Whenever a politician or pressure group wants to reduce liberty, expand spending on programs, or otherwise curtail individual rights as embodied by our Constitution, they resort to the word “fairness.”
Don’t want higher taxes? That’s not fair. Don’t want free college for all? That’s not fair. Don’t want even more socialized medicine, and even more federalized public education which turns out compliant, unthinking and borderline-illiterate young adults who can’t hold jobs? That’s not fair.
People who oppose your political candidate spending a lot of money to make their case? That’s not fair. People allowed to own guns? That’s not fair.
It’s like little kids in the sandbox. But we’re supposed to be grown adults. And we wonder why political discourse has gone so low.
We also wonder why corrupt politicians rise to the top. How could this happen? It’s not by accident. These politicians are corrupt. Most people know it, and they don’t like these awful, creepy people we keep installing in high office. But these people are good at peddling a mistaken idea of fairness. That’s why they get away with it all.
“Fair” is a valid, rational concept. But not the way it’s used today. Today, it’s used as a form of emotional reasoning. That’s why we’re in the mess we’re in.
Fairness refers, essentially, to justice. Justice means giving to a person what he or she is due. The problem with saying it’s “only fair” to give people free stuff from the government is that government isn’t actually giving the free stuff away. Government is using its power of taxing, borrowing, manipulating currency and policing to force some to give to others … in the name of “fairness.” The people who demand that we do so are not asked to defend their claim that some should be forced to do so. In practice, those who produce provide for those who cannot or will not produce; it’s legally imposed charity. Some have more rights than others. Therein lies the inherent unfairness of the way society works today.
When we look at deficits, unsustainable debt, bankrupt entitlement programs, cronyism in Washington DC, mediocre public schools, dysfunctional Medicaid and Medicare, and all the rest, we’re merely viewing the symptoms. These symptoms cannot be fixed by better management or competence. The mess created by all these programs is what happens when you practice profound unfairness and injustice on a massive scale.
People are trained to think with their hearts, rather than their heads. It happens in families and relationships too. “That’s not fair,” a husband or wife will say, when not getting what he or she feels entitled to expect. Ditto for kids, parents, or other kinds of relationships.
But what are we actually entitled to expect from one another? Justice, rationally defined. This means honesty, integrity and the right to be left alone. Rational people don’t expect — and don’t even want — others to do things they don’t wish to do. If you made a legal or ethical commitment to do something and now you’re not delivering on your promise, that’s one thing; but merely because I want you to provide something for me, something I believe you can and should provide, does not make me entitled to it.
Think about it. You don’t go to your neighbor’s house and say, “Hey, you have more cars than you need. I can’t make payments on my own mortgage. Sell one of those cars and give me the money. I need and deserve it. And it’s only fair.” You’d never do this, and you probably don’t consider it fairness. But this is precisely what we empower our elected officials to do, when we send them to Washington DC. And we wonder why these politicians are the unethical, unaccountable pull-peddling crony socialists most of them are.
Fairness and justice are valid and important concepts which apply only to voluntary forms of association. The only obligation you have to a stranger is to leave him or her alone; to do no harm. That’s it. Any other obligations you incur arise from commitments and agreements you willingly take on. Government has no right imposing obligations toward other people on you, aside from the obligation to leave them alone.
If our government and society are to become more fair, we have to get rid of the idea of “fairness” … as we know it. Soon.
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