Fairness?

This morning I was ranting on Twitter and I tried to make my point through several consecutive tweets. 140 characters is not a lot of room to relay a big thought and one follower, @dogwalkblog took me to task on this point. He is a great blogger, but he has a history of media experience behind him. I have passion, this blog and 8000 tweets behind me, and I think I have become a better blogger for having gotten "out there" and expressed myself.

So, with that said, I will make my point about how I disagree with the President in what is fair.

President Obama opined in his State of the Union address earlier this week that he wants to make things fair so that all people have a fair shake at whatever it is they want a fair shake at. Jobs? Income? Health? Free throws? 4 minute mile? Marriage? I don't know...

Let me start out by saying LIFE IS NOT FAIR and thank God for that fact. If it was fair, virtually no one would push to exceed and succeed, because there would be no reward for doing more than is required to just get by. Fairness in results means that no one stands out from any other.

But, if he was talking about fair play, I might just have to agree with him. Rules are created by societies to act as boundaries for behavior. Rules are also constantly changing. Some rules are not fair. Some rules are created by leaders to "guide" individuals toward a desired result and some rules are made to be beneficial for one group and unfair for another. Forty or fifty years ago, there were a bunch of unfair rules for minorities and women. Now, most of those rules have not only been overturned, but have even gone further toward unfairness to the "majority" that benefited in previous generations.

One statement I made on Twitter is that business is pretty much fair for those just starting out. The rules for new businesses are quite well defined in the US and just about anyone can start up and make a go at it. I would argue that it is easier now to start a business than at any time in the past. With everyone having access to a computer, a phone, email, fax and credit cards, there is little that can stop a determined person from owning a business.

Some would make the case that trying to get a bank loan to start a business is unfair. I would imagine that any poor and/or minority individual would think that the deck was stacked against him/her because they asked their banker for a $50,000 loan to expand their business. When the banker turned them down, it had to be because the borrower is a (fill in the blank) and the banker is prejudiced.

Well, I am a white male and it took me putting together a large business loan years ago to realize that banks don't take risk. They may do risky things, but they will not take a risk on YOU without collateral to back up every penny of what they lend you. I was taught, like I suspect most of us were, that banks loaned money just like your Mom and Dad might lend you $1000 to buy your first car. WRONG. The only way that would happen is if you put your $1000 baseball card collection up for collateral. Today, if you cannot get a loan, it is probably because you have nothing to back up the amount of the loan.

Truism: you have to have money (assets) to borrow money. In other words, most of the people that can quickly borrow money don't really need it and the laws are written such that it is advantageous for them to do so. Not fair is it?

(Recession exception: currently banks are so uptight because of regulations, fear or lack of capital, that even if you are creditworthy and have collateral you may not get a loan and that just isn't fair.)

Even if you are really smart, you can fail miserably at business. If you have little education, you can still make it in business. Is that fair?

After 3 years of preschool, 12 years of primary education, 4 years of college and 2-4 years of post-graduate work, you can still wander around looking for the right job. Sure, you could work for something beneath your education and preparation, but that wouldn't be fair would it?

I could go on and on with examples of fairness, or lack thereof, but you get the drift.

The key to my argument against Barack Obama helping make things fair is that I don't really trust those that will be assigned to make the new rules. Do you? It is one thing to come up with a game and write down a page or two of rules then start playing the game. It is another thing to stack layer upon layer of rules and new rules followed by exceptions and carve-outs, then being told "Enjoy the game" knowing that if you violate the rules you could end up in jail or with a huge fine. How fair is that?

I will close with this immutable truth: there will always be a small group that sets the rules and those rules will usually favors themselves. When a disaffected group rises up and unseats the ruling class, they will soon become the privileged ruling class and the cycle will continue. You can NEVER depend upon benevolence to temper power, especially in groups.

If your primary method to achieve fairness is to take from one group to give to another, the haves will not be happy. They will do all they can to stop the taking (including changing the rules in the middle of the game.) However, if you raise yourself up and earn what you make or accomplish, you may soon find yourself in the good company of the haves and your closely held view on fairness may change whether you want to admit it or not.

Changing your attitude, outlook and opinion as you mature? That just isn't fair to others, is it?

Comments

Rufus Dogg said…
Life is not fair and attempts to make it fair almost always results in unintended consequences, especially when you trust the attempts to politicians who tend to want to govern based on the myths of how life is rather than what it REALLY is.

I live one foot in Europe and one foot in America. Neither is right or wrong but simply different ways of looking at life. Europeans -- even the most conservatives ones I know -- mostly have a view that what affects you, affects me. They have learned through a lot of practice and history that human beings of all means and classes need respect. When they feel disrespected, bad things happen. They become passive-agressive, they lie, cheat and eventually revolt. And they don't generally revolt against the government but rather the "other" they have learned to hate for being unfair. I think this is the fundamental case President Obama is making in his call for fairness.

It really works both ways. When the rich feel like they are being set upon, they feel disrespect. When the poor feel like they are being denied basic human rights, they feel disrespect. It all starts with the language we use to describe each other. For better or worse, we are all in this community called the United States of America together. What affects you, affects me. By accident of birth, we are here together. Each of us did not choose that. We do, however, choose how to treat each other from that point. When we create language that pits us against each other for political, monetary or social power, unfairness erupts, whether it is real or not. Perceived disrespect creates real consequences.

I don't know what the tactical solutions are, but I know the first step to eliminating "unfairness" is to stop the divisive language that divides more than unites us. Our political parties, our social classes and our financial classes may be competitive with each other, but we are opponents, not enemies. We should be using these statuses to make each of us stronger, not tear each other down. Let's not stoop to mocking words like "fairness," "hope" or "change." They are the foundation upon which mutual respect is built. Language is what makes us innately human. It matters deeply.

The rich need poorer classes to buy their goods and services, to make their stocks worth anything, to keep the value of the currency afloat. If the dollar plummets, nobody cares how many you have.. but they do care if you gave respect to the store clerk or the waitress. They do care if you treated him with fairness.
Robert said…
"Fair" is that I get what I want from you and you don't have a say in it.

"Fair" is when I don't have to work and still get all of the opportunities (read as 'money') that all of those "privileged" get.

"Fair" is when I always get money back from the IRS even if I haven't worked a day during that year.

"Fair" is when I get my guvmint check and can cash it at the local liquor store.

"Fair" is when you pay for my food, drink, college, car, gasoline, electricity, and drugs.

And this fairness applies to anyone who believes the big government should be involved in all of your daily life activities.

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