In politics, inactivity is seldom seen as a virtue. Most of the time, a politician must react to events - and not only that, he must be seen to react. Failure to decide upon a visible course of action is usually interpreted as a lack of ability, rather than a lack of options.

In all fairness, there are situations when a politician is completely bereft of useful options for direct action - when the only sensible course is to wait for the situation to develop, in the hopes that more options may appear. Unfortunately, in such situations, inactivity is not a viable option. The longer one waits, the more one appears to be unable to provide leadership. In such situations, the media and one's political opponents will eagerly provide their own patent-medicine solutions for the situation, the while criticising one's lack of activity.

Activity for activity's sake is not a virtue, nor is inactivity necessarily a vice.


"Mr. Coolidge's genius for inactivity is developed to a very high point. It is far from being an indolent activity. It is a grim, determined, alert inactivity which keeps Mr. Coolidge occupied constantly. Nobody has ever worked harder at inactivity, with such force of character, with such unremitting attention to detail, with such conscientious devotion to the task."

- Walter Lippmann, in "Men of Destiny" (1927), p. 12

In`ac*tiv"i*ty (?), n. [Cf. F. inactivit'e.]

1.

The state or quality of being inactive; inertness; as, the inactivity of matter.

2.

Idleness; habitual indisposition to action or exertion; want of energy; sluggishness.

The gloomy inactivity of despair. Cook.

 

© Webster 1913.

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