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… 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.

Author: iamcurmudgeon

When I began this blog, I was a 70 year old man, with a young mind and a body trying to recover from a stroke, and my purpose for this whole blog thing is to provoke thinking, to ridicule reflex reaction, and provide a legacy to my children.

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