How many of our onerous regulations, bureaucratic procedures, and other barriers to convenience—mental burdens all—are in place because somewhere, once, some asshole abused the system?

I’m not just talking about major tragic events like an airline bombing or hijacking leading to interminable security screening lines at airports. If an inconsiderate act doesn’t seriously harm someone, we tend not to think of it as a big deal, but even small abuses can prompt restrictions that increase mental burden for everyone else after you (possibly including your future self) who tries to use the same service or offering—for generations.

Most of all, acts of assholery undermine our trust in other people, which can lead to uncertainty (itself a major source of mental burden) and a reluctance to reach out to people who may voluntarily and efficiently help us offload our mental load.

Next time you’re tempted to reduce your own mental load in a way that might be cheating the system, ask yourself: would my one act ruin it for everyone else?

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