Monday, December 6, 2010

What is fair?

In politics, there is a great hue and cry about making things fair and equal for everyone. The typical rallying cry is that the rich should be taxed more and we should provide for the poor. This way, everyone is equal it will be more fair. What this fails to take into account, though, is that it is not fair for anyone. It is not fair for the rich, obviously, as they are being treated negatively for no reason other than being rich. (Substitute "black" for "rich" and then see if you can follow the logical path.) And, in reality, it is not fair to the poor who are being disincentivized from succeeding as they feed from the breast of the government and thus will never have the opportunity to succeed (or fail) according to their abilities. Frankly, it does the same thing to the rich who will see little point to working hard when they will fail to enjoy the fruits of their labors.

This is not to argue that everything in life is fair and that everyone has the same opportunities - it is not and they do not. But if the desire is to make everything fair and equal, then it should be more important to create a fair and equal opportunity for everyone to succeed - not to punish people for being professionally and economically successful. Give children the tools they need to learn and to succeed. Give the perpetually disadvantaged the tools they need to achieve success. Those are the ways to grant some degree of an equal playing field upon which there is a degree of fairness. Do not establish policies that take from some and give to others in the name of fairness in the name of trying to establish an equality that cannot exist as propagated.

The reality is that nothing in life is fair. If life were fair, I would be better looking and have a lot more power (beyond that of the pen/keyboard). If life were fair, my family members would not suffer from illness. If life were fair, people would be smart enough to do the things they want in life. If life were fair, everyone would be happy with who they are and what they do. But life is not fair. The difference is with how we want to establish fairness - through the collective work and effort of a community or via governmental diktat? Government has its purpose and can do good (certainly the Civil Rights legislation of the 1960's stands as one of the best examples of this), but reliance on government to establish "fair and equal" is not the best option as government (and those who run it) will execute its policies on the basis of its survival. And history has shown that every government will set "fair" policies that help it to stay in power.

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