‘Tis the Season to Rethink Equal Outcomes

 

The Progressive’s notion of equal outcomes: “income equality” realized through redistribution; test results based on tests revised so that certain people could pass the test; participation-trophy type merit; laws that ‘fix’ opportunity for certain people; verdicts and sentencing of activist judges who rule based on a defendant’s social circumstances rather than by the crime committed upon another; homosexual ‘marriage’ as marriage equality; “equal pay for equal work” which dismisses the resultant quality of what each worker produces; a state in which people have approximately the same material wealth and achieve equal levels of income; equating equal opportunities with equal results…

Economist Thomas Sowell gives us some insight into Progressive thinking:

Equal opportunity does not mean equal results, despite how many laws and policies proceed as if it does, or how much fashionable rhetoric equates the two.

An example of that rhetoric was the title of a recent New York Times column: “A Ticket to Bias.” That column recalled bitterly the experience of a woman in a wheelchair who bought a $300 ticket to a rock concert but was unable to see when other people around her stood up. This was equated with “bias” on the part of those who ran the arena.

The woman in the wheel chair declared, “true equality remains a dream out of reach.” Apparently only equality of results is “true’ equality….

…Confusion between equal opportunity and equal results is a dangerous confusion behind many kinds of spoiled brat politics. -Thomas Sowell from Spoiled Brat Politics, The Thomas Sowell Reader

To put us in the proper reflective mood for the Season to Rethink Equal Outcomes, below are three accounts from Scripture which reveal to us God’s concept of equal outcomes.

But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen and paid fifty shekels of silver for them. 2 Samuel 24:24

The first thing I notice about the above account is that forms of capitalism have been around for a long time. That is, capitalism, simply defined, as an economic and social system in which property, business, and industry are privately owned and directed towards making the greatest possible profits for successful organizations and people, especially as contrasted to cooperatively or state-owned means of wealth.

In the above account there was a cooperative exchange of private property between two individuals. Both were satisfied with the outcome. And, apparently God was satisfied with the outcome. David’s desire was to not give God the impression that he was doing something good for God, a.k.a. virtue signal or tokenism, but to pay proper respect and attribute worth to God through his offering.

David built an altar to the LORD there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then the LORD answered his prayer in behalf of the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped. 2 Samuel 24:25

The second thing I notice is restraint. Though Araunah offered his property freely to king David (2 Sam. 24:23) the king did not accept it without paying Araunah its worth to Araunah  and perhaps more. That cost David. The king could have just taken the property to begin with. Beastly kings and rulers throughout history have seized property for themselves and for “the masses”. David was not about to disrespect his neighbor Araunuh or his God by stiffing either. The king did not exploit Araunuh for righteous ends.

Worth had to be accounted for with regard to Araunah’s property and with regard to a show of respect to God. “I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” That is what David said and that is what the widow thought.

Then Jesus sat down opposite the offering box, and watched the crowd putting coins into it. Many rich people were throwing in large amounts. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, worth less than a penny. He called his disciples and said to them, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the offering box than all the others. For they all gave out of their wealth. But she, out of her poverty, put in what she had to live on, everything she had.”  Mark 12:41-44

The first thing we notice in this account is the virtue signaling and tokenism of cha-ching-ers who want to appear to profit God while incurring little or no cost to themselves. In kingdom contrast, the unassuming widow, like king David, gave an offering that cost her appreciably and was God’s Temple worthy. The widow gave her financial security. The Lord was pleased to acknowledge her gift acknowledging the God Who is Faithful (Psalm 146: 8). She loved God more than life itself. Now, did you notice in these two stories that taking into account the worth of each party and their property creates equal outcomes – both parties being satisfied and even pleased with what is exchanged? This method of accounting, making sure the ‘other’ is considered and is valued as at least equal with ourselves, can be applied to all interactions.

In a previous post I wrote:

We are told by Jesus to “love your neighbors as yourself”. To do this we must consider our own self-interest and then apply the same measure of self-interest toward our neighbors. This parity of accounting is not unlike the Lord’s accounting of forgiveness: “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive others their trespasses.” […,] the resentment worldview has a perverted accounting system: the self is to be credited and others must be debited for there to be parity in their world. If the word “fairness” is ever to be applied socially and economically to our culture then these two commands of our Lord define its limited and personal application.

