Often the people who succeed aren’t the most educated, it’s the people who try the hardest.  So, one would think, that finding someone who is reliable would be a positive thing when looking to fill an open position.  Apparently, this isn’t the case in England, where that job qualification got a help wanted advertisement turned down by a government job center.  Why?  It might discriminate against unreliable workers.

This story comes courtesy of my mother, who sends me what I euphemistically call “stupid human trick” articles from her local newspaper in Florida, The Saint Petersburg Times.  At first, my reaction was to laugh, because, well, it’s funny.  But then I thought for a second and I broke into a cold sweat; OK that’s hyperbole.

If you take a deeper look at the fear of discriminating against unreliable workers, you realize that this is the core of the problem we are facing today in the United States.  People face little to no consequence for their actions because someone will be there to coddle them when things blow up in their faces.  One would think that being an unreliable employee is one of those poor life decisions that should have consequences. 

The real travesty is that most would willingly scold a child for not doing something they should have done, such as a chore (being unreliable).  However, some apparently aren’t willing to hold adults to that standard.  But, if you don’t show up for work or don’t complete your work, shouldn’t you be fired?  Shouldn’t you know before taking a new job that showing up for work and getting your job done in an acceptable time period is expected by your prospective employer?  (I would think these things are obvious, but it’s not a bad idea to codify them in a job advertisement if the issue has arisen in the past.)

Now this is just one small piece of my overall thought process here.  Take it from the job advertisement to general life.  For example, living beyond one’s means doesn’t seem to receive anywhere near the level of reaction that I believe it should.  In fact, for many, living beyond what one earns seems a way of life.  And yet we seem to be doing a great deal to help these people out, from revamping the credit card rules that banks and card companies, such as Visa (V), Mastercard (MA), and American Express (AXP) must live under (see related article ) to reworking home loans for residences well beyond the means of those who own them. 

It isn’t that these things are, inherently, bad.  In fact, neither is bad.  What is bad is that they don’t address the core issue: responsibility.  With regard to credit cards, sure the process is purposefully murky, but I’d like to meet the person who didn’t understand that he or she had to eventually pay back what was spent.  With regard to homes, there are several proposals floating around that would allow people to stay in their homes by giving up equity and/or future capital gains, creating a situation in which responsibility is expected, if not forced.  That is a much better option than unilaterally altering a legal agreement (the mortgage) to the benefit of the homeowner with little to no repercussion. 

This is also true on a corporate level.  If a country stands ready to bail out company after company when poor corporate decisions risk the company’s demise, what inducement is there for competitors to act responsibly?  Stepping in to stop failure works in the exact opposite direction and actually promotes further faulty decision making. 

If we don’t address this issue sooner rather than later, the country is going to have much larger issues to address.  This is particularly true because the baby boomers starting to retire and the finances of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and chronically underfunded pensions will become increasingly strained.