The Do Nothing Grant

I’d like to start a foundation.  The main purpose of the foundation would be to award grants to people who would like to do absolutely nothing.  Most people can afford to do nothing for a week or two, so these grants would have to be substantial to have the kind of impact I’m intending.  My initial thought is to give the grants out in $40,000 increments with the intention that the grantee not have to do anything for a year.

Now, I think it is important to note that these grants would not be intended for people who actually want to do things.  These aren’t scholarships or research grants.  In fact, if the grant committee (me) suspects that an applicant intends to use the grant to do something useful or productive, that applicant’s chances of receiving a grant will be significantly diminished.  There is plenty of free money in the world for people who want to do things.  The Do Nothing Grant doesn’t want to be the 9th guy in line at the scholarship gangbang.

Anyway, there would have to be an application process.  Basically, it would just consist of sending a piece of writing to the foundation’s P.O. box.  I wouldn’t want a video presentation or anything else that indicated serious effort.  The Do Nothing Grant isn’t about getting things done.  Just tell me why you want to do nothing and what kind of stupid crap you’d do if you received the grant.

Once a year, at the Annual Do Nothing Grant Barbeque (seriously, no effort, this will be catered), I will award the Do Nothing Grants to whoever the fuck I feel like awarding them to.  Previous year recipients will be eligible to have their grants renewed. 

Now, where would the money for the Do Nothing Grants come from?  Certainly there must be wealthy philanthropists who would like to see their fellow man do nothing.  I feel quite certain there are corporations who could generate some positive publicity by being associated with such a worthy cause.

Still, why award a grant to somebody who wants to do nothing?  For one, I’d seriously like to do nothing for a year, but it isn’t possible.  Too many responsibilities.  But if I could help somebody else do nothing for a year, especially if it involved minimal effort on my part, I think I could enjoy the experience vicariously.

Also, I hate people who think work for the sake of work is a good idea.  There is absolutely no intrinsic value to being busy or staying busy.  At best, it means that you have a misguided sense of what you should be doing during your finite existence.  At worst, it means that you don’t have the mental capacity to entertain yourself during periods of idleness.

I should note that the Do Nothing Grant is simply a further development of the Tanning Grant that I conceived in college.  The basic idea there was that you would receive a grant and your only obligation upon receiving that grant was to make sure you got and kept a nice tan. 


5 Responses to “The Do Nothing Grant”

  1. I think this is a fantastic idea. And I think we all know just how costly it is to do nothing. Forty-thousand dollars is not enough to maintain my doing-something standard of living, but it certainly helps.

    Ensuring that grant recipients actually do nothing (that is, don’t do anything) would be a concern. That level of oversight would be some serious work, something the grantor has made clear he doesn’t want to be involved in.

    Another issue would be to define just exactly what doing nothing entails. Is the absence of something nothing or is nothing really a subset of something? Hmm. This is a question that Heidegger might have asked, but it’s not a Heideggerean question.

    I think what Darby means by something is “work.” Am I right? I assume that catching up on those Russian classics is doing nothing. Working on a creative project for yourself is nothing.

    I would think that working on a home improvement project would be doing something. If I’m wrong about that, I don’t want to be right!

    There are some details to iron out, but this is going to make Bill Gates’ malaria eradication plan just look silly.

  2. rebeccafd Says:

    I think the biggest obstacle would be selecting who is most worthy of doing nothing. I mean, that takes work. If there are people who actually care, they might write stuff you have to read.

    I say that anything sent via postal service is immediately disqualified. That’s a pain in the ass and clearly indicates a do-something attitude.

    I’m not sure what the solution to this is. I’d rather do nothing.

  3. rebeccafd Says:

    I should add that this isn’t an entirely new idea — we pay farmers not to farm still, right? The head of the Poetry Foundation has suggested giving poets grants NOT to write, along the same lines.

  4. darbydale Says:


    I figured $40,000 was enough to keep a single person comfortable for a year. It should provide for the basic comforts and then some books, event tickets, some low budget travel, etc.

    Yeah, I don’t see implementing any sort of extensive monitoring system. If they want to renew the grant, I am going to expect some kind of report. An e-mail would be nice.

    Speaking of e-mail, I’m tossing the P.O. Box idea. Having to actually check the box would be a pain in the ass. Anybody I’d want to hear from will be able to contact me by e-mail.

    Yes, doing nothing would be broadly construed. Clearly investing it in some sort of profit-seeking venture would be contrary to the purpose of the grant. I supposed I would exempt wainwrighting, providing that the shop didn’t have electricity.

    You could read the Russian classics, but producing any sort of academic paper during the grant period would be frowned upon.

    The key point of the Do Nothing Grant is that it provides an opportunity to do nothing and requires nothing in return. The recipients won’t have worked hard and retired early, won the lottery, done something strenuous that requires rest or rehabilitation, etc. The simply will desire to do nothing and the Foundation will support them for no reason other than the desire to create free time for people who do not deserve*** it in the slightest.

    *** Officially, the Foundation does not believe in the right of one individual to have free time at the expense of the free time of another individual. The Foundation strongly suspects that modern society has eradicated leisure at the expense of the individual. The Foundation is sleepy and doesn’t feel like elaborating.

  5. darbydale Says:

    rebecca (fair):

    I see your point. Since the gift of free time will be highly-desired, it is likely that motivated individuals will write extensive pleas to receive this gift. With this in mind, I’d suggest their first paragraph really jump off the page and that they use a font I don’t find irritating. They may want to avoid emoticons.

    Agreed on the post office box. Having to check it daily would be a pain in the ass. Plus, now these applications would have a physical weight and I’d have to transport them and then figure out how to dispose of them later. I want no part of that.

    I think where the Do Nothing Grant differs from other payments for doing nothing is that there is absolutely no economic benefit to society at large. I’m fairly certain farm subsidies are supposed to decrease supply and drive up prices. Or, if paid to coffee farmers in South America, to stop them from growing weed.

    Paying people not to write poetry would seem to actually decrease the demand for poetry. I’m assuming that most people who enjoy the poetry of others derive at least part of their satisfaction from the appreciation of something that they couldn’t create themselves. If people were paid not to create dreadful poetry, then their interest in good poetry would decrease. I think closing all playground basketball courts would have a similar effect on attendance at NBA games. Actually, that analogy kind of sucks.

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