As shown from Scripture, God endorsed equal outcomes are marriages of opportunities with offerings. The outcomes are not forced or determined by a higher power or the state. The individuals involved come to an agreement about the outcome. A marriage of a man and woman is the archetype of this union of opportunity and offering.

The man and woman exchange vows and rings and, over time, their lives. The opportunity: they met and each determined that an exchange of their life for the other would make both happy. The offering: they give themselves which costs everything. They do so freely. The exchange is not coerced as in a shot-gun wedding or when those in power decide to take your property by force. When things are forced and a person is acted upon without it being offered it is called rape. It is called stealing when a person’s property is forcibly taken.

The equal outcome of marriage is that the two become one. The transaction creates a greater good (including little ones) and both parties equally, with God’s help, continue to be satisfied with the outcome.

One more illustration from Scripture regarding the marriage of opportunity and offering. Remember this woman?

While Jesus was at Bethany, in the house of Simon (known as “the Leper’), a woman came to him who had an alabaster vase of extremely valuable ointment. She poured it on his head as he was reclining at the table.

When the disciples saw it, they were furious.

“What’s the point of all this waste?” they said. “This could have been sold for a fortune, and the money could have been given to the poor!”

Jesus knew what they were thinking.

“Why make life difficult for the woman?” he said. “It’s a lovely thing, what she’s done for me. You always have the poor with you, don’t you? But you won’t always have me. When she poured this ointment on my body, you see, she did it to prepare me for burial. “I’m telling you the truth: where this gospel is announced in all the world, what she has done will be told, and people will remember her.”

Matthew 26: 6-13

 

 

What do we learn about opportunity and offering from this account of a woman pouring a very expensive offering onto Jesus’ head? We learn that the Progressives around Jesus were highly offended when they couldn’t control the outcome of the “alabaster vase of extremely valuable ointment”. We also learn from Jesus about the opportunity that brought them together: “… you won’t always have me”. The woman’s offering was what she could have lavished on herself. Maybe she applied David’s words to her head: “I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”

The extravagant and expensive offering given freely was freely accepted by Jesus in preparation for his burial. In fact, he tells us that the equally shared outcome of what she had done was worth proclaiming: the marriage of opportunity and sacrificial offering as an act of love.

Don’t Show Up. Be There!

Do you know the Olympics motto? “Citius, Altius, Fortius” (Latin for “Faster, Higher, Stronger”)

I bet you know Nike’s motto just from their swipe logo: “Just Do It.”

Why as Americans have we turned from away from meritocracy toward a progressive Disneyland of ‘equal’ ‘happy’ outcomes? Is it because of laziness? Perhaps. Is it due to sociologists and psychologists and therapists promoting untethered self-esteem and dignity? Most likely. Is it due to the politically partisan pandering of materialism by Progressives which demands an unnatural faux-equality to gain votes? Most likely. Whatever the lack of motivation, the Apostle Paul (c. 5 – c. 67) knew that man’s inherent idleness would kick in if he smelled a free lunch:

“And, indeed, when we were with you, we gave you this command: Those who won’t work shouldn’t eat!” Paul’s letter to the church at Thessalonica, 2 Thessalonians 3:10

For the people who have to prove themselves day after day, an athlete for example, the fact is that they have to earn their place on the team. Sports fans take meritocracy as a matter of fact. Why can’t we as an American people not only dream but also train and discipline our lives to create the outcomes that we desire to happen, as a matter of fact?

Every time we let government try to make equal outcomes happen we lose liberty, becoming ever more enslaved.

Do you know Pittsburgh Steelers’ linebacker James Harrison’s motto? “Earn it.”

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 28: James Harrison #92 of the Pittsburgh Steelers warms up prior to the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Heinz Field on December 28, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

PITTSBURGH, PA – DECEMBER 28: James Harrison #92 of the Pittsburgh Steelers warms up prior to the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Heinz Field on December 28, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

“James Harrison won’t let his sons accept participation trophies”

Pittsburgh Steelers’ linebacker:

“[James]Harrison took to social media this weekend to lash out at the idea that his sons should receive participation trophies simply for playing sports, saying that when he found out his sons were given such trophies, he demanded that they be sent back. Harrison believes that a trophy should be something you earn by being the best, not something you receive just for trying.

