“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable 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.” - Thomas Jefferson – Declaration of Independence
One should be mindful that Mr. Jefferson was in no way intimating that we are all equal, only that we were all created equal before God. In fact, Mr. Jefferson enlarges on that equality by stating that our God-given inalienable rights guarantee us life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. He nowhere states that our equality ensures us happiness; rather, our equality, as seen by Mr. Jefferson, only guarantees all the right to pursue happiness. How we achieve those ends is up to us. Nor does Mr. Jefferson task the government with the job of ensuring us happiness. Again, he states that governments are instituted to secure the right, that is, the ability, of men and women to pursue happiness without any guarantee that we will ever actually achieve such a state of mind. That is up to us, not the government.
In the Biblical passage known as the “Parable of the Talents,” found in Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus tells us of a group of individuals who each received a business loan, so to speak. One would assume from the parable that each individual received an amount that was probably commensurate with his or her abilities as perceived by the master. We learn that the master did not expect the same return from each, only that each should use what he or she had been given to improve the condition of the master and themselves by extension. Observe that there is no measure of fairness implied in this story; only an expectation that all would do the best with what they had been given.
We can go further here in understanding that the equality that we are presumed to share as expressed in the words of Thomas Jefferson had nothing at all to do with fairness. Allow me to look further into the Bible and review the “Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard,” from Matthew 20:1-16. In this story a business owner goes looking for workers for his vineyard. At the beginning of the day the owner of the vineyard and the workers agree on a standard wage for the day’s work. Everybody walks away happy from this agreement. Ultimately the owner needs more workers and so goes looking further throughout the day. Apparently the owner, in this case, must have been known to be a fair man who would pay a fair wage because the subsequent workers he hired throughout the day agreed to work with only a promise of receiving “whatever is right.” At the end of the day the master called the workers to receive their wages and began by paying first those who came to work later in the day and worked the least amount of time. Surprisingly, the master paid the last workers a full day’s wage for only an hour’s worth of work. This led those who worked longer to believe that they would now receive more than what they had bargained for. I mean, that would only be fair, right? When the first workers received their agreed upon wages without some presumed bonus they thought they deserved out of fairness, they thought they had been cheated. The owner then reiterated their agreed upon terms of employment and asked if they had been cheated or whether they received what they had agreed upon for a day’s work? He then sent them on their way and cautioned them not to be envious and bitter because of some perceived unfairness on his part which was actually generosity.
So, is it the government’s duty to step into such a situation and determine that there needs to be more fairness?
One of my favorite authors, economist Thomas Sowell, drew my attention to a recent New York Times article titled “Two Classes, Divided by ‘I Do.’” The gist of this article is all about fairness, or the lack thereof. The irony is that the two women featured in the story are from very similar social and economic circumstances, but life choices made along the way produced differing results. What is really only a difference of outcome based on personal choices is slanted by the Times as “class” differences. The Times felt the need to make hay of this story; that is where we have come. It’s nobody’s fault; not the fault of one woman’s smart choices over the other woman’s not-so-smart choices. Apparently, it is the fault of our society and the game of “class” favoritism. How had one woman done very well while the other woman had not fared so well? The article goes on to decry the lack of fairness that resulted in one woman being the other woman’s boss, as if such circumstances had nothing to do with the choices each made.
To reiterate, take everything away from two people and give them each $100 and by the end of the day the inequalities between them will already be evident. Unfair? No, it’s called "life."
If you were raised in a two-parent home, chances are you will do better than an individual who was raised by a single parent. Is it inevitable? No, but it’s a likely outcome. Is there something unfair about the inequalities manifested between two-parent and single-parent children that the government plans to rectify? These are life choices made by people and the government should have nothing to do with such choices. That we are all guaranteed liberty and the ability to make good or bad choices is part and parcel of that liberty and the “pursuit of happiness.” Why does the government continue to meddle in such things attempting to bring about some required inequality that life itself does not support?
I listened one day as an individual shared that while listening to a radio talk show discussing taxes on the rich, four of the six callers he heard appeared to believe that Mitt Romney paid no taxes (apparently, the “Dirty Harry” Reid believes this as well). That perspective is not too hard to believe when all we hear coming from our president is that the wealthy are not paying their fair share. The same thinking is in evidence in some of the comments on an article on Patch about Chris Christie, where posted comments called for the rich to pay “their fair share.” Would anybody equate paying no federal income taxes as equivalent to a fair share? That’s what almost 50 percent of the working population pays in federal income taxes; nothing. What’s so fair about that?
What is fair? Can the government legislate fairness, aka equality? Good luck.