Saturday, January 11, 2014

Freedom, Equal Opportunity, The Pursuit of Happiness and Unequal Results

There's a lot of political and pundit talk about inequality in America today.

And the talk contains much misinformation about the meaning of the word equality. Equal opportunities and equal outcomes are being confused, and intentionally so. It's vote getting time in Washington.

In other words, government knows best is at it again.

The conversation reminds me of what Winston Churchill once said about equality and socialism, "The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries."

So when listening to our 'leaders' discuss inequality in America today and the need to reduce it, consider the following situations.

Who decides how much a book written by Barack Obama or Bill O'Reilly is worth?  Or a movie made by one of the Hollywood headliners? Or recording or concert stars? Or how much superior athletes like LeBron James or Kobe Bryant should be paid relative to an untested but talented rookie? Or whether all players should get to attempt the same number of shots in a basketball game (or which player on the roster will get to play quarterback in a football game)? Or why not let all players on each team play the same number of minutes in the Super Bowl game? Or at least allow an untested rookie to make the team? Or whether a talented but untested performer should be given a role in the upcoming movie? Or even which movie to make?

Yes, indeed, who decides, if not We the People acting as individuals in a free market? Government officials? Is that what we want?

Yes, freedom of choice and the pursuit of happiness are very much moral issues which will provide vastly different outcomes for different individuals. That's the inevitable result of equal opportunities as we each choose how to make our own road during a life well lived.

Notable & Quotable conducts this thought experiment on the separate issues of income inequality and the inequality of leisure time:

"Suppose that Jones chooses a career as a poet. Jones treasures the time he spends walking in the woods and strolling city streets in leisurely reflection; his reflections lead him to write poetry critical of capitalist materialism. Working as a poet, Jones earns $20,000 annually.

Smith chooses a career as an emergency-room physician. She works an average of 60 hours weekly and seldom takes a vacation. Her annual salary is $400,000. Is this "distribution" of income unfair? Is Smith responsible for Jones' relatively low salary? Does Smith owe Jones money? If so, how much? And what is the formula you use to determine Smith's debt to Jones?

While Dr. Smith earns more money than does poet Jones, poet Jones earns more leisure than does Dr. Smith. Do you believe leisure has value to those who possess it? If so, are you disturbed by the inequality of leisure that separates leisure-rich Jones from leisure-poor Smith? Do you advocate policies to "redistribute" leisure from Jones to Smith—say, by forcing Jones to wash Smith's dinner dishes or to chauffeur Smith to and from work? If not, why not?"

Summing Up 

More government knows best equals less personal choice for each of us.

More government knows best equals fewer opportunities for each of us.

More government knows best equals not only fewer personal freedoms, but a less healthy, equal and prosperous society.

The choice is ours. Our Founding Fathers saw to that.

That's my take.

Thanks. Bob.


  1. You are sooooooooooooooooo right........
    Heck, I make three right turns so I dont have to turnleft

    1. Alexis de Tocqueville said it all re "equality."

      “The sole condition which is required in order to succeed in centralizing the supreme power in a democratic community, is to love equality or to get men to believe you love it. Thus, the science of despotism, which was
      once so complex, is simplified, and reduced … to a single principle.”