“I came home to find out that my boys received two trophies for nothingmaking them believe that they are entitled to something just because they tried their best…cause sometimes your best is not enough, and that should drive you to want to do better…not cry and whine until somebody gives you something to shut u up and keep you happy.”

Harrison concluded with the hashtag, “Harrison Family Values.” In James Harrison’s household, there’s no credit given for just showing up. If you want a trophy, you’d better win.”

James Harrison Instagram

James Harrison Instagram

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At the beginning of last year I posted the following article about the futility of utilitarian egalitarianism

“Egalitarianism. Is It Equal To The Task?”

 

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.”

Here the Apostle Paul is writing a word of encouragement to the church in Corinth (1 Cor. 9:24). Remember Corinth? It is a city is in Greece, Greece being the birthplace of the Olympics.

Should Olympians ‘race’ when everyone gets the same prize at the finish line?

Egalitarianism = equal outcomes. And equal outcomes are what Progressives want to have happen within our legal system, within our education system-within society as a whole.

Egalitarianism is posited as a means to create the unspoken Utopian bureaucratic island where near-perfect socio-politico-legal systems exist and where no one has advantage over another except for the so-called elite who have been ‘blessed’ with “superior intellect.” Only they know enough to define life for you. (e.g., Cass Sunstein’s recent Nudge book).

In my younger days I was a sprinter. I would run many heats and then the final events. To do so I had to prepare for the weekly track meet. I will use my own ‘summer event’ experience to help you to consider whether egalitarianism is equal to the hard work and discipline required for life’s trials and to decide whether the rise of “egalitarianism” will benefit or hurt our society.

I wrote the following anecdote/moral fable based of my understanding of the “Constrained Vision” and the “Unconstrained Vision” as delineated by Thomas Sowell in his own favorite book “A Conflict of Visions”:

 

A Tale of Two Foot Races

Starting line

Race Number One:

 

Eight men enter a race. They are roughly about the same height and weight but come from very different backgrounds. The eight men enter the race knowing that there will only be one winner. It was for this outcome that they had prepared themselves with rigorous discipline during the past four years.

Months prior to the track meet the eight men are told of the rules: A runner must run in qualifying heats. If the runner is successful in those heats the runner will then be allowed to compete in the final race with the other qualifying runners; a runner who jumps the gun twice at the starting line will be disqualified as having a “false start”; the commands “Ready”, “Set” and a gunshot will be used by a track official to start the race fairly; each runner must stay in his lane or he will be disqualified; runners will be timed and the first runner to cross the finish line will be the winner of the race.

The runners all agree and sign off on the rules before the race.

On the day of the race and after qualifying in the heats eight runners come to the starting line. They know that they must run straight ahead in their own lane to reach the one-hundred meter line. They know that if they jump the gun twice they will be disqualified from running. They know that they must sprint as hard as they can to cross the finish line first. They are knowingly competing for first place. The race before them has now become the culmination of years of exhausting training and dedication to finishing the race and receiving first prize.

When the race is announced the runners shed their sweats and come to the starting line. The track official then announces, “Ready”. The runners will then carefully position their legs into the starting blocks and place their open hands stretched behind the starting line.

Once the runners have settled the track official then snaps “Set”. The runners immediately come up to a “set position”, coiled in their starting block. With the burst of the starting pistol eight men bolt from their starting blocks and run down the track as fast as their disciplined bodies will carry them.

The winner of the race is the one who breaks the tape. There is also a second, a third and fourth place finisher. The runners-up each congratulate the winner for his speed and, implicitly, for his fidelity to the rules and his commitment to the sport of racing.

The first three finishers receive medals, adulation and wreaths of honor from the thousands who have come to watch a fair race between those who have so vigorously prepared themselves. The experience of the race has bolstered each runner’s self-esteem. The cheering crowd is also moved by each runner’s self-sacrifice, dedication and self-discipline. This spectacle has confirmed the crowd’s understanding of playing by the rules and aspiring to excel within those rules. Those who witnessed the race that day are stirred, encouraged to excel at what they do.

