The Insult of Superior Ability.

A Wikipedia review of a Kurt Vonnegut short story, Welcome to the Monkey House.: In the year 2081, the 211th, 212th, and 213th amendments to the Constitution dictate that all Americans are fully equal and not allowed to be smarter, better-looking, or more physically able than anyone else. The Handicapper General’s agents enforce the equality laws, forcing citizens to wear “handicaps”: masks for those who are too beautiful, loud radios that disrupt thoughts inside the ears of intelligent people, and heavy weights for the strong or athletic. One April, 14-year-old Harrison Bergeron, an intelligent and athletic teenager, is taken away from his parents, George and Hazel Bergeron, by the government. They are barely aware of the tragedy, as Hazel has “average” intelligence (a euphemism for stupidity), and George has a handicap radio installed by the government to regulate his above-average intelligence. Hazel and George watch ballet on television. They comment on the dancers, who are weighed down to counteract their gracefulness and masked to hide their attractiveness. George’s thoughts are continually interrupted by the different noises emitted by his handicap radio.

On television, a news reporter struggles to read the bulletin and hands it to the ballerina wearing the most grotesque mask and heaviest weights. She begins reading in her unacceptably natural, beautiful voice, then apologizes before switching to a more unpleasant voice. Harrison’s escape from prison is announced, and a full-body photograph of Harrison is shown, indicating that he is seven feet tall and burdened by three hundred pounds of handicaps.

George recognizes his son for a moment, before having the thought eliminated by his radio. Harrison himself then storms the television studio in an attempt to overthrow the government. He calls himself the Emperor and rips off all of his handicaps, along with the handicaps of a ballerina, whom he proclaims his “Empress”. Diana Moon Glampers, the Handicapper General, enters the studio and kills Harrison and the Empress with a ten-gauge double-barreled shotgun. She forces the musicians to put on their handicaps, and the television goes dark. George, unaware of the televised incident, returns from the kitchen and asks Hazel why she was crying, to which she replies that something sad happened on television that she cannot remember. He comforts her and they return to their average lives.

Like I said in the previous post, guaranteeing equality of outcome requires either forced redistribution of wealth, or handicapping superior abilities. Did I say “or”? Perhaps it should be both methods. About 70 percent of people who suddenly receive a windfall of cash will lose it within a few years, according to the National Endowment for Financial Education. (Time Magazine, Jan. 12, 2016). Ever heard of broke professional athletes who had earned millions? These stories hold a larger truth: If you were to redistribute all wealth equally, in not too many years, most of the previously wealthy would be wealthy again and most of the previously broke would be…..you guessed it, broke again.

Most, but not all. I would apply some simple lessons in my do-over, and I don’t charge for my wisdom:

  1. Start very early saving 10% of your earned income, and don’t touch that money until the amount represents a year of earnings, allow the interest to accumulate in the account, or reinvest the dividends if your own stocks;
  2. Also tithe to your church or give to charity another 10% of earned income, permanently;
  3. The first two “come off the top”, that is, before you spend anything, then create a budget for the other 80% of your earned income, so that you decide in advance how and where your money is spent;
  4. Hire an honest and competent financial advisor to be your coach, mentor and impartial third party, and implement his/her advice.
  5. No matter how much or little you make, repeat steps 1-3. 

You won’t need a handicapper general.

Social Justice? Sure sounds good.

From pachamama.org (a social justice coalition): “The word duo, social justice….relayed the same core idea, that all members of a society should have equal benefits and opportunitiesIn its early days, the term social justice specifically targeted poverty and the need for an equal distribution of resources. Today, the term has acquired a broader and more detailed definition (including issues of segregation) that accounts for specific modes of moral treatment. The blueprint for achieving social justice is often structured by governmental implementation of laws/rights that provide equal distribution of resources and opportunities, which in effect protects human dignity. If a government supports inequality with oppressive laws then it is up to a non-government coalition to stimulate the change of such laws in a non-violent manner.”

From Wikipedia: “Social justice is a concept of fair and just relations between the individual and society. This is measured by the explicit and tacit terms for the distribution of wealth, opportunities for personal activity and social privileges. In Western as well as in older Asian cultures, the concept of social justice has often referred to the process of ensuring that individuals fulfill their societal roles and receive what was their due from society. In the current global grassroots movements for social justice, the emphasis has been on the breaking of barriers for social mobility, the creation of safety nets and economic justice.”

Notice the confusing of  “resources” and/or “benefits” (in the Pachamama context) with “opportunities”.  Further, note the distinction between the traditional “receive what was their due” (in the Wikipedia definition) and the “current global grassroots movements” what “social justice” has come to mean “the creation of safety nets.” I believe that everyone should have equal opportunityEqual benefits/resources, that is, outcomes, is not the same thing. God gives to each individual abilities, and those abilities are not equally distributed. Opportunity means to me that no artificial barriers are placed between your abilities and your outcomes. Who, or what, places those artificial barriers?  Only those in power have the means to erect barriers. The “rulers”, be it government bureaucrats or tyrants, place those barriers. What are the barriers? 

The Bible is the handbook of justice; the word justice appears in the Bible 138 times. In most of those passages, the barriers are also named and condemned. Let’s see how “justice” is used within the Biblical context. The following passages are a brief sample:

“You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice, nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his lawsuit.” (Exodus) You shall appoint judges and officers in all your towns that the Lord your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment. You shall not pervert justice. You shall not show partiality, and you shall not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of the righteous. Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land that the Lord your God is giving you. (Deuteronomy)

And all Israel heard of the judgment that the king had rendered, and they stood in awe of the king, because they perceived that the wisdom of God was in him to do justice. (1 Kings)  Those who forsake the law praise the wicked, but those who keep the law strive against them. Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the Lord understand it completely. Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways. (Proverbs) The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe. Many seek the face of a ruler, but it is from the Lord that a man gets justice. An unjust man is an abomination to the righteous, but one whose way is straight is an abomination to the wicked. (Proverbs)

Your princes are rebels and companions of thieves. Everyone loves a bribe and runs after gifts. They do not bring justice to the fatherless, and the widow’s cause does not come to them. Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. (Isaiah) 
“I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds. Like the partridge that gathers a brood that she did not hatch, so is he who gets riches but not by justice; in the midst of his days they will leave him, and at his end he will be a fool.” (Jeremiah)

So it’s clear where the Bible lies. Evil–in our context erecting barriers to subvert the use of God-given abilities to pursue opportunities–is: showing partiality, whether to the poor or to the powerful, siding with the mob (the many) because of “fear of man”, accepting bribes, stealing from the efforts of others (“Like the partridge that gathers a brood that she did not hatch, so is he who gets riches but not by justice”), bearing false witness, electing leaders (“princes”) who are corrupt and rebellious.

NEWS FLASH: ACCORDING TO THE BIBLE, LOBBYISTS WHO BRIBE OFFICIALS AND BUREAUCRATS WHO INTERPRET RULES TO FAVOR PROPERTY THEFT ARE EQUALLY EVIL. SO IS PARTIALITY–FAVORITISM TOWARDS A PERSON SIMPLY BECAUSE OF THE GROUP THEY ARE REPRESENTATIVE OF.

To those who still cling to the leftist wet dream of equality of outcome, “Justice comes from the Lord, not from man.” If God has given each of us differing abilities, then the only ways to get equality of outcome are: stealing the output and redistributing it, or handicapping the superior abilities. Bureaucrats have perfected the former. As to the latter, see my next post, “The insult of superior ability.”