the other person learn the answers instead of just handing them over.

    I think Rawls applies in this situation that the freeloader has the most to benefit from the exchange. One thing I’m wondering is do they really benefit? In the short run, yes, by getting a better grade. That grade, however is not an accurate representation of what they’ve learned. Then if they are required to use some of the things that they have supposedly learned in the class later, they will have trouble. It is for this reason that the freeloaders need to be accountable for their actions (or lack there-of). As Hobbes said “And covenants, without the sword, are but words, and of no strength to secure a man at all.” By this I don’t mean kill the freeloaders, but without a good reason not to freeload (like being accountable for their actions) they will always exist.

  3. jpstern Says:

    I don’t think freeloaders exist as much as you might think. While someone may have done little work on the group project, they surely had to write their own blog posts or essays. So everything ends up coming back to get you. If a student mooches off other students instead of actually learning they aren’t going to learn and be able to apply that knowledge for tests. I guess this doesn’t apply that well to our class because we don’t have exams, but think about a math class, calc 2 for example. In this class there is required team homework assignments and the problems from these often showed up on exams. If a group member just sat through his groups meeting just so he could put his name on the assignment, come exam time, this student will most likely do far worse then those that contribute. Even though a lot of students take the easy way for a lot of things, i think subconsciously everyone realizes that they are only hurting themselves and that by not doing the work, they dont gain anything from their education.

  4. danielpienkowski Says:

    I believe that there are many measures that one can take in order to stop or prevent others from freeloading. In the group project in this class and in many group projects I’ve done in other classes, the group members evaluate each other and this evaluation counts towards their grade, so they have the incentive to actually put in the work and not freeload in fear of getting a bad grade. Also, I agree with the above comments in the sense that freeloading will always catch up to you, and there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Those who take shortcuts will eventually have to pay for them down the road. One of my friends who lives in an apartment always complains about his roommate who doesn’t cook, clean, or do his part to help the apartment function. He constantly used the kitchen and living room for example, but never cleans up after himself, eventually waiting for either of his other two roommates to pick up after him. This freeloading attitude didn’t get him far, and he has now developed a reputation among us as a slacker, which has hurt his image. Really, at the end of the day you reap what you sow, and therefore not putting in the work in the short term will yield no positive outcomes.

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