All eight racers later return home. The runners-up are now more dedicated than ever to prepare for another day of racing and to receiving their own crown of victory. Ciltius, altius, fortius.

 

Race Number Two:

 

Eight men enter a race. They are roughly about the same height, weight but come from very different backgrounds. The eight men entered the race knowing that everyone will be a winner. It was for this outcome that they saw no need to prepare themselves with rigorous discipline during the past four years. They just had to show up.

Months prior to the race the eight men are told the rules. They are told the rules are subject to change at the time of the race based on the current ad hoc articulated reasoning of one superior intellectual with unquestionable virtue. A runner must run in qualifying heats but this will not be a constraint. Whether or not a runner is successful in those heats he will be allowed to compete in the final race with other ‘qualifying’ runners. The heats are basically events created to satisfy the need for more equality.

More rules: a runner who jumps the gun twice at the starting line will not be disqualified from running. Instead he will be given another chance; the commands “Ready” and “Set” and a gun shot will be used by a track official to start the race fairly, though any sincere attempt to cooperate with the official will be accepted; each runner must stay in his lane or he will be disqualified unless, of course, their background is such that they have never stayed within the lines; runners will not be timed because such keeping of minutes would be discrimination against slower runners. The first runner to cross the finish line will wait at the finish line so that everyone will be considered a winner of the race. This must be done at any personal cost to the first one crossing the finish line.

The runners agree and sign off on the rules before the race.

On the day of the race all of the runners come to the starting line. They know that they are supposed to run down to the finish line before the outcome-determining patrons. They know that there will be equal prizes and the egalitarian appreciation of well-wishers to look forward to. They are going to run for this reason. This race is now the culmination of years of knowing that the battle is just showing up and doing what you are told.

When all the runners are in their starting blocks and their hands are behind the starting line the track official then says, “Ready”. After a long moment of reasoned judgment the official says “Set”. The runners come up to set position. Then the race official shoots the starting gun. The eight men come out of their starting blocks and run down the track as fast as their unfocused discipline has trained them.

At the finish line everyone is a Finisher, even those who left the race due to being out of breath. There are hand-shakes and kudos all around for having shown up for such an event.

At the awards ceremony all the runners receive medals and congratulations. Thousands have come to watch a race between runners who have shown up for a race where the outcome was predetermined to be fair – fair as defined by the few judges of superior intellect and of unquestioned virtue.

 

Later, all the runners return home and rest for another day of showing up.

What’s Left? To Be Decided.

Thomas Sowell, in his excellent book A Conflict of Visions:  Ideological Origins of Political Struggles, discusses the two main opposing ways of viewing the political, economic and social landscape.  These views have come down through time to the present dichotomy of visions, namely the Left or Liberal (modern sense) vision and the Right or Conservative vision.  Sowell denotes the two visions: one being the unconstrained vision, the former, and the constrained vision, the latter.

I will try to make this a short post. Here is my brief take on The Unconstrained Vision:

The unconstrained vision relies heavily on surrogate decision makers, men or women of “superior” intelligence and virtue, to make our decisions for us.  The implication of this vision is that the common man does not know what is good for himself and for those around him.  But those with super-rational intelligence and sincerity do.  And because of our lack of “fair and just” decision making, we the people need an over-arching Decider – someone to rein in society.

I recently read what I would call a perfect description of this viewpoint’s totalitarian heavy-handedness, an oppressiveness which is often disguised as omniscient benevolence which hides its use of debilitating control methods:

“…Nurse Ratched is the Decider; under her unblinking gaze, the privileges, rewards, punishments, dosages, and furloughs for the patients are parceled out or denied. Time itself seems to run at whatever speed Nurse Ratched decrees, the clock slowing down to bring everything to a snow-globe standstill to conjure a sense of suspended animation, a zombie twilight.  Sparks of resistance are ruthlessly snuffed.  Waiting in the wings is the Shock Shop, where you go in as a person and are wheeled out as a vegetable after sufficient voltage to the brain…” (source listed below)

If you haven’t noticed by now, we are living in the “zombie twilight” of the Obama Presidency. Obama is our country’s Nurse Ratched.  He is a prime example of the unconstrained vision’s all-powerful omniscient Decider.  He is someone who talks down to people.  And enabled by the main stream media He has become the Chosen One, the chosen articulator of reason and we are his hapless patients waiting for him to put us in our place. Obama certainly believes that we the American people should follow his lead down the road to social justice and fairness. He believes that he knows what is best for us because he also believes that we the people are inept, confused and inferior in intelligence, unenlightened, lazy and worst of all, free to think for ourselves.

