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The Headache
Discussion of Issues that Make Your Head Hurt
"Fairness" is an ideology that prevents societies from obtaining the maximum net positive benefit for all of the people
Published 01/27/21 by arakouzo [0 Comments]

The modern Western world, especially the United States, has been largely defined by the concept of equality. The United States was practically founded on the concept of equality. One of its most famous documents proclaims that it is a self-evident truth that all men are created equal. However, “equal” is one of those funny words that is very difficult to interpret, because no two people are born the same.

Some people are born with innate traits that will make them athletic, good-looking, and successful in school. Others are born with deformities and mental deficiencies and will need caretakers their entire lives. And everything in between.

Some are born into wealthy families and will want for nothing and achieve some level greatness even if their potential is merely average and their families have to buy it for them. Some are born into abject poverty and will never have the opportunity to amount to anything even if they have the innate potential to become great. And everything in between.

“Equal” was originally intended to mean something like “equal opportunity under the law”. Two people may not achieve the same things with their lives, but they both were to have the same opportunity to do so “under the law”. They may not necessarily have the same opportunity in reality, but as long as the government was not the one suppressing opportunities in some people or granting extra opportunities to others, it was perfectly fine, legal, and expected that some people would have better opportunities than others.

In modern times, the culture has shifted away from people being merely equal toward concepts of fairness. Social justice. If somebody is born into lucky circumstances and somebody else is born into unlucky circumstances, through no fault of the government, society, or the lucky person, that is unfair and some type of remedy is in order to diminish the privileges the lucky person was born into and add opportunities to the unlucky person’s life. Essentially, this socially just approach to life requires the opposite of “equal opportunity under the law”. It calls upon the government to artificially suppress some opportunities and artificially provide others, creating unequal opportunity under the law in an attempt to equalize the opportunity that occurs in reality.

Unfortunately, the modern obsession with a fair society unfailingly leads to a worse society for everybody.

Take this hypothetical situation: The government will give 1,000 dollars, immediately, with no strings, to every poor person in the United States. The government will also give 100,000 dollars immediately, with no strings, to every rich person in the United States.

This situation would result in every single person experiencing a net positive. Every single person would have more money today than yesterday. But the “unlucky” people in this situation (the ones who receive 1,000 dollars with no strings attached but still consider themselves unlucky) would be furious. How dare someone else, especially someone else with more opportunities and privileges in life, be given more? This is not fair! The unlucky people would rather nobody get any money at all than allow the lucky people to benefit more. They would rather a worse situation for everybody where nobody gets any net positive than an unfair situation where everybody gets a positive benefit but some people get more benefit than others.

When the United States government declared that it would be giving financial stimulus checks to people impacted by the Covid pandemic, the first thing the unlucky voices shouted in unison was not “Awesome! Thanks!” It was “The rich people had better not get anything. They don’t need this.”

If the government had begun handing out checks to every single citizen, regardless of whether the citizens are lucky, unlucky, rich, poor, in need, or not in need, they could have started immediately. Instead, time and administrative costs were spent deciding what the rules should be and who should and should not get this benefit. Then, even more time and administrative costs were spent implementing these rules, going through piles of tax documents to determine who does and does not qualify under the rules. The result may have been more “fair”, because people who did not “need” the money were not awarded it. But this result came at a greater administrative cost, and required those who were in need to wait months and months for this benefit. A worse outcome for everybody than the net positive that would have occurred if everybody had simply received the benefit, all to make sure that those who were already lucky did not benefit.

As schools began to reopen throughout the country, parents were given the choice whether to allow their children to return to the classroom in spite of the risks associated with the pandemic, or whether to continue allowing their children to attend school remotely from home. The first thing the unlucky voices shouted in unison was not “Awesome! More options!” It was “They had better make sure teachers provide the exact same identical education to all students and that the ones who are present in school do not get a single benefit over the ones who are staying home!”

With great time and administrative costs, school districts and teachers had to devise policies and practices that would be “fair” and somehow enable teachers to provide identical educations to all students despite non-identical circumstances. Instead of having separate educational curriculums depending on the students’ presence or absence from the classroom, with the goal of maximizing every student’s outcome, time and cost were wasted ensuring that the curriculums are identical, so that teachers may teach to their web cameras rather than to the students sitting in front of them, while students in classrooms spend the entire day on electronic devices. Great care is taken to ensure that no special benefit exists for students who attend school in person. The outcome was a worse education for all students, all to make sure that some people did not benefit more than others.

Today, it is looking like the pandemic may finally be on the way out, as many pharmaceutical companies are coming out with vaccines.But the first thing the unlucky voices shouted in unison wasn’t, “Awesome! Let’s start vaccinating everybody!” It was, “We need to figure out a fair system for who gets this vaccine first and who doesn’t need it yet. We should give it to old people and sick people and underserved communities and people with certain jobs first!”

And once again, great time and administrative costs have been incurred coming up with rules and systems for who does and does not receive this benefit. Many locations that have received the vaccine have used only a small percentage of what they have been given, because they are only permitted to distribute it to those who qualify under the rules. Many have even had to discard doses from containers that have been opened or taken off of refrigeration because they were unable to locate enough individuals who qualify under the rules to receive it.

Rather than simply distributing the vaccine to everybody who is able to secure an appointment, which would benefit some lucky people while other unlucky people would have to wait, the nation’s obsession with figuring out how to be “fair” has resulted in a system that is worse for everybody.

Those who are obsessed with fairness are not out to benefit those in need. They are out to screw those who are lucky. Recall the hypothetical above: The government will give 1,000 dollars, immediately, with no strings, to every poor person in the United States. The government will also give 100,000 dollars immediately, with no strings, to every rich person in the United States. Those who are obsessed with fairness would gleefully deny that 1,000 dollars to every poor person in the nation, just to stop the lucky from getting a benefit.

Fairness is an ideology that prevents societies from obtaining the maximum net positive benefit for all of the people. Fairness would rather see everybody suffer equally than everybody benefit, but some more than others.

Tip arakouzo for their post.
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Politics? Relationships? Religion? Sex? Constipation? Society is full of issues that make our heads hurt, our stomachs turn, and make all of us just plain tired.