Vail Valley Voices: Today’s political ‘Catch 22’ | VailDaily.com
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Vail Valley Voices: Today’s political ‘Catch 22’

The archetypal Catch-22 was formulated by Joseph Heller in his irreverent novel (of the same name) about World War II.

It involves the case of John Yossarian, a U.S. Army Air Forces bombardier who wishes to be grounded from combat flight duty.

In order to be grounded, Capt. Yossarian must be officially evaluated by the squadron’s flight surgeon and found unfit to fly. Of course, it stands to reason that any air crewman actually willing to fly dangerous missions over Germany would certainly be found unfit, as one would have to be mad to want to take on such missions voluntarily.

However, to be diagnosed as mad by the flight surgeon (and thus unfit for duty) the air crewman must first ask for the evaluation. But here’s the catch: Anyone who wants to get out of flying dangerous combat missions over German duty can’t really be crazy. Hence, air crewmen who request an evaluation must be sane and therefore must fly in combat. But those who don’t request an evaluation (and by inference are mad) are not evaluated and therefore cannot be found insane.

Thus, Catch-22 ensures that no air crewman can ever be grounded for being insane, even if they are.

From the standpoint of pure logic, Catch-22 describes a set of rules that present the illusion of choice while preventing any real choice because the “choices” are mutually exclusive.

So why does a guest columnist begin a commentary by making reference to an arcane notion from a 48-year-old work of fiction? Read on.

There’s an apocryphal story about an economics professor at a local college who made a statement that he had never failed a single student, but once failed an entire class. The class in question had insisted that Obama’s economic policies will work, and if implemented, no one would be poor and no one would be rich — a great equalizer.

The professor said, “OK, let’s try an experiment on Obama’s plan for America. All of your grades will be averaged and everyone will receive the same grade. This way no one will fail, but then no one will receive an A either.”

After the first test, the grades were averaged and everyone received a B. The students who studied diligently were more than a bit upset, but the students who studied little were quite happy.

When the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who had previously studied very hard decided they wanted a free ride, so they too studied little. The second test average was a D, and now no one was happy.

When the third test rolled around, the average grade was an F and the test scores never increased as bickering, blame and name-calling all resulted in hard feelings. No one would study for the benefit of anyone else, and they all failed.

To their great surprise, the professor told them that “Obamanomics” would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great, but when government takes away rewards, no one will try or want to succeed.

Question: Just how do these two notions fit together in the same commentary? Answer: While we certainly have our shortcomings as a nation, the United States has the highest standard of living, enjoys the finest medical care and is the most generous nation the world has ever seen because of individualism and a culture where rewards are equal to effort, determination and persistence.

For 233 years the United States has been a nation that puts few limits on an individual’s aspirations or potential. But now it appears the current administration wants to level the playing field for everyone in the name of “fairness.”

But what the administration seems to have forgotten is that the wealth they want to redistribute could never have been accumulated in the first place in the type of society they’re trying to create.

Move over Joseph Heller. You’ve got nothing on Obama, Pelosi and Reid.

Quote of the Day: “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.” — Winston Churchill

Butch Mazzuca is an Edwards resident.


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