Having managed to catch up on my newspaper reading, I recommend Tunku Varadarajan’s recent Wall Street Journal interview with Thomas Sowell, if you’re able to get past the firewall. This part particularly caught my attention, talking about how America has changed since Sowell was young:
An idea has taken root “that you’re entitled to certain things, that you don’t necessarily have to earn them,” he says. “There’s a belief that something’s wrong if you don’t have what other people have—that it’s because you’re ‘disadvantaged.’ A teenage dropout mother is told she has a disadvantage. But if you’re going to call the negative consequences of chosen behavior ‘disadvantage,’ the word is corrupt beyond repair and useful only for propaganda purposes.”
Has there been any change for the better? “Oh, yes, yes, yes,” he says. “In fact, for blacks who have education and who have not succumbed to a new lifestyle—the grievances, and the coarseness represented by rap music—it’s gotten tremendously better. What’s disheartening, though, is that when you study ethnic groups around the world, the ones that are lagging behind are those where their leaders always tell the same story: that it’s other people holding you back, and that therefore you need to stand against those other people and resist their culture. But that culture may be the key to success.”
This is the same vein of thinking as I raised during my podcast about the success of Utah. We have to teach people to emulate success. That doesn’t mean we have to give ourselves wholly over to every particular belief and behavior of a successful person, but that we have to give serious thought to the question of what it is that makes them successful. Having done so, we can of course decide that we define success differently — to say that we want to be as successful as possible while remaining true to moral values.
Whatever our decisions, though, it is a disabling distraction in modern America to see other people’s success as implicitly at our expense.