I have a right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, but there is no guarantee of equal results.
Too great a gap between rich and poor undermines the solidarity that democratic citizenship requires.
Michael J. Sandel
BECK SEEMS TO THINK THAT principle number five—an attack on the uneven scales of justice in this country and the conservative endorsement of that inequality—went a little too far, that he's likely to lose his conservative audience.
So this time he returns to his earlier approach, using a combination of irony and self-contradiction to reassure his base of non-thinkers, while at the same time reaching the WFB conservatives (the ones capable of thought) with his real message.
I have a right to life,
liberty and pursuit of happiness, but there
is no guarantee of equal results.
Taken at face value this is a standard presentation of conservative propaganda: a tip of the hat to the great American tradition, quoting the Declaration of Independence for authority, followed by the word "but" and a completely different thought in the second clause.
It's the kind of reasoning that works extremely well for conservative propagandists all the time—using the Declaration of Independence as cover for an idea that occurs nowhere in the Declaration of Independence.
But Beck—himself a brilliant rhetorician—has something else in mind.
He's carefully phrased this principle so that his thinking readers will see the obvious contradiction between the two halves.
Those readers will be aware that in the last half century, due to conservative Republican measures, "no guarantee of equal results" has come to mean an absolute guarantee of grossly unequal results.
We have come to a place in this country where the top 1% owns more of the wealth than the bottom 95% combined.
Over half our economic resources are being hogged by the top 5% of the populace.
And money is power.
Lack of money is lack of power.
The net result is that the game is stacked.
It's a game of monopoly, in which you get you get to roll the dice when your turn comes around, and get to move your token, but the other player has unlimited funds and even gets to choose how the dice come up.
Beck is inviting his thoughtful readers to think this principle through.
The right to life.
Unless your insurance company decides there is more profit in denial of services.
Unless the economic inequality in this country means that you can't afford health insurance at all.
Unless that same economic inequality means that the police don't show up quickly in your neighborhood, and you get killed as a result.
The right to liberty.
Unless it becomes so hard to make a living that you have to take whatever job is available in order to feed your family.
Unless your employer knows you have no choice, and places unreasonable restrictions on you.
Unless the drift of wealth upward leaves your neighborhood without an economy, and any choices at all.
The right to the pursuit of happiness.
Unless you have no time or energy to pursue anything other than survival.
Beck's point is that the second half of his principle, in the current economic context, is rapidly undermining the first half.
Like any good propaganda, the second half contains a germ of truth.
It's quite true that no one can, or should, be guaranteed that they will end up with the same result as the next person, no matter how hard or how little they work.
We should expect differences: differences based on skill, differences based on hard work, and differences based on luck.
We should expect that some people will always be relatively rich, and others will be relatively poor.
But Beck is subtly pointing out that our country's economy has gone far beyond that.
Because of conservative Republican policies during the last fifty years, the rich have become rich beyond all belief, and the poor and middle class have come to the point where they are losing their homes, can't pay for the health of their families, and have fewer and fewer choices.
This is not because they are not working hard. They are working harder than ever, and often at jobs they hate.
Nor is it because of bad luck.
It's because the wealth, and with it the power, is being systematically sucked out of their hands by a tiny percentage of the populace who already have more wealth and power than they could possibly need, and are using that power to control government policy to their own advantage.
Glenn Beck cries, "Enough!"
When government policies promote an economy which leads to such enormous inequality of wealth, and therefore of power, democracy itself is threatened.
And the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are threatened as well.
Next time, principle #7—I work hard for what I have and
I will share it with who I want to. Government
cannot force me to be charitable.