Sunday, April 29, 2007


How much do any of us deserve to keep the benefits of good luck? Or: Does one have an unchallengeable proprietary interest in one's own good fortune?

For example: A man is born to wealthy parents (luckily, I would assume)? Should he be taxed for that good fortune when the parents die? In our society today the answer seems to be mixed: yes and no; yes, he should keep some of his money, and no, he will also be (inheritance) taxed; he has proprietary rights in being born to the wealthy...but not completre and total.

A girl is born beautiful. Does she have the right to have a greater selection of suitors than someone born less fortunate? In our society the answer seems to be: yes, she has the right to exclusive benefit from her looks and not have to share her dating list with the less fortunate.

A man is born speedy. When he wins a race does he have to share his trophy with someone not as physically endowed. Little League mothers--always worried about their little ones self-esteem--would argue "a trophy for everyone"...but most would argue: one trophy that says "Winner"; to be given to the speediest.

A woman is born in America. Does she have to share her good fortune (a good paying job, health care, free education) with someone one born in another country without the resources to offer its citizens the same benefits.

Isn't that what the whole argument about illegal immigration : does 'American-good-fortune', being born in the USA, mean you have to share those benefits with people who have come here to avoid the bad luck of being born in a more economically deprived country?

The 'keep-em-out' crowd would say: I have good luck being an American and why should I HAVE to share it (although I may want to; which is a different thing.) Even if my resources are all the result of good luck (we'll forget hard work and effort for now), why isn't it all mine? If I find a tomato patch on land no one owns, I can keep the tomato, right? Granted, I agree if someone owns that land, to keep the tomato would be poaching; but to be the recipient of good luck is benefits to whom in falls on. We are the legal benefactors of our own good luck. "Finders keepers, losers weepers'. Remember that as a child?

(That's one way to look at the problem(s) Karl Marx had with property ownership, by the way. He felt all accumulated wealth was fundamentally the result of luck...and therefore should be only owned and shared in common. From each according to his (lucked-into) ability, to each according to his (unlucky) need. The problem was...became: the Soviet (the most advanced economically of the Marxist-styled countries) workers became dis-incentivized to fully develop new resources (they didn't seem to want to work so hard. Why work if luck is at the basis of it all?...although their proponents might argue: the whole system WOULD have worked if there had not been a military challenge from the capitalist USA; the Soviets would have made it...with a lot less overall resources, granted--due to a lot less work...but happy; a la Cuba...happy in their sharing but semi-productive collectives. )

America/Capitalists on the other hand seems to come down on the side of individual-hard-work-contribution-to-accumulated-goodies as the primary source of all accumulated wealth. "You make your luck." Or: "Luck is the residual of good planning." The theory of hard-work as the basis of wealth has a pragmatic value to the whole society as well, they argue: it incentivize us (all the workers) to produce more...therefore collectively we can all keep more (even if it does take a little time to trickle down to the masses.) "A rising tide lifts all boats;" eventually.

Personally, I'm torn.

I wish someone could come up with a magical formula: a measurement of how much luck plays in each person's success and how much hard work plays. The economic rule would be a nationwide (why not worldwide?) formula: everyone keeps what they derive from work; BUT..they share with the unlucky what accrues from their luck (that includes the original luck of a genetic it their "head start"...which includes the inherited disposition for hard work and tough will). Simply put, every individual would be required to subtract the $$$luck-amount from the $$$effort-amount to determine what wealth they are allowed to keep. (Sound an awful lot like the arguments over tax rates and deductions, doesn't it?)

Its very confusing and complicated.

How do you measure the contribution of luck Vi's-a-Vi's hard work to each individuals success? How the hell do you accurately and FAIRLY assign genetic (and geographic-luck) weight to inheritance to create a desired level playing field to support all human effort?

It's beyond me.

I suppose, in the meantime, we just have to live with Republicans and Democrats battling out from their respective philosophical sides: Republicans saying the more fortunate (sounds like more 'lucky' to me; doesn't it?) deserve to keep their wealth, whether it is derived through luck or hard work, because it inspires them to work harder and more creatively. (And moreover, why should they be punished...or hated...because they are more fortunate. Envied, perhaps, but...didn't God, who is all loving, create the human system to include a factor of luck in human activity. Ergo, it must serve a higher and nobler purpose!)

Democrats would argue that if God's intended a disparity of fortune it was because: God loves us all equally but we humans are charged with handling the individual disparity between good luck and bad luck with charity; share the wealth. That is God's test for all of us to attain Heaven...where, by the way, luck ends, true? I mean, in Heaven we will all be equally lucky? We won't have bodies, just spirits, and spirits don't have genetic differences, do they? Or the need for food, clothes, automobiles or medical access? Just the equal good fortune of the sight of God?)

I'm still very confused. Make a choice, Cliff. Where do I come down on all of this?

To be honest: it depends on what minute of what hour of what day it is. of April 30, 2007, at 4:48 PM, I want to keep all that I have, whatever the source derived, good luck or hard work (however, I do think I've worked very hard!). Sharing is taught in kindergarten because it is seems foreign to the human make-up; but I really do want the people who emigrate here (legally or illegally) to escape their bad luck. But I don't want those new arrivals, anyone illegally coming to America ("Read my lips: no new taxes!) to lessen my standard of living or to lessen my aging body's access to an emergency room when I need it or good education for my grandchildren?

Such an internal struggle. My union-organizing liberal Mother does memory battle with my two-jobs-a-day "fuck-em" Father? I choose......the American solution: NIMBY Economics: Not-In-My-Bank-account-YoYo...take money from the wealthy (they're too lucky, obviously) and give to the poor (let's call them the VERY unlucky)...and our economic nation will balance out social equity WITHOUT ANY EFFORT ON MY PART (other than a residual of little guilt and confusion). I can live with that...for now...until a batch of economists, geneticists and mathematics professors...inherently bright and hard-working, whatever the mix, come up with the formula of "luck-balanced-with-un-luck" measure of the distribution of social benefits that I propose above.


Blogger Amy and Roger said...

Mr. Osmond, I love your honesty...I, like you, have days of wanting to share and days of counting my blessings...naming them one-by-one and assuming that because God gave them to ME...He intended them for ME only! God wants a "hilarious" give with joy...God looks at the heart. Wouldn't it be nice if Uncle Sam did the same? "We only want your money if you have the joy and grace to give it." I guess the Government can't be run with that kind of graciousness but I'm thankful I serve a God who is full of grace and mercy!

Here is a parable to ponder. An illustation of giving.

Matthew 25:14-30 (Contemporary English Version)

Parable of the Talents
A Story about Three Servants
(Luke 19.11-27)
14The kingdom is also like what happened when a man went away and put his three servants in charge of all he owned. 15The man knew what each servant could do. So he handed five thousand coins to the first servant, two thousand to the second, and one thousand to the third. Then he left the country.
16As soon as the man had gone, the servant with the five thousand coins used them to earn five thousand more. 17The servant who had two thousand coins did the same with his money and earned two thousand more. 18But the servant with one thousand coins dug a hole and hid his master's money in the ground.

19Some time later the master of those servants returned. He called them in and asked what they had done with his money. 20The servant who had been given five thousand coins brought them in with the five thousand that he had earned. He said, "Sir, you gave me five thousand coins, and I have earned five thousand more."

21"Wonderful!" his master replied. "You are a good and faithful servant. I left you in charge of only a little, but now I will put you in charge of much more. Come and share in my happiness!"

22Next, the servant who had been given two thousand coins came in and said, "Sir, you gave me two thousand coins, and I have earned two thousand more."

23"Wonderful!" his master replied. "You are a good and faithful servant. I left you in charge of only a little, but now I will put you in charge of much more. Come and share in my happiness!"

24The servant who had been given one thousand coins then came in and said, "Sir, I know that you are hard to get along with. You harvest what you don't plant and gather crops where you haven't scattered seed. 25I was frightened and went out and hid your money in the ground. Here is every single coin!"

26The master of the servant told him, "You are lazy and good-for-nothing! You know that I harvest what I don't plant and gather crops where I haven't scattered seed. 27You could have at least put my money in the bank, so that I could have earned interest on it."

28Then the master said, "Now your money will be taken away and given to the servant with ten thousand coins! 29Everyone who has something will be given more, and they will have more than enough. But everything will be taken from those who don't have anything. 30You are a worthless servant, and you will be thrown out into the dark where people will cry and grit their teeth in pain."

WOW! Convicting huh?

It gets better...
The Final Judgment
31When the Son of Man comes in his glory with all of his angels, he will sit on his royal throne. 32The people of all nations will be brought before him, and he will separate them, as shepherds separate their sheep from their goats.
33He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34Then the king will say to those on his right, "My father has blessed you! Come and receive the kingdom that was prepared for you before the world was created. 35When I was hungry, you gave me something to eat, and when I was thirsty, you gave me something to drink. When I was a stranger, you welcomed me, 36and when I was naked, you gave me clothes to wear. When I was sick, you took care of me, and when I was in jail, you visited me."

37Then the ones who pleased the Lord will ask, "When did we give you something to eat or drink? 38When did we welcome you as a stranger or give you clothes to wear 39or visit you while you were sick or in jail?"

40The king will answer, "Whenever you did it for any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did it for me."

10:48 AM  
Blogger Cliff Osmond said...

To Amy and Roger:
Amen. You and I often take dissimilar paths to the same conclusion. Which is nice.

1:23 PM  

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