Inequality (EP.114)

Inequality

Summary

The recently often used word, inequality, is frequently used as an accusation or a condemnation rather than simply an observation. When people use inequality as a criticism, as something that needs to be corrected, are they talking about inequality under the law, inequality of opportunity (apart from the law), inequality of results or inherent inequalities e.g., height, longevity genes or attractiveness?

For the next 10 minutes, we will talk about the answers to these two questions.

Transcript

The recently often used word, inequality, is frequently used as an accusation or a condemnation rather than simply an observation. When people use inequality as a criticism, as something that needs to be corrected, are they talking about inequality under the law, inequality of opportunity (apart from the law), inequality of results or inherent inequalities e.g., height, longevity genes or attractiveness?

For the next 10 minutes, we will talk about the answers to these two questions.

Let’s start by taking a position on legal inequality; there isn’t any. As always, I am open to challenge here; point out situations where the law encourages or even permits discrimination, and I will stand with you to fight it.  

Now, let’s address inequality of opportunity. We have that in abundance. Some we must leave alone, and others we must correct. Using education as an example, we see there are inequalities that we should not try to fix, and inequalities that we must use all the tools at our disposal to correct –and do it now. If a family is able to afford to send their children to top private schools from pre-K through graduate school, well, good for them. My parents couldn’t, and neither can I. But that does not mean that either everyone should have that ability, or that no one should. This is an example of where there is an uneven playing field, a lack of balance in opportunity, and we all need to recognize it and move on.

Where there is an imbalance in education is the pre-K through high school world. Aggressive school choice would fix it by providing needed competition. But it seems that many of the people who decry uneven playing fields are dedicated to preserving huge differences in the quality of schools available to families across America. Competition provided by allowing parents to have ready access to equally funded traditional public schools, charter schools and vouchers for private schools, would begin to improve our school literally overnight. Competition makes for better sports, better computers and better cars–just for a start. So why is there any resistance to school competition at all, much less the stiff resistance we see on a regular basis? Special interest groups are placing their needs above those of the students and their families and communities. Teachers unions want all the funding to go to public schools because that is where their power lies. Politicians, even the ones who send their children to private schools, want the votes and the funds the teachers unions send their way. And the kids, their parents and our country are left begging. The unions support the politicians, the politicians restrict charter schools, and virtually refuse to grant vouchers.

Let’s introduce the free or equal concept; in other words, pick one. We cannot be free and equal at the same time. Remember, I have taken the position that there is no legal discrimination, so when I talk about equality of opportunity, it always assumes legal equality. I am addressing equality of opportunity outside of the law. Even at a glance, it must be clear that we cannot be free and have either completely equal opportunity or equal results simultaneously. Let’s hear another voice on this: “Human beings are born with different capacities; if they are free they are not equal. And if they are equal, they are not free.” -Aleksander Solzhenitsyn, Russian novelist, historian, and short story writer. Solzhenitsyn won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1970.

Today’s Key Point: We can be free and earn highly satisfying results; a good standard of living, including an infrastructure that provides protection, good roads and bridges, mass transit where the population density supports it, and a personal and national ethic that will allow and encourage the generations that follow us to have even better lives.

The trap to avoid is comparing ourselves to others. We have all been taught not to compare ourselves to others, but to compare ourselves to where we were yesterday. That is eminently sound advice, and we should all follow it. Yet there is an entire political movement that is focused on gaining power by emphasizing the comparison to others, the very thing that sound advice warns us against, then telling us that we are victims if we don’t have what “they” have. A person with a limited education in America could have a comfortable and safe place to live, access to medical care, entertainment, decent food and clothes, and educational opportunities for themselves and their family, yet be told they are victims. Victims of what? Of not having what others have?

It is bizarre to the point of insanity to believe that even with a total lack of freedom that everyone in a country can have what all of the others have. Even in communist countries, with their avowed intention that everyone experiences equal results, people have very different standards of living. As we do in capitalist countries. The difference is that in communist countries the various standards of living are determined by loyalty and usefulness to the party, and in capitalist countries it is determined by value and success in the marketplace.

Let’s ask another question: If we can’t all have equal results, what level of difference in results is tolerable? For example, some companies establish a ratio of pay from lowest to highest. At Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, owned by the Anglo-Dutch multinational food giant Unilever since 2000, they held to a strict ratio between the lowest paid worker and the CEO. In the US, ratios between an average worker’s pay and the CEO has grown from 20:1 in the 50s, to over 360:1 today. Is that unfair on the face of it? Top pay has been exploding in other areas as well. For example, I remember when one of the greatest baseball players of all time, Joe Dimaggio, had to go on strike to get $100K per year. Today, it is not at all uncommon for average ballplayers to get $100M (yes million), multi-year contracts. And these examples abound.

