Matt HealeyMonday,9 September 2013

The Snap:

In any political or economic debate, it is inevitable that someone will say somethings like “We want to the other side to pay their fair share,” or, “We put a fair offer on the table.” The positioning of the language is straightforward enough. We are the “fair” ones and they are clearly the unethical ones that clearly hate children and puppies. Kittens too.

The Download:

I am sick of hearing what is unfair. The entire concept has become so misused that it no longer has any real meaning. Someone does something you don’t like — they are being unfair. You get out-negotiated or out-maneuvered, then the other side was unfair. Fair has become code for I didn’t get what I wanted. After all, I am a fair, ethical, person, so if I didn’t get what I wanted, then clearly the other side was being unfair.

It is time that we return to defining the concept of fair. A system is fair when everyone plays by the same agreed-upon rules. In a game like football this is easy, the rules are published and there are officials there to enforce them. So the games are fair. I am not saying players don’t try to cheat, they do. Sometimes they even get away with it, but the same rules and enforcement are there for everyone. It actually turns out that the same is true in almost every other aspect of American life. If you are a socialist destroyer of the economy, you may not like that North Carolina has drawn its congressional lines in such a way that it is almost impossible to win control of the state legislature. But the system is fair. The evangelical christian party of god won enough seats to redistrict. And they did. You may think they cheated, so you can appeal to the officials — in this case courts — but don’t tell me it isn’t fair. If you are a high net worth member of the evangelical christian party of god, then you may not like it that the poor don’t pay federal taxes, but the socialist destroyers of the economy won enough seats in the congress to ensure that the tax cuts on the rich expired. You can campaign on it and try to win those seats back, but don’t tell me it is unfair.

Let’s understand what fair is and stop using it to mean things we don’t like.

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