Waste upsets me.

A speaker at the 2012 Chick-fil-A LeaderCast led me to write this post.


  • Many countries in Africa are amazingly wealthy in raw materials yet most people in those countries live in abject poverty. All those people created & loved by God living with disease-laden water, tormented by mosquitos, malaria and other diseases we only read about in the West, doing bone-wearying work, fearful of whichever corrupt, brutal government troops or corrupt, brutal rebel troops that will wander through their village next, and living shorter lives than needed. Waste.
  • Our efforts in the West to help developing countries improve themselves sometimes/frequently/usually causes more problems than we resolve. Waste.  In large part that’s our fault in the West.

Consider the lives destroyed by alcohol and drug abuse:

  • A relative of mine died many years earlier than ought to have been the case due to alcohol abuse. Wasted skills, ability, compassion, relationships, and years of life.  Needless pain for those left behind.  Waste.
  • What was the leading cause of death for minorities in South Dakota when I lived there?  Cirrhosis of the liver. You can translate minorities in South Dakota as the Native-American community, especially the Sioux tribe.  You can translate that cause of death as decades of alcohol abuse.  The useless devastation and wasted lives in the Sioux community has made me sad for over twenty years.
  • A young person I am aware of  has made many bad choices in a short life (obviously there will be no further identifying details). This person has recently been sentenced to 4 years in state prison.  Even should this person pull things together after release, the destructive repercussions of that felony conviction will last a lifetime.  The ripple effect of this person’s actions have hurt and will continue to hurt many other people.  Waste.
  • A young woman at my church cleaned up her life after a season of substance abuse.  She was a passenger in a vehicle driven by one of her friends that was inebriated at the time.  She and another passenger died in a crash when the driver was trying to race away from his hit-and-run accident.  Two women dead.  One man in state prison for a decade or so.  Three devastated families.  Waste.  Two lives completely gone.  Let’s ignore the huge cost of incarceration – the driver’s talents, dreams, and abilities have now been thrown away. Waste everywhere.

Consider education:

  • Dr. Roland Fryer, economics professor at Harvard, shared in the 2012 LeaderCast that out of 10 of his friends from childhood, 8 have spent time in prison at some point in their life, and 4 are dead. Wasted abilities and skills. Futures dead, sometimes literally.
  • Dr. Fryer says 3% of the black and brown children (his words, not mine) in Detroit’s eighth grade classes do math at grade level.  Three percent!  That’s one child out of a class of 30 students.  The lost future for those children is a horrible waste.
  • Dr. Fryer calculates a massive percentage of the black/white difference in earnings, prison terms, and teen pregnancy correlates to poor math scores in the eighth grade. Let me be blunt – what he is saying is that you can look at a minority child’s performance on math in the 8th grade and make a good guess what their future holds.  You can make a good guess that difficult days are ahead for 29 of the 30 children in a class.  That is upsetting.
  • If you can’t immediately grasp the waste from that previous comment, then consider that Dr. Fryer has calculated the economic loss to American GDP from poor education in the black and brown community. I do not recall the number but it is many billions of dollars. Ponder the wasted talents, abilities, passions, potentials, and dreams in terms of foregone GDP, which means forgone increase in living standards for millions of people. (just in case I didn’t make the consequences clear, that means less GDP from lower output from those individuals, which means lower standard of living for them, which in turn means lower quality and quantity of healthcare, less of the ‘good stuff’ of modern life, poorer diet, shorter lifespan) Waste.
  • Dr. Fryer pointed out that the graduation rate for the school in the zip code where the event was broadcast was 37%.  About one-third of the youth will graduate.  Where will those other kids be in a decade? He thinks a lot of them will be in prison.  Ignore the cost of incarceration. What’s left to be upset about? Wasted abilities. Wasted dreams. Wasted lives.

Unintended consequences from international aid. Decades of foreign aid that doesn’t change anything.  Alcohol abuse.  Drug abuse.  Bad decisions leading to jail time.  Failed education systems.

The human toll of that waste infuriates me.

As Dr. Fryer pointed out, what we have been doing for the last several decades in the educational world isn’t working.  It is time to set aside the politics and figure out how to change the results.  There are other places in our society where the things we’ve been doing for decades haven’t worked.  Maybe we should try something different.

This isn’t about politics. It’s about the human destruction.  The useless devastation.

It’s time to stop this stupid waste.

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