By definition, fairness is the condition of being just or impartial. Fairness relies upon people determining what is or is not fair. This is true in any situation where the term fairness is applied. My definition of fairness may not be the same as someone else’s definition of fair. Numerous factors influence the concept of fairness. Ultimately, fairness is an abstract concept subject to many definitions that may vary under differing circumstances.
To a certain degree, parents employ the concept of fairness in child rearing. Parents are generally fair in many material things such as clothes, toys, and bedroom furniture. At snack time parents usually give the same number of cookies to each child. It is the parent’s prerogative to generally be fair or not; according to the parents definition of fair.
Consider the following: two parents with three children. Parents are cutting pieces of cake for each child. The parents plunge the knife into the cake. Three pieces are cut. Simultaneously, all three children begin clamoring for the largest piece of cake. They all see one piece is larger than the others. So, which of the three children gets the largest piece of cake?
The parents created their own dilemma. However, the parents justify the largest piece of cake will go to the oldest child. The parents used arbitrary rationale to determine which child would receive the largest piece of cake. According to the parents it was fair; however according to the two children that got smaller pieces of cake it was not be fair. The parents applied the concept of fairness AFTER the outcomes were known; therefore fairness was entirely arbitrary.
Consider an alternative. Have one child cut the cake and let the other two children pick their piece of cake. It is in the cutters best interest to cut equal size pieces. If the cutter cuts one big piece and two smaller pieces, or two big pieces and one small piece, most likely the cutter will be left with the smallest piece.
In this scenario, each person’s self interest resolved the question of fairness. It was not the parent’s definition of fairness, which may not be fair by someone else’s definition of fair. Fairness applied after the outcomes are known is arbitrary, regardless of whose definition of fairness is used. Each child’s self-interest resulted in the fairest outcome.
How does the concept of fairness apply to government and civil society?
Under our system of governance, fairness has no legitimate role when applied after the outcomes are known. Once the outcomes are known, applying the concept of fairness is always arbitrary and subjective. The ruling class uses the concept of fairness to further their political ideology, advance an agenda, and secure votes for the next election cycle. The ruling class and many citizens conflate fairness with equality or justice.
Equality is a basic premise of civil society. The Declaration of Independence states that all men are created equal. At birth we are all similar and we are all endowed with certain unalienable rights by our very existence. We are all equal to choose our course in life, enjoy the blessings of personal and economic liberty, and pursue our dreams. The consequences of our choices — the outcomes — are unequal and will always be unequal. Individuals freely make choices with varying results in prosperity, success, and happiness. Some will be happier than others. Some will be more successful. Some will be more prosperous.
The Constitution embodies equality in justice. All men are equal before the law. The most humble person and the most powerful person are equal before the law. The richest and poorest are equal before the law. The Constitution created a more perfect union and by doing so established the rule of law. We are not a union of men where man makes laws he sees fit. The rule of law is a higher authority establishing the legal and moral framework of governance ensuring our natural rights are not abridged or denied, as well as the system of jurisprudence which protects our personal and economic liberty, and ensures equality before the law. The system of justice was established fairly because it is just and impartial, and the system of justice was established before any outcomes were known.
Often the outcomes of our individual choices form the basis for the concept of fairness. Because the outcomes are unequal, the concept of fairness is employed to manipulate the natural course of events. The ruling class use this carrot and stick tactic to manipulate and deceive the people.
In today’s world the ruling class employs tactics to divide citizens. For instance, class warfare is used to create animosity between the rich and the poor. Class warfare is the basis to justify progressive taxation and redistribution schemes. The ruling class attempts to make sensible what is ultimately nonsensical. The concept of fairness is used to appeal to our sensibilities even though arbitrary discretion is applied to manipulate outcomes. The notion of fairness is applied by the ruling class to vilify and punish success. We constantly hear “the rich need to pay their fair share”.
The ruling class decides what is fair, and the notion of fairness is used to further political agendas. An appeal is made to support the idea that those earning a million dollars or more per year should pay more in taxes than someone earning fifty thousand dollars per year. A tax system equally applied to all is non-discriminatory and those with higher incomes would clearly pay more in taxes than those with lower incomes. A ten percent flat tax would result in someone earning one million dollars paying one hundred thousand dollars in taxes while the person earning fifty thousand dollars would by five thousand dollars in taxes.
Fairness established before-hand and from what is known as original position can be just and impartial. Fairness applied to outcomes is unjust, partial, and arbitrary. Moreover, the ruling class applies the concept of fairness after the outcomes are known as a political tactic to divide the people, and pit one so-called class of people against another class of people. By dividing the people, the ruling class knows we’ll never unite to restrain a runaway federal government.
The ruling class uses their discretion and arbitrary power to discriminate against citizens. The ruling class cuts the income tax cake to ensure the highest income earners pay a disproportionate share of taxes relative to the lowest income earners. This is how the ruling class applies their notion of fairness; by laying claim to property rightfully created by one person and giving property to others that did absolutely nothing to deserve the property. But the tax burden is not distributed equally. The ruling class uses force and coercion to discriminate against some citizens while benefitting other citizens. When the ruling class arbitrarily decides who to punish and who to reward we are no longer equal under the law. Likewise property rights are violated which abridges or denies our natural right to economic liberty.
Remember, we are all equal and endowed with unalienable rights. As with the cake cutting scenario where one child cuts the cake and the other children choose the pieces the same approach must be applied to all people. If all citizens did not know their race, heritage, age, gender, whether they’d be wealthy or poor, or any detail about themselves, and had to devise a tax system that, when applied to all, would be fair; what system of taxation would people create? Citizens must then decide how to cut the income tax cake before knowing what slice of the tax burden they’d have to pay. Everyone would have to live with the outcome; not knowing if you’d be rich or poor, whether the burden would be paid by your generation or the next or how it would apply to you personally. It is in your self-interest to develop a tax system that is fair to everyone starting from this original position.
Be very cautious of anyone in the ruling class that talks about something being fair or the concept of fairness after the outcomes are already known. This is a sure sign the person is trying to score political points with someone or some group. Be assured, whatever solution is offered it is anything but fair.