What’s Fair?

August 28, 2016

It’s popular these days to focus on one’s “fair share.”

Whether it’s getting one’s “fair share” of stuff or getting someone else to do their “fair share,” there seems to be a growing concern over remedies of “unfairness.” One might even say there is a “fairness obsession.”

But what is “fair?” Who determines what is “fair,” the people trying to be popular so they can be or stay in charge? Are there any human beings who can be fair without bias, self-interest, or corruption?

Are people more likely to achieve “fairness” if they get it themselves or if they get it from someone else? Which would they value more?

Why are we willing to sacrifice fairness if it promotes our cause, say in journalism?

Which is more fair, income equality or freedom? Is making things “more fair” enough of a justification for taking some of another’s freedom?

We all know that life is not fair, but why do we think we can make it that way?

Is material possession a good measure of “fairness?” Is it a good measure of anything?

Are greed and envy motivators or rationalizations for seeking “fairness” at the expense of someone who has more? Why are we so much less concerned about “fairness” for those who have less than we do?

Is promoting “fairness” for others a way of assuaging our own guilt? Do we acknowledge our own extreme prosperity as compared to the world?

When I was a kid, it used to bother me a lot that my little brother wouldn’t do his share of the chores the three of us boys were assigned (raking, shoveling, etc.). It drove me crazy that he got away without contributing his share. It wasn’t “fair!” It also made me furious when someone got more of something than I would. I was obsessed with making sure my brothers didn’t get too much of something – even stupid things like cereal or orange juice (yes, there’s a story there).

But as I matured, I began to see that I was wasting my time and energy with my fairness obsession. I slowly realized that my own accomplishment and contentment had nothing to do with what others got or provided. It actually felt better to do more when I stopped worrying about what was “fair.” It was better for me to do more work or get less ice cream. And it helped me in other parts of life. By doing more with less help, I discovered the value of independence and hard work, which led to feelings of competence and then confidence.

The notion of “fairness” somehow was planted in my brain (probably envy). But my concept of “fairness” was an impairment to my own happiness and fulfillment. It gave me something to blame for not getting what I wanted, instead of going out and getting it.

Now, it does not bother me one bit that there are multi-millionaires and even multi-billionaires with far more than I will ever have or even see. The world doesn’t owe me a thing.

Where I used to think that inequality (of stuff, not of standing before the law) was “unfair” when I was a kid, the only real unfairness I see now is when people are abused, wrongfully imprisoned, killed, or otherwise deprived of the rights endowed by our Creator. I don’t think it’s “unfair” at all that  people have far more talent, or that I’m paralyzed. It’s just the way it is. And even though it’s frustrating, I don’t think it’s “unfair” that Sprint jacked with my smart phone and won’t fix it (I have the freedom to go elsewhere).

Next time someone says that something is “unfair,” think about whether it’s an impingement on their life, liberty, or pursuit of happiness. Or do they just envy something?

Send Feedback to the Editor

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *