The Myth Of Fairness

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“That’s not fair!”

How many parents have heard that exclaimed by one of their children?

What does “fairness” mean? I suppose the best place to find
out would to go to the dictionary. Dictionaries don’t actually give us
meanings; instead they just provide more words. Words that hopefully we’ll be
able to understand which will provide us with some sense of what others might
mean when they use a word. Webster’s Dictionary has a number of definitions
for the word “fair.” The one for the way we’re using the word here could be:

7. Characterized by frankness, honesty, impartiality, or
candor; open; upright; free from suspicion or bias;
equitable; just; — said of persons, character, or
conduct; as, a fair man; fair dealing; a fair statement.
“I would call it fair play.” –Shak.

I was taking a look at the Manifesto of the OAT Collective, self-described as “a
local autonomous body based in Toronto, Canada which serves and associates with
organized activists” and came across the word “fair” being used. Under their
9th point, their Manifesto says “We believe when all parties are represented,
equally and fairly, as part of a due democratic process, that conflict
resolution, aiming towards consensus, tends to sufficiently resolve crises, and
leave all parties content.”

Well, that all sounds nice and pleasant. So let’s discuss “equal and fair
representation.” Under what conditions would this state of representation ever

Manifestos or declarations that speak of fairness, equality and other ambiguous
states never really tell us how such a state could be arrived at. Of course,
we all want fairness, but our view of fairness is quite often much different
than someone else’s view of fairness. This is obvious – if it were not so,
there would be far fewer conflicts.

What these sorts of manifestos would do in reality is impose someone else’s
view of fairness upon others. Organizations which have
manifestos that include fairness are simply supporting change from one system
they view as being inequitable to another system that will be just as, if not more,

If I require representation for some conflict with another, and they only
available advocate I can find to represent me is someone that I intuitively
know will not do a good job of representation, should I be able to demand that
my adversary obtain a cloned copy of my advocate to ensure “fair and equal”

It seems that would be the only way “fairness,” in the sense that OAT and
other so-called activist organizations seems to mean it, would ever be

I’m all for “fairness.” But in four decades of trying to discover it, it seems
to be a rather mythical plane.

It’s not just activists groups that are fond of the word fairness. Remember
the Liberal Party’s “Red Book” of election promises? On monetary policy, the
Liberals promised “Fairness, simplicity, and harmonization should be key
objectives of tax policies” and “A Liberal government will replace the GST with
a system that generates equivalent revenues, is fairer to consumers and to small
business, minimizes disruption of small business, and promotes
federal-provincial fiscal cooperation and harmonization.”

The Criminal Code of Canada makes theft illegal in this country. Yet the same
Government that manages the Criminal Code, has also given itself the power to
arbitrarily take property from consumers, small businesses, and of course other
entities. All in the name of “fairness” of course. Try explaining that one
to your kids.

1 thought on “The Myth Of Fairness”

  1. You might want to look at something called “The Golden Rule”. Not that anyone (least of all Christians) follows it, but it might be useful. “the same Government that manages the Criminal Code, has also given itself the power to arbitrarily take property” Let’s forget that this Government might actually have been elected and that with the money it takes from you it provides highways and other infrastructure. Instead, let’s think of a voluntary tax system. Income tax, no you have to work to eat (unless you are from the lucky sperm club). Property tax. Hmmm, no I’ve got to live somewhere. Sales tax. That might work if you don’t tax necessities. But who is to decide what is a necessity. After all, I really need my plush loungechair to watch television. I know, let’s make foreigners pay for it. Why don’t we tax imports? It would be voluntary. If you don’t buy something made in China, you don’t pay the tax. Oh wait, NAFTA and the WTO say that’s a no-no. Looks like there’s no feasible tax system. I’m glad that we don’t need government, because market failures (monopoly, externalities) don’t exist in my world. I guess I’ll just return to my fantasy world where I can bitch about the government and pick my nose…

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