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
  • Spying ways to have vacation fun I have a neighbor named John Campbell, and I am suddenly EXTREMELY suspicious of him.It all started with our summer vacation to Maryland. We made several excursions into Washington, D.C. from our “base camp” in Annapolis. In fact, of the five days we

    July 29, 2014

  • I expect them to do nothing Which crisis is at the top of the list this week? Is it the IRS scandal, the VA scandal, the fighting in Gaza, the emergence of ISIS as a deadly power in the Middle East, the intentional shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 which killed nearl

    July 29, 2014

  • Word of advice So, what’s the word? Really, what is the word? With over 250,000 words in the English language, you’d think there would be a word for just about everything. Not so. Therefore, I am on a crusade to find a term for some everyday occurrences for which t

    July 29, 2014

  • There's something about Maryland My family unit has just returned from a death march – oops, make that, “vacation” – in Annapolis, Maryland. In spite of constant 96-degree temps (though it dropped as low as 95.7 at night), and the stifling humidity, we had lots of dolgurn fun. Mainl

    July 22, 2014

  • Learning to say goodbye From as far back as I can remember, saying hello has been a part of nearly each day.During my youth, it was used when I met new people my parents introduced me to and was frequently followed by a handshake. I couldn’t count the number of times I used

    July 18, 2014

  • Lessons from the largely forgotten war As we approach the official date on which the First World War started, July 28, 1914, when the first shots were fired by the Austro-Hungarians who invaded Serbia, it’s appropriate to think about the lessons that catastrophic event has taught us one h

    July 15, 2014

  • Please go away My wife is planning our summer vacation, which we will take in the fall. We took our spring vacation this summer. We got behind in 1984 and still haven’t caught up. I don’t have much input into the planning of these trips, but Mary Ellen did assign m

    July 15, 2014

  • Soothing '60's Surf Sounds I’m sitting in my home office enjoying a serenade of rhythmic pulsations emanating from the outside wall. It’s coming from our water spigot. No. 5 son (age 13) and his buddies are using it to fill water balloons. 1,500 water balloons to be exact. 1,5

    July 15, 2014

  • Soccer-stopping Storm a Lousy Treat What a great way to spend a Saturday morning in July: I’m sitting in my car with rain cascading on the roof, lightning skittering all over the sky, and thunder sockin’ it to the atmosphere with such force that I feel a rumbling in my bum.I’m staring

    July 8, 2014

  • Only in America - Top 10 As we move into the glorious months of summer, I thought you might be amused by reading the Top Ten List of what Canadians supposedly think of how things are going in this country. It’s a lot like David Letterman’s “top ten list.”Number 10: Only in A

    July 8, 2014

Featured Ads
AP Video
Fighting Blocks Access to Ukraine Crash Site Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida Workers Dig for Survivors After India Landslide Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow Southern Accent Reduction Class Cancelled in TN Raw: Deadly Landslide Hits Indian Village Obama Chides House GOP for Pursuing Lawsuit New Bill Aims to Curb Sexual Assault on Campus Russia Counts Cost of New US, EU Sanctions 3Doodler Bring 3-D Printing to Your Hand Six PA Cops Indicted for Robbing Drug Dealers Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey Raw: Obama Eats Ribs in Kansas City In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo NCAA Settles Head-injury Suit, Will Change Rules Raw: Amphibious Landing Practice in Hawaii
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.