Opinion: More equality, more mediocrity

March 2, 2014


Inequality is in the news. Inequality has been declared the crisis of our times. Ingenious politicians have made the startling discovery that some people have more stuff than others. And they are promising to do something about it.

“Let the rich one percent grovel in sweat shops and salt mines,” they say. “And let the starving ninety-nine percent light Cuban cigars with $100 bills, quaff bottles of Chateau Lafite-Rothschild and feast on candied orchids and hummingbirds’ tongues.”

How did the rich get their obscene wealth?

“They stole it,” cry the foes of inequality. “They got it by taking more than their fair share. Another word for ‘success’ is ‘greed.’ Another word for ‘rich’ is ‘pig.’”

Apologists for the rich say that they work harder and are more talented. But what’s just and fair about unequal distribution of drive and talent? What right do successful people have to make the rest of humanity feel lazy, stupid and tormented by envy? If we were living in the time of Robespierre, the rich would be walking around without their puffed up heads. Robespierre advocated razing church steeples because they were taller than other structures. So great was his belief in equality that he gave up his own head to level the playing field. Where is our Robespierre?

School teachers have been trying to stamp out inequality. They give happy faces for work that in former, less equal times would have earned kids an “F.” They need to discourage kids from doing their best. Words such as “better” and “best” should be stricken from the language, since they necessitate “worse” and “worst.” Ambition and the desire to win should be prohibited, since “winners” require “losers.” Let mediocrity, conformity and togetherness replace the desire to “get ahead.” Let there be regulations, confiscatory taxes and dire punishments to deter greedy, egomaniacal children from pursuing success. We need new heroes: Average Man rather than Superman. Arise, ye Flunkies and Nobodies.

“Reproductive rewards go not to the peacock with a good enough tail, but the one with the best tail,” wrote some British sage. “The bloke with one more cow than the other bloke gets the girl.” So what’s to be done? Create a new breed of peacocks with uniform tails. Redistribute cows so that every bloke has an equal number of identical cows and every bloke gets an equally pretty girl…

as part of my own campaign to vanquish inequality, i have taken an oath to forswear the use of capital letters. capitals valorize big letters at the expense of lower case ones, another heinous example of prejudice and inequality. in the words of alice’s queen of hearts, “off with their heads.”

— George Gurley, a resident of rural Baldwin City, writes a regular column for the Journal-World.


dale thompson 4 years, 3 months ago

While I can agree that tearing down the rich does not help the poor, one must consider: It was not the poor that caused the banking/housing collapse, the s/l debacle, or the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Yet tax dollars of the poor were a part of these bail outs. While most rich people get that way thru perseverance, insight and hard work, that is not true of all. The poor have not hired thugs to break up strikes(Henry Ford/Andrew Carnegie) engaged in unfair business practices(John D. Rockefeller) or out right bribery(Cornelius Vanderbilt). Based on this article which cites such sources as "ingenious politicians" , and "foes of inequality" while placing statements no human likely ever uttered in quotation marks, as well as articles by George Will and Charles Krauthammer, I would submit that the best example of mediocrity is what passes for journalism these days.

Ken Lassman 4 years, 3 months ago

I'd have to agree; George: your essay seems to be a paltry mirror of Ortega y Gasset's "Revolt of the Masses," but instead of focusing on personal excellence as the desirable asset to strive for, as did Gasset, you have chosen a person's income level as being proof enough of their presumed excellence. Therefore, the great satisfaction you have at critiquing mediocrity a la Gasset is misplaced at best.

If you had bothered to inquire about the nature of the national conversation about inequality currently taking place, you would have found that it is not merely the existence of inequality that is bothersome to so many. It is because the ability to move up the ladder economically, as a result of your personal excellence, has taken a hit. This strikes at the very notion of the American Dream, no? I mean, even the American Enterprise Institute quotes statistics that of the the economic gains accrued since the Great Recession (i.e. since 2009), 95% of the gains have been accrued by the much vilified top 1%: http://www.aei.org/article/society-and-culture/free-enterprise/be-open-handed-toward-your-brothers/

When the head of the American Enterprise Institute, Arthur C. Brooks calls for a rethinking of social justice, that means something, no? When the percentage of Americans currently in the workforce drops to 63%, you are recovering not by increased economic activity but by pushing folks out of the economy, which is the ladder to greater economic well being through excellence, innovation and hard work. In other words, it is not inequality that is the issue, it is the INCREASING inequality that occurs when you give access to economic rewards to the already rich, at the expense of everyone else. And this is where the dialog is taking place, George, not where you have placed it, with apologies to Mr. Gasset.

Renee Patrick 4 years, 3 months ago

e.e. cummings already did the no caps thing

Beator 4 years, 3 months ago

If the poor had all the rich' money, what would they do with it?

Leslie Swearingen 4 years, 3 months ago

I am totally opposed to even the concept of "equality", because we are all individuals and different. We have differing intelligence, ambition, abilities, and yes, willpower. We are each shaped by our families, friends and environment.

People are wonderful and complex, they can make a huge mess or gorgeous art, they can do marvelous complex things with mind, body and spirit, they can break us apart or heal us.

We are stuck on this planet with each other whether we like it or not. To me the most important thing is to stop blaming others for what happens, unless it is direct and obvious and even then try to understand and resolve the situation.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 3 months ago

After 20 years of this crap the GOP should never be re-elected!!! The party should be in prison!

--- This GOP ENTITLEMENT - Bailing out The Reagan/Bush Savings and Loan Heist aka home loan scandal sent the economy out the window costing taxpayers many many billions and millions of jobs, loss of retirement plans and loss of medical insurance. http://rationalrevolution0.tripod.com/war/bush_family_and_the_s.htm

--- This GOP ENTITLEMENT Bailing out the Bush/Cheney Home Loan Wall Street Bank Fraud cost consumers $ trillions, millions of jobs, loss of retirement plans and loss of medical insurance. Exactly like the Reagan/Bush home loan scam. Déjà vu can we say. Yep seems to be a pattern. http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2009/0709macewan.html

--- This GOP ENTITLEMENT – Bailing Out Big banks. Bush/Cheney implied many financial institutions were at risk instead of only 3? One of the biggest lies perpetrated to American citizens. Where did this money go? Why were some banks forced to take bail out money? http://www.democracynow.org/2009/9/10/good_billions_after_bad_one_year

Stealing is one way to describe the above.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 3 months ago

I'm one who believes $17.50 per hour should be the minimum wage which is only $33,000 per year. Why not get McDonald's and Wal-Mart employees off food stamps?

Wal-Mart and McDonald's can afford $15.00 per hour and so can the economy.

McDonalds CEO Don Thompson at $13.8 million a year and Walmart CEO Michael Duke at $20.7 million per year indicate it is the CEO's that are over paid ... where's the outrage?

McDonalds CEO Don Thompson and Walmart CEO Michael Duke can easily afford to pay [workers] $15 an hour without causing layoffs or requiring price hikes.”

McDonald's Don Thompson earned $13.8 million last year, which is 800 times what a typical McDonald’s worker made. Wal-Mart CEO Duke's $20.7 million pay package in 2012 was more than 1,000 times what a typical Walmart worker earned.

WHERE'S THE OUTRAGE??? The USA economy cannot afford CEO"s. The CEO's are stealing from the workers.

James Howlette 4 years, 3 months ago

So you're saying that you don't really don't understand the situation at all, George, and instead will spend a bunch of time making straw man arguments?

Let me boil it down for you: it's fine to be rich. It's fine to earn money. It's not fine to tilt the playing field and take those same opportunities away from everyone else.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.