Equal effort does not mean equal results: a word on redistribution

It’s the Friday prior to daylight savings — an idea first proposed by Benjamin Franklin in 1784 — and it seemed appropriate to grab an excerpt from one of our Founding Fathers to give to our readers to start their weekend.   For those of you who truly cherish freedom and individual liberty, it may serve as a reminder that the concept of redistribution is not new.  Thomas Jefferson made it abundantly clear where he stood in a letter to Joseph Milligan, dated April 6, 1816.

“To take from one, because it is thought his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee to everyone the free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it.”
– Thomas Jefferson, letter to Joseph Milligan, April 6, 1816

In Jefferson’s view (and that of the Framers of the Constitution), it was not the purpose of government to take from those whose work and efforts gave them more fruits of their industry, in order to spare those who have not worked as hard or as diligently.  To Jefferson (and all of us here at Freedom Cocktail) this notion was (is) an affront to the notion of the God-given right of free peoples to work as hard or as little as they choose, garnering as much or as little reward as commensurate with such industry.

Obama asks Jefferson about Constitution flawThe first sound that comes bellowing out of the mouths of the low-information-voter at this point is a cry of, “FOUL!”  See, in their minds, equal effort means equal reward.  This is a childish and naive view of life and reveals a distinct lack of ability to understand even the most rudimentary explanations of both federalism and capitalism.

So, rather than argue in that realm, let me give you a sports analogy…

Two football players show up to Day One of the NFL Combine.  They both line up on the track and wait for the crack of the gun (sorry anti-second amendment folks, it is what it is).  Sweat begins to bead on their taunt bodies.  Sound begins to mute as their focus sharpens to the immediate task at hand — to run the fastest 100 here.

The gun fires!

They shoot down their respective lanes, arms pumping in perfect unison with outstretched legs.  They both expend equal effort, in the sense that neither holds anything back.  When they cross the 100 yard mark, they are spent and incapable of another step.

However, one athlete crosses that finish line .5 seconds ahead of the other.

How is that possible?  They both gave equal effort.  Perhaps, if we looked further into physique and genetics, the slower athlete, in an attempt to compensate, may have actually expended more effort.  Yet, one was faster than the other.

There is no more rudimentary example to illustrate the efforts of one individual (or business) over another and why some are more successful than others.  Sometimes, hidden attributes allow for one individual to perform better than another.  Sometimes those attributes are as plain as day.

Before you begin to look to the state to make sure everyone is “paying their fair share,” decrying how unfair it is for some to have more than others, take a long hard look at yourself and try to be as honest as you can.  Are you really putting forth equal effort?

What time are you supposed to arrive at work?  Do you strive to make that time + or – 5 minutes?  Or do you show up an hour beforehand?

What time does your workday end?  Are you the kind of employee who watches the clock, trying to figure out how to look busy for the last 15 minutes of the day while not actually taking the chance of opening another email or answering another phone call for fear it may keep you one second past your exodus from the office?  Or do you work until the assignments are complete, regardless of the hour?

Be honest, now.  How much time do you spend on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest during the course of business hours (we will exclude lunch for the time being)?  When you get a text message from a friend of family member, do you answer it immediately?  What about personal phone calls?

You smokers out there (yes, there are few of you left who are supposedly paying for our children’s healthcare, which seems to have been the golden pipe dream — sorry for the “pipe” pun — and will be left as a topic for another day), tell me if this sounds vaguely familiar?  You and the few remaining of your endangered species have formed a bond, a pack, if you will, and religiously make sure to hit the designated smoking area with each other 4-5 times a day.  You text or email each other: Camel run in 15.  You make sure not to take a call or open an email within five minutes of the preset rendezvous time.

You make your way to the bathroom first.  After all, you don’t want this one vice of yours to be interrupted prematurely, do you?  Then you head to the elevator (stairs/door/escalator) and meet in a clandestine manner at the one place around the corner and out of sight from the do-gooders and nay-sayers of the anti-smoking crowd.  (Doesn’t it tick you off when someone else wants to impose their views on you?  No one is forcing them to smoke, why should they force you to stop?)   You light up and begin to talk about how busy your day has been.  Within five or six minutes you all realize you should maximize your nicotine addiction and light up another.  Like you said, you’ve been busy and who knows when you’ll get a chance to leave your desk again?

Another five to six minutes goes by and it’s time to return to your post.  You casually walk together, knowing you need to give your clothes a few minutes in the outdoor breeze to air out a bit so no one will know what you’ve been doing.  By the time you make it back to your desk, you’ve been gone somewhere around 15 to 20 minutes.  Time to get back to work.  You’re slammed, remember?  Besides, you only take a smoke break four or five times a day.

That’s when your email notifier pops up with a note from one of your crew.  The subject:  Again at the top of next hour?

For a moment, add up that time.  Let’s give you the benefit of the doubt.  Maybe it’s only 10 minutes, five times a day.  That’s 50 minutes a day, or 250 minutes a week.  Using 50 working weeks (you do get your two weeks vacation, right?), that would equate to 12,500 minutes of smoke time, which is only 208 hours or 5.2 work weeks.

Do you think you should give back your vacation time?  Think how much more you could have accomplished had you been given just over a month more on the calendar to outshine your fellow employees.  But, hey, gotta feed the habit, right?

The examples could go on and on but the point has been made.  There are those who show up to work early, stay late, give up their lunch hour and take home work over the weekend.  They don’t spend company time browsing sales specials or downloading new songs to their iPhone to listen to in 1 hour 43 minutes and 15 seconds when they bolt for their car and the drive home.

Our Founding Fathers never promised anyone in this country equal outcomes.  They were far too brilliant to be that naive.  What they did promise, however, was a government sufficiently constrained to afford its citizenry equality of basic rights — chief among them the right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

This means each individual has the freedom, unencumbered by the state, to pursue (or not) whatever industry they so choose, as long as those pursuits do not infringe on someone else’s life, liberty or property.  It means the state isn’t supposed to guarantee the success of one at the expense of another.

Now, there is a form of government whose principle consideration is founded on the idea of taking from each citizen, based on their abilities and redistributing to others, based on their needs.  However, that is not found anywhere in our Constitution, nor should anyone ever strive to place it there.

Equality of rights is not the same as equal outcome.  If you want or lack for something, earn it.  Work harder.  Change jobs.  Move to a different company.  Move to a different state. Don’t blame the guy in the next lane who managed to pull off a faster 4/40 or 100 yard dash.  You have no more authority to infringe on his rights than he has to infringe upon yours.  Work harder.  Work longer.  Focus.

And if you still believe the government exists to punish the achievers and reward the failures, then keep that other old saying in the back of your mind: be careful what you wish for; you just might get it.

It’s past 5pm on a Friday.

Now I’m wondering — will anyone see this before Monday?

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