Rushville Republican

Columns

October 23, 2012

Barada: Equal opportunity doesn’t mean equal outcomes

RUSHVILLE — I recently received a wonderful book called, simply enough, “Lincoln Speeches,” edited by Richard Beeman, who is the John Welsh Centennial Professor of History Emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania. Some of his grants and awards include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, and the Huntington Library.

With the national election just a few days away, Professor Beeman’s comments in his introduction to the volume on Lincoln’s speeches seem providentially appropriate. He writes: “A[n] important theme that emerges from [this volume]…involves the age-old debate on how and where to strike the best balance between public order and personal liberty. For most of human history, those who held government power – kings or emperors or czars – usually dealt with that issue by ruthlessly imposing their own definition of what was good for the masses of people whom they governed. When Thomas Paine published his earth-shaking pamphlet ‘Common Sense’ in January 1776, his primary purpose was to persuade the American colonists to throw off British rule, but one of the key elements in his argument was the notion that while every society needs some from of government in order to provide security and protect the freedom of its citizens, the best and freest societies are those in which government is least intrusive. In Paine’s words: ‘Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one.’ Paine’s words struck a chord with his American readers, who were already suspicious of the overly powerful, distant government of Great Britain, and the Declaration of Independence, approved seven months later, reinforced that same theme. The distrust of concentrations of government power – the notion that government, while necessary, must be restrained – is deeply rooted in America’s revolutionary past, and, of course, is very much alive today, as we can observe by the vitality of the political movements such as the Tea Party.

“As powerful as Paine’s and Jefferson’s indictments of excessive British power may have been, they did not provide the answer to the question of how the independent American nation could create a government that would strike an ideal balance between order and liberty. The men who gathered in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787 to frame a new constitution for their still-fragile independent nation took a giant step forward in providing an answer when they created a governmental system based on the division of power between the individual states and the central government - the system that we now call federalism – and by further dividing power among the three branches of the federal government – in a system that we characterize as one of ‘checks and balances.’”

Lincoln, of all our presidents, before and since, was a staunch believer in the principles laid out in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, and the Bill of Rights. No president has held more sacred the founding documents upon which every American was guaranteed the most important right of all, freedom.

On many occasions Lincoln cited Jefferson’s immortal words from the Declaration: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” But Lincoln also understood that the notion of equal rights was not the same thing as equal outcomes.

No one, least of all Lincoln, would have argued with the idea that, “all men are created equal” could be expanded to mean that a role of the federal government was to guarantee equal outcomes for everyone. Even Lincoln would not have contended that insuring equal outcomes was, by any stretch of the notion of federalism, the job of the national government.

For the sake of relevance, however, let’s bring the concept down to the modern day. People occasionally argue, for example, that if they have the same job title as another employee, they should receive the same pay; this, incidentally, has nothing at all to do with equal pay for women doing the same job as a man, but it has everything to do with the broader notion of the “right” to an equal outcome.

Here’s a quote from a recent HR publication that spells out the equality issues involved in the employment arena: “At my company, we don’t fire people who share salary information, although we discourage it. People often inflate their salaries when they gossip at the water cooler, and someone will think they are grossly underpaid. No good ever comes of this. They don’t consider these things: The other person lied about their salary; even if they didn’t lie, the other person has credentials, experience, accomplishments and other skills that warrant a higher salary; they are long-timers and earn more due to outstanding performance; they do more than the job requires, and the complainer does nothing more than the basics.”

The upcoming election is a referendum of sorts, not on the general principle of equality of opportunity, but on whether or not we want a government that enforces, or tries to enforce, equal outcomes. That’s what the election is really about and the outcome is up to us.

That’s –30— for this week.

1
Text Only
Columns
  • This column will self-destruct in 5 seconds I've become completely infatuated over the past few weeks with a gift I received a few Christmases ago. It was a completely unexpected gift from one of my big brothers: a set of "Mission: Impossible" DVDs. No, not home videos of me begging my kids to

    April 15, 2014

  • Don't sweat the small things There are a few things in life that really get under my skin, one of which is complaining. Yes, I complain sometimes, but it doesn't last too long at all before I put myself in check. There was a story this week that really touched my heart and like

    April 15, 2014

  • The timeless beauty of wicker No matter what the day may bring, I can leave it all behind when I take my evening walk. Strolling through our historic neighborhood on Indy's south side is a multifaceted treat. It is good for my heart, it erases the cares of the day and it affords

    April 15, 2014

  • Self deposit box I love where I bank. It's a branch inside of a big supermarket. I can make a modest withdrawal and then go and blow every last penny in the cookie aisle. The tellers at the window appreciate me. They know about my obsession with round numbers and und

    April 15, 2014

  • Change can be done here In previous columns I've suggested that one of the factors holding this community back is the relatively poor image many of us have of our town. The point, as some may recall, was made by several people who live in other communities who said Rushvill

    April 15, 2014

  • Second hand rose...or fashionista? "Fashion is an expression of individualism mixed with charisma"....John Fairchild 1940's sensible shoes with a '70's midi-skirt. High waist skirts with over the knee boots. Polka dot shirts with bell-bottom pants. Retro fashion is here to stay, and w

    April 11, 2014

  • Mankind is not causing global warming Back on Feb. 26 of this year, an article appeared on FoxNews.com with the following headline, "Greenpeace co-founder: No scientific proof humans are dominant cause of warming climate." Here's what Patrick Moore, a Canadian ecologist and co-founder of

    April 8, 2014

  • One fine day True story here: a long time ago, a young woman from Cincinnati daydreams of growing up and meeting a nice man, getting married, learning to cook, having two children, etc. etc. Eventually, it all comes true for her. Except it all happens in a major

    April 8, 2014

  • It is time we take back our country What ever happened to the America of my youth? That great country that was indeed the jewel of the common person of the world. The country where one could actually, through hard work and industry, make a good living and actually have the OPPORTUNITY

    April 8, 2014

  • Net tricks My wife and I went on a binge last week. If you think I'm talking about an eating binge, you've never seen how thin we both are. If you think I mean a shopping binge, you don't know how cheap we are. And if you think it was cleaning binge, you've nev

    April 8, 2014

Featured Ads
AP Video
Tributes Mark Boston Bombing Anniversary Raw: Kan. Shooting Suspect Faces Judge US Supports Ukraine's Efforts to Calm Tensions Suspect in Kansas Shootings Faces Murder Charges Ukraine: Military Recaptures Eastern Airport Raw: Storm Topples RVs Near Miss. Gulf Coast NASA Showcases Lunar Eclipse Pistorius Cries During Final Cross-Examination The Boston Marathon Bombing: One Year Later Michael Phelps Set to Come Out of Retirement First Women Move to Army Platoon Artillery Jobs Sex Offenders Charged in Serial Killings Police: Woman Stored Dead Babies in Garage OC Serial Murder Suspects May Have More Victims Family: 2 Shot in Head at Kan. Jewish Center Raw: Horse Jumping Inspires 'Bunny Hop' After Attack, Officials Kill 5 Bears in Florida Popular Science Honors Year's Top Inventions ND Oil Boom Attracting Drug Traffickers
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.