From Jim O'Brien
May 08, 2020

The Law of the Vital Few

Hi Friend,

Are there people vital to the survival of the human race? It's an interesting question.

In 1906 an Italian economist, Vilfredo Pareto, was fascinated by a statistic that 20 percent of the people in Italy owned 80 percent of the land. Further surveys showed the same principle existed in other countries. Coincidentally, he noticed while working his garden that 20 percent of the pea pods contained 80 percent of the peas. These and further musings led him to speculate that there was a natural law of productivity revolving around the 80/20 rule.

In business today it is a common rule of thumb that 80 percent of sales come from 20 percent of customers. Iams dog food company years ago realized the converse of that rule. 80 percent of problems were generated by 20 percent of the customers. So the owner made the unprecedented decision to "fire 20 percent of his customers"-you read that right-he fired the problem customers. He could then focus his attention on good customers after which the company experienced unprecedented growth.

Systems analysts now believe that wealth distribution and Pareto's 80/20 rule are a natural phenomenon. For example, how does a supplier know how much stock to have on hand to meet demands? Pareto's principle is the management Bible.

Doctors know that the gestation period of a baby is comprised of 20 percent embryonic stage and 80 percent in fetal development.

The list is endless. In America, 20 percent of patients use 80 percent of the health care resources; 80 percent of the crimes in America are committed by 20 percent of the criminals; 80 percent of sales are produced by 20 percent of salesmen. Even in nature, brush-fires and earthquakes follow a similar mathematical pattern.

The historian J. Rufus Fears made an astounding statement that changed my concept of freedom. He said "freedom is NOT a universal value." Consider the implications of that statement. Doesn't every man desire to be free? Why do we fight wars? Why do mothers send their sons to die on the battlefield if not for freedom?

Yet the undeniable truth is that dictators could not exist without amassing an army of slaves and people to support him. Religious despots could not succeed without the contributions of those who are willing to be slaves.

Is it possible that the 80/20 rule is a natural phenomenon that applies to freedom? Is it possible that 80 percent of the population of any given country is prone to slavery? Some historians have suggested such.

In the early days of Christianity a group of Pharisees came down from Jerusalem, the headquarters of the 1st Century Church, to see what the Apostle Paul was doing. They had heard of his maverick ways and they felt it their God-given duty to rein in this apostate before he wrecked the church.

Paul went toe to toe with them. He referred to them as "false brothers [who] had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves." (Gal. 2:4) That's not the kind of talk one would expect one Christian to say about another, yet Paul says they weren't really brothers.

What strong words: "make us slaves"-one can almost see the veins stand out on his neck. He goes on, "We did not give in to them for a moment...." (verse 5) Good for Paul. He's one of the 20 percent.

Jesus was even stronger. One could say He was angry with the Pharisees who wanted to enslave the people. So Jesus said, "A slave has no lasting place in the family. But a son belongs to the family forever." (John 8:35) There is no way to avoid the meaning of what Jesus is saying-people of a slave mentality will not be in the Kingdom of God. If you thought Paul's statement was strong, it was mild by comparison.

On another occasion Jesus praised a group of people that will exist in the last days. He said that times would eventually become so bad that no one could survive except that He would intervene. What will cause Christ to intervene to save the world? "But because of God's chosen people, he has shortened it." (Mark 13:20)

Maybe those "chosen" people are part of the 20 percent who refuse to be enslaved because of their genuine love of freedom in Christ! Whoever they are-they are the vital few to whom the world owes its existence.

Until next time,

Jim O'Brien