Do the CEOs earn their pay? Apparently they do, or their ultimate bosses, the shareholders, would eventually throw them out. Apparently ballplayers do as well, or their ultimate bosses, the fans, would stop watching in numbers sufficient to pay those salaries.

Should the focus be on people having, earning for themselves whenever possible, good standards of living, standards that can improve generation after generation? Or, should we focus on the difference between the poor and middle class, and their differences in standards of living from the rich? And if the latter is the correct focus, are there maximum income and wealth ratios between the poor and rich, and between the middle class and the rich? If so, what are the ratios, and what is the best way to bring them about? I’d love to hear from you about this. Let’s stir the pot a bit.

I’d like to close with a personal story that my wife tells about a family car trip she took as a young girl with her parents and two sisters. Her Mother wanted the three girls to share a candy bar, so she broke it into three pieces, and passed them to the back of the car where the girls were. All three started complaining about how their piece was smaller, so Mom jumped into action. She took back the three pieces, aligned them so that one end was even with the other, and took a bite out of each of them to make them perfectly equal. Then the girls started complaining that Mom had taken some of each of their pieces of candy. Each one had less, but by golly they were all equal.

Segueing from the specifics of today’s topic to overall principles, the core, driving principles at Revolution 2.0, are:

  1. Personal Responsibility; take it, teach it and,
  2. Be Your Brother’s Keeper. The answer to the biblical question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” is a ringing, unequivocal “Yes.” There is no other answer.

If we apply those two core principles, personal responsibility and brother’s keepers, simultaneously, never only one or the other, we will always be on the right path. Depending upon what we face, one principle or the other may appropriately be given more emphasis, but they are always acted upon together.

The Founders, Revolution 1.0, were declared traitors by the British Crown, and their lives were forfeit if caught. We risk very little by stepping up and participating in Revolution 2.0™. In fact, we risk our futures if we don’t. I am inviting you, recruiting you, to join Revolution 2.0™ today. Join with me in using what we know how to do–what we know we must do–to everyone’s advantage. Let’s practice thinking well of others as we seek common goals, research the facts that apply to those goals, and use non agenda-based reasoning to achieve those goals together. Practice personal responsibility and be your brother’s keeper.

Let’s continue to build on the revolutionary vision that we inherited. Read the blog, listen to the podcast, subscribe, recruit, act. Here’s what I mean by “acting.”

  • Read the blogs and/or listen to the podcasts.
  • Comment in the blogs. Let others know that you are thinking.
  • Subscribe and recommend that others subscribe as well.
  • Attach links from blogs into your social media feeds. Share your thoughts about the link.
  • From time-to-time, attach links to blogs in emails that mention related subjects. Or just send the links to family and friends.

Revolution 1.0 in 1776 was built by people talking to other people, agreeing and disagreeing, but always finding ways to stay united and going forward. Revolution 2.0 will be built the same way.

Join me. Join the others. Think about what we are talking about and share these thoughts and principles with others. Subscribe, encourage others to subscribe. Act. Let’s grow this together.

And visit the store. Fun stuff, including hats, mugs and t-shirts. Recommend other items that you’d like to see.

Links and References

Free or Equal (EP. 07)

Charter Schools Make Public School Better (EP. O1)

Aleksander Solzhenitsyn

Contact

As we get ready to wrap up, please do respond in the blog with comments or questions about this podcast or anything that comes to mind, or connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. And you can subscribe to the podcast on your favorite device through Apple Podcasts, Google, or Stitcher.

Now it is time for our usual parting thought. It is not enough to be informed. It is not enough to be a well informed voter. We need to act. And if we, you and I, don’t do something, then the others who are doing something, will continue to run the show.

Know your stuff, then act on it. Knowing your stuff without acting is empty; acting without knowing is dangerous.

Will Luden, writing to you from my home office at 7,200’ in Colorado Springs.

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Will Luden

I am your host, Will Luden, former long-time high-tech CEO and Board Chair. I had no idea when I started this podcast that it would become the highest calling of my professional career. Lincoln famously hoped that a government, “…of the people, by the people and for the people…”, would not perish from this earth. My hope, the reason for Revolution 2.0 ”A Booster Shot”, is that a government based on common goals, achieved by applying non agenda-based reasoning to core facts, will allow us to continue to build on our mutual inheritance of a legacy of dedication to seemingly impossible ideals, a legacy that also includes a history of achieving them.
Will Luden
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One Response

  1. Charles Bobo Reply

    Exactly right using education as the example where competition has been stamped out in the name of equality, which has resulted in the dumbing down of our children.

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