Ever heard the phrase, "Perception is reality?" To the honest person, understanding this concept can inspire you to excel. To the dishonest, perception becomes the mask under which lies vulnerability or perhaps a more sinister reality.

This is true in the court system, as we have witnessed this week with the Casey Anthony verdict. It's all about perception and persuasion. The same is true in the world of politics. It's rarely about righting wrongs or serving humanity; it's about the furtherance of an ideological agenda.

Eric Allie / Cagle Cartoons (click to view more cartoons by Allie)

A classic example is the ongoing debate over whether wages earned by an individual is fair compensation for his or her hard work, or is that compensation actually owned and controlled by the government.

How many times have we heard Democrats tell job creators it's time to cough up a little more cash, and then complain that the government is somehow "losing" money — unless it raises taxes?

How can you lose money that was never yours to begin with? You can't. But a whole lot of Americans have bought into that perception - because they've heard it repeatedly, and now perceive it as fact.

The demonization of corporate jet owners, the favorite evil corporation of the week, or small business owners for their success, is not just an exercise in futility, it's a distortion of reality and feeds into the perception that successful corporations or successful people are evil; therefore it is okay to take what is theirs.

Those who think all wealth is theirs for the taking, and determine intervention is required to spread that wealth around should periodically raise their eyes beyond their academic books to note that this ideology, historically, has never ended well.

Look at Russia, Cuba, and Eastern Europe, and you will see economies built on the same failed premise of rewarding sameness at the expense of individuality. Soon the pockets of the wealthy are empty, and everyone is truly on the same level. And for those who sing the praises of modern China, look beyond the city limits of Beijing and you will find a populace that lives in the third world.

If a professor said it, or a politician promotes it, then for some, another's perception becomes their reality. How much wiser it is to fact-check what we hear in the media, classrooms and pulpits, or even read in opinion columns. A little investigation combined with introspection would serve to clear the fog to reveal that ideas like "what's yours is mine because you don't deserve it" are in fact rooted in greed and arrogance- the same sins which the successful are accused of committing.

A little introspection would lead to the discovery that the arbitrary transfer of wealth, in reality, breeds complacency and laziness. There is a perception in America that the poor cannot succeed, and to correct this "injustice," the wealthy must be compelled to give to those who do not earn. As a result, a sense of entitlement builds, while taking away motivation from those who just want to work hard and make a decent living. Over time, everyone ends up living on the same "plantation," subservient to a flawed ideological "master."

Penalizing success and rewarding failure leads to hopelessness — the opposite of what our founder's intended when they penned the words that all men "are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

A good reminder that we each have an equal opportunity for success, but the outcome is determined by individual choice — a hard thing to perceive for those whose beliefs are shaped by another's opinion.

© Copyright 2011 Susan Stamper Brown. Susan's weekly column is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. For more info contact Cari Dawson Bartley at 800- 696-7561 or email [email protected]. Email Susan at [email protected].