ef·for ·toc·ra·cy

Pronunciation: \ efərˈtäkrəsē \


Plural: effortocracies


Pitfalls: Narcissism, Misguidance, Malevolence

Related Terms

Effortocratic - adjective: of, relating to, or favoring effortocracy; criterion that grants rewards based on effort; a system or ruleset that penalizes sloth;

Effortocrat - noun: one who participates in or advocates for organizations that incentivize effort

Effortocratically - adverb: favoring an organizational structure that rewards based on effort

Effortocracize: verb: changing an organizational structure to promote those who expend effort and demote the lethargic

Effortocracization: noun: the process of conversion toward an incentive system that rewards effort and/or punishes indolence


Those likely to gain influence from effortocratic structure: hard workers, talented artists, self-disciplined individuals, innovators, disabled persons, and those who delay gratification


Those likely to lose influence from effortocratic structure: lazy, glamor-seekers, hedonists, anti-social personality types, heirs, undisciplined and those who believe they are entitled to special privilege whether rich or poor


Independent factors not particularly predictive of success or failure in effortocracies: race, sophistication level, wealth, sense of humor, native intelligence, physical prowess, age, religion, political leaning, obsessive compulsive tendencies, health, environment, ancestry, preferences, gender, courage, investment philosophy


Effortocracies are ideologically distinct from the following: democracies, meritocracies, oligarchies, anarchies, theocracies, technocracies and monarchies. Effortocratic goals differ from those espoused by communism, socialism, egalitarianism, utilitarianism and capitalism. No organizational structure perfectly matches any actual societal governance, political system or economic construct. Most economic, religious and political theories overlap in the real world. Pure effortocracy defines a theoretical endpoint on an imaginary spectrum against which to judge past, present or proposed incentives or penalties intended to form a system of reward or punishment based on effort alone. As of May 2014, effortocracy is not yet cited in any major English dictionary.


High Activity Level ≠ High Productivity Level

Effort and production are related but not equal. Strenuous labor does not automatically produce a useful good or service. Education and impartial reality testing is required. Someone must want or need whatever the effort produces. Effectiveness typically requires socialization. To succeed, energetic employees, teammates, students or fellow citizens need and provide direction to each other. The vigorous must not be isolated. The effortful must operate amidst external guidance, honest feedback and independent judgement from altruistic coaches, societal transparency and/or a free market. Philosophic questions include:

  • Is an exuberant laborer producing anything of worth to others?
  • Can energetic striving be developed or redirected when appropriate?
  • If the fruits of one's efforts are not visibly meaningful, how can burnout be prevented?
  • Might the effortful undertaking be producing something of unrecognized but real future value?
  • Would willing consumers (nearsighted or farsighted) or beneficiaries (sophisticated or not) pay for the good or service produced with discretionary time or money?
  • Who seeks the product of this toiling?

Education requires discipline and hard work at an early point in life, but carried to the extreme, striving for academic or technical achievement is insufficient. Acquiring knowledge or mastering skills must accomplish more than satisfying the student's curiosity or ego. Learning requires effort but because neither talent nor knowledge insures productivity, great efforts must at some point transition from acquiring capability to actual production. The ideal transition point occurs earlier for some than for others. A balanced ethic of lifelong education and increasing service strengthens effortocracies.

Production may appear effortless to external or internal observers, but worthwhile goods and services include relevant intangibles such as reassurance, philosophical provocation, inspiration and love. Though hard to quantify, one measure of worth is how much other's pay to get it. Payment is the voluntary contribution from the acquirer's finite discretionary assets such as time or wealth. Market forces may fail to identify products that are too far advanced for unsophisticated consumers to appreciate. Differentiating enterprising genius from egomaniacal exuberance is a prime challenge in effortocracies. Creativity can be difficult to quantify in effortocracies.

Whether one's lifework is innovative or routine, the proportion of reward from self-accomplishment vs generativity must change over time for the majority of members in a successful effortocracy. Well-adjusted members of the greatest effortocracies find their personal sources of gratification migrate with age. Reward eventually comes more from service and less from personal achievement. Incentives from altruism and external contribution (recognized or not) eventually surpass rewards from personal accomplishment. Because of the complexity of human dynamics, an individual's transition along the effortocratic spectrum will be neither linear nor continuous. Societal acceptance need not be 100% for effortocracies to succeed.

Conclusion: in functioning effortocracies, the most successful members transition their lifetime efforts from learning to service. Whether initially rich or poor, the privileged and self-entitled classes will lose power and influence if they fail to expend effort beyond self-gratification. Hardworking, selfless, well-directed individuals thrive in strong effortocracies.