Originally posted 2009-05-30 21:02:40. Republished by Blog Post Promoter
One of the greatest gifts we can pass on to our children is the portfolio of values that we spend our life’s years developing. And we hope that, as our children weave their way through the obstacles that they will undoubtedly face in their own lives, they will not only apply the values they’ve assimilated from us, but indeed grow them and, by so doing, create an even greater value legacy to pass on to their own offspring.
Impact of Observed Behavior on our Children
Our children are keen observers of life around them. They astutely learn from all that we do and they are much more apt to learn from observing of our actions rather than listening to our words. And contrary to general beliefs, over time they will more deeply assimilate behavioral traits from figures of authority, more so than from their friends and peers. To older teens and young adults such authority figures include not only parents, but also teachers, professors and coaches (especially those that are particularly liked and respected), and revered political figures. To many in the 18 to 24 age bracket, President Obama is certainly looked up to as such an authority figure.
So when a President holds such esteem in the minds of our young, as parents, we should be keenly astute about the messaging and actions that such a figure communicates to our children. Are his words and actions consistent with those that represent our values? Are the messages he communicates through the public media the same or at least closely aligned with the messages that we espouse on our children?
A Dangerous Message
In a speech on May 14, 2009 in Rio Rancho, New Mexico President Obama addressed the “crisis” in the consumer credit card industry, proposing sweeping new legislation to make the use of credit cards more consumer friendly. This he presented in a two part interaction with a local town hall audience. In the first, read directly from a teleprompter, he laid out his three principal pillars of the plan – simpler and easier to understand terms and conditions of credit, extended grace periods before assessment of penalties, and significant advance notice of changes in future credit terms. All, most would argue, reasonably prudent steps to aid consumers in the use of such credit facilities. The youtube video of the town hall meeting can be found at this link.
In the second part of the town hall meeting, the President went off the teleprompter and addressed direct questions from the audience. And there a troubling tone of the misguided intent behind the proposed plan became visible. The undercurrent in most all of the President’s responses can be encapsulated in the following:
* taking on consumer credit is an entitlement to which all citizens should have equal access
* access to credit should not be predicated on the consumer’s financial condition
* the credit issuers (i.e credit card companies) are the root cause of the overwhelming majority of cases of consumers’ credit excesses; the consumers share little if any blame for their own misfortunes
* there is an unfair class struggle going on between those with good and those with poor credit; this should be addressed by making credit equally accessible to all and on the same terms
One of his responses went as far as to firmly assert that credit should be available to all consumers, and particularly those who are not able to afford to cover their current expenses! As we pause to reflect, the magnitude of these assertions comes into focus, and we begin to deeply ponder the consequences of such a dogma.
Dissecting the Message
Credit is not a societal entitlement. It is earned, over time, as a result of fiscally responsible behavior. It is the reward for having made a positive contribution to one’s financial well-being. It is the leverage that we build for ourselves through the disciplined balancing of our earning and spending habits and of consistently meeting our obligations. No one is entitled to credit and it is not a right of passage.
Q: But are we not striving to create a society where everyone is treated fairly and equally? Should’t everyone have access to the same elements of quality of life (such as credit)?
A: No. Equality and fairness are not the same concept. In fact, in many situation they are impossible to achieve at the same time. One could argue that equality aligns with fairness only when decisions are based on a measure of quotas. In a merit-based environment, we inevitably find equality and fairness at opposite poles. To cite examples, the lottery would represent a quota situation – a fair and equal distribution of a chance to win a defined amount of money. On the other hand, high school seniors competing for entrance into Ivy League schools would represent a merit-based situation – there is no equality in the skills of the candidates, yet they end up being fairly distributed among schools of various levels of prestige.
Q: And which is overriding when both fairness and equality can not be achieved at the same time?
A: If we continue to believe in our founding principals, those which have served our nation for over 230 years, creating heretofore unprecedented prosperity for its citizens, the answer is remarkably clear. When our overriding objective is equality, the best outcome we can expect is uniformity and complacency. When our goal is fairness, we unleash great human potential that desires to distinguish itself from the equality of the masses and to soar high above mediocrity. Societal equality is an unbalanced state for the human mind to exist in. Fairness is a state of mind which reflects a peaceful and motivating coexistence among people.
What values do we want to espouse on our children? Do we want them to accept equality as a universal truth? Is the goal that we set upon them to strive to blend into the mass of equality? Should they be taught to await the improbable lottery event as the only means of possibly distinguishing themselves while staying within the dogma of fairness and equality?
The President’s message is teaching our children the worst possible lesson at a time when they are most vulnerable to misguidance and most susceptible to false promises How disenchanting is for our new generation of leaders to be taught that their aspiration in building their adult lives should be limited to becoming equal with others; that the results of their efforts will be no richer than everyone else’s.
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Next week: “The Split Personality of the Common Man” addresses the inherent struggles between a desire for independence and acquiescing to become dependent.