From time to time since President Carter was elected questions have arisen over whether as president of the United States he should use his nickname Jimmy in official documents, on formal occasions, in reference works, and in countless other settings where one would usually use the given name, James. We appreciate the fact that Jimmy Carter wants to identify himself as a common man with the rest of us. That seems appropriate, particularly when compared with the recent coronation of Jean Bedel Bokassa as emperor of the Central African Empire, a nation with one of the world’s lowest per capita incomes, which could not afford such extravagance.
But we disapprove of overstressing the idea of the common man since it is often associated with the unstated notion that everybody in every way should be equal. The dictionary says that at the heart of egalitarianism lies the notion that “all distinctions between groups and individuals [are] inherently unjust.” That idea does not agree with life nor with the Bible.
Robert Louis Stevenson once said, “There are men and classes of men that stand above the common herd.” God intended that it should be this way. We are unconvinced by the position of those who believe that distinction is sui generis wrong.
If all persons performed on the same level in athletics, the arts, the professions, the trades, or in business there would be no examples of attainment to challenge others. And there could be no improvement. Even if all persons were equally gifted, inequality would result because people use and develop their gifts in differing levels of intensity and thoroughness.
Who in his right mind wants a common man to perform surgery on him? Who wants an architect who has not ...1
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