It certainly appears from Obama’s messages to the American people that his vision, historically filtered by the teachings of the radical Bill Ayers and “God damn America” Jeremiah Wright, has given him the understanding that he has seen the light while we the people walk in pre-enlightenment medieval darkness. It is with unbridled hubris that he stands above society, a mullah standing in an ivory tower minaret, lecturing us and calling us to pray to the god of one-world socialism and to the jihad of class warfare.

Those with this unconstrained vision see institutions as being at fault for man’s condition and not man himself.  They believe that man is a victim of inept policies and inadequately funded schools, food programs, housing programs, bailouts, etc.  And the free market, where Capitalism operates, is the impersonal culprit who steals fairness away from the victimized society. The unconstrained vision seeks to reign in the free market in order to control the outcomes of supply and demand using price controls, wage controls, unions, rent controls, quotas, the Dodd-Frank Act, ad infinitum.

Controlling the market place and controlling outcomes are what those with the unconstrained vision use to promote social justice and fairness. They want the results of economic, political and social activity to be fair in terms of their rationalistic values.  Yet, they will often, in fact, bypass statistical fact to promote fairness and equality.  In so doing they will often create a domino effect of economic havoc and inequality. This type of Stage One thinking is common for those with the unconstrained vision.  They want “fairness” implemented now at any cost regardless of the many negative repercussions that will be sure to ensue (e.g., Obamacare).

For the Left life is a zero sum game.  If someone gains then someone else must be losing out – there is only so much pie to go around. The Left must “right” this perceived wrong.

The legal system is another thing to be controlled by those with the unconstrained vision.  Instead of black and white laws known to everyone they seek to implement ad hoc reasoning per every legal situation.  Take for example a man who steals and is arrested.  He knows that he will be punished for his crime.  The law clearly states the crime and lists the options for punishment that the judge may impose.  The criminal knows that everyone will be treated the same way in the same situation within the letter of the law. Even though the criminal does not like the situation he still knows that the law applies to everyone and therefore deemed fair by everyone. In fact, he stole knowing the law and the consequences of his actions.

An activist judge with an unconstrained view, on the other hand, will have the same law before him but he will use his own ad hoc articulated reasoning to determine whether the man should be punished.  This judge may decide that the criminal acted badly because of his poor living conditions or because he was having a bad hair day or…and then decide to let him go. The judge would consider this a just outcome. The victim would not, of course, consider this fair.

While the unconstrained vision is all about controlling the political, economic or social landscape for specific outcomes the constrained vision is hands off or laissez-faire in its dealings, seeing man as having sufficient accumulated knowledge and being capable of making prudent trade-offs that would benefit himself and society in the process. Nothing is done in isolation. Benefits abound because for the Right life is not a zero sum game. Everyone can win.  Everyone can have their own pie.

The constrained vision sees man as he really is:  self-motivated. This realistic vision sees man as selfish and greedy but also willing to respect tradition and rules and certainly able to make prudent trade-offs based on knowledge gained from centuries of accumulated knowledge and wisdom, knowledge and wisdom not confined to an omnipotent Decider. One with a constrained vision doesn’t have all the answers. He or she must operate with humilty, tolerance and cooperation in order to support the freedom and liberty within which they seek to live.

 While there is much more to be said here I promised to keep this short. I highly recommend Thomas Sowell’s book, A Conflict of Visions:  Ideological Origins of Political Struggles, as a means to understand the vast differences of the two visions behind the political, economic and social struggles affecting our world today. 

I can see clearly now.

Quote source:  Vanity Fair article, Still Cuckoo After All These Years, by James Wolcott, December 2011 issue.

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“The highest manifestation of life consists in this: that a being governs its own actions. A thing which is always subject to the direction of another is somewhat of a dead thing.”  Thomas Aquinas

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**An aside into constrained thinking: