Equality and Fairness

Yesterday, President Obama gave a stirring speech on income inequality and he declared war on it. The President is a rich man who was abandoned by his drunken immigrant father. He was brought up by his hippie mother. She had a doctorate. It took her twenty years to earn it. (I don’t mean to say that she was idle during most or any of these twenty years.)

I am an immigrant myself. I came to this country with no money (that ‘s NO money), not degree, no skill, nothing. (I was white, it’s true, still am.)

(By the way, about half the people with African blood in the US have zero American slave ancestry. Yes, like the president. They are descendants of immigrants like me, people who volunteered to come tot his allegedly racist country.)

I have an American doctorate too. It did not take me twenty years.

Fifty years after reaching this country , I live modestly but with no serious wants. And I live in a very desirable place, even by world standards.

I bet you filled in the blank: “Poor guy, poor immigrant worked hard all his life, blah, blah…”

But I didn’t. Nearly every time I found myself at a crossroad, I chose the other path; I selected psychic income over money income; I wanted more free time rather than a bigger car, or a bigger house. Now, does President Obama mean that I should feel bitter toward the other guy in initially similar circumstances who chose the income, who put in fifty hours weeks, and who is now worth several times what I am worth?

Does the President mean that I should be bitter because so many men my age are richer than I am ? Men who live in Cleveland and such?

Does President Obama really mean that I should enlist the services of government to take that other old guy’s money by force to give it to me? And next, will they take from me, equally by force, my golden memories of the three months I spend spear-fishing on the Caribbean coast of Mexico?

That would be fair, or would it?

And do we prefer to live in a society that gives even a poor immigrant the kind of choices I had or in a society where nearly everyone gets about the same regardless of personal preferences?

About Jacques Delacroix

I write short stories, current events comments, and sociopolitical essays, mostly in English, some in French. There are other people with the same first name and same last name on the Internet. I am the one who put up on Amazon in 2014: "I Used to Be French: an Immature Autobiography" and also: "Les pumas de grande-banlieue." To my knowledge, I am the only Jacques Delacroix with American and English scholarly publications. In a previous life, I was a teacher and a scholar in Organizational Theory and in the Sociology of Economic Development. (Go ahead, Google me!) I live in the People’s Green Socialist Republic of Santa Cruz, California.
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13 Responses to Equality and Fairness

  1. McHenry says:

    Is it strange that most people I know believe there is a huge inequality problem yet also direct their own lives with an end point to be arrived at through effort?
    I have always assumed I could navigate society to go where I want….if I want. And, I often choose the route of less resistance. My trek across theUS on foot was in some ways a test of what can be achieved with determination.
    I think public school and popular opinion (at least in Santa Cruz) teaches you that any goal can be met by the required work….but there is still a strong sense that the field of dreams is biased….that some force keeps you from rising even as you climb the stairs. I do not know why this is, but it was present in my mind too, even though I was able to rationalize otherwise at any time.
    I guess all I can conclude is that inequality does not seem to be a factor in my life, but maybe it exists for others? Does this bring the accusation that I am naive?

  2. McHenry: Care to speculate about what the force is that keeps one from rising? (I am only curious.)

    Also, what do your Santa Cruz friends make of immigrants like me who make it, some of us without even really trying?

  3. McHenry says:

    I think the oppressing force is viewed like fate, and propped up by jealousy. “I could have done “x” if I had “x””. In other words, we could all be rich on our own ideas if we were born into money and good ideas. Or maybe, “I could have gone farther in life if I had started higher up the food chain.”
    But yes, people like you who made something enjoyable with little effort disapprove that thinking, and millionaires who come from the “bottom” destroy it. I guess in this case the thinking would have to switch to “being one of the lucky ones.” I guess odds are a bit better than Vegas!
    I think blaming this kind of inequality is a way of coping with one’s own lack of motivation.

  4. McHenry says:

    Disapprove=disprove

  5. McHenry says:

    I think more to the point, there is a widespread belief among pretty much everyone I know, family members too (including a PhD in history, one in physics), of all ages, that those with wealth are able to pay to swing politics and society in their favor.
    It is a strong belief because I get attacked if I even try to bring it up, which I try to do for curiosity, not to make any point, but it puts people on the defensive, almost like it’s taboo.
    So there is a heavily defended belief that the rich control us all, that our society is constructed to keep the poor poor to feed the rich.

  6. McHenry. Two things: Don’t people who believe this, including your relatives, know that the biggest, richest lobbies are the teachers’ unions? Your History PhD relative does not know or does he deny it?

    Second: Do people who believe this bother to vote? And if they do, why? Same question: How do they explain the election of Barack Obama except to say that he must be secretly a puppet for the rich? If they don’t allege this, why?

    (Just helping with ammunition.)

    Corollary question: Would they say that I am a dupe or a poorly paid running dog of capitalism?

    • McHenry says:

      I’ll get a chance over the holidays to find out some answers here. My cousin with the history doctorate promised me some counterpoints to a talk I had a couple years ago with Larry Schweikert, author of “Partriot’s History of America”. The words he left me that stuck were “if you want to save the whales, find a way to make them profitable. We have no shortage of things we find valuable.”
      My cousin disagreed, not sure why. I’ll ask next week.
      As to the corollary question, I’d guess in general they’d write you off as a right wing hard liner practicing “what’s mine is mine” to the fullest. You might know that’s as far as that conversation ever seems to go though, no reason given about what this means or why it is bad.
      But. I wasn’t really interested in knowing before, so I’ll see about livening up the holiday dinners!

  7. Mc Henry. I am not surprised.

    American academics live almost entirely in a comfortable ghetto of their own making. Often, they don’t know how to deal with contradiction because the only people opposing them are also afraid for their grades (correctly so or not). They, college professors, argue amazingly little among themselves. Once, I signed up for a year-long seminar that included about twelve liberal arts professors. Of course, I was the only conservative in the group. I was expecting a big, drawn-out fight. The others all more or less lost their gonads as soon as I opened my mouth, including the women. Instead of a fight, I dropped out after two months because I was bored to death. It was a difficult decision because I was paid ( a “stipend”) just for attending. Yes, you read it right: We got paid! My lack of tolerance for boredom thus impoverished my children.

    I wonder if you told your cousin that this particular “right-wing hardliner” came here as a completely poor immigrant and married another completely poor immigrant. (NO, zero money!)

    He is right on one thing: What’s mine, what little is mine, is not for him to give away. I do it myself. (Conservatives give much more money away from than liberals.)

    Please, remember the Christmas spirit; don’t make him cry!

    PS Did you consider helping him get a real job?

  8. Pingback: Black Immigration: Taking Myself Behind the Barn* | FACTS MATTER

  9. McHenry says:

    Some things I noticed today at work, and I am only putting to words things I have observed, nothing more. Nothing less.

    I work at a biotech company. We have 2 janitors, both are Hispanic or Mexican. Both speak English fair enough, though I notice a strong preference to communicate in Spanish. They are friendly, but for the most part only address white workers who speak Spanish, in Spanish.
    Recently we hired a new non-English speaking groundskeeper, he interviewed in Spanish. (I overheard as I walked passed headed for the breakroom.) The boss used an interpreter, I noticed because it gave me a laugh to hear.
    All 3 of these guys drive to work in new Cadillacs SUV’s, 2005 or newer if I had to guess….and I’d guess newer but let’s be fair.
    From a quick survey of the parking lot, these are among the nicest 10 cars parked.
    I drive a hand me down ’97 Toyota, and it took a college degree to get my position.

  10. Pingback: Inequality: the Solutions | FACTS MATTER

  11. Pingback: Inequality: the Solutions | Notes On Liberty

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