Much of the angst in the nation and the world concerns fairness, or alternatively, JUSTICE. This
can be a complicated subject in philosophy and much has been written about it in every conceivable context. I here list some of the numerous current issues that have fairness at their core:
- Immigration, both legal and illegal.
- The location of mosques in the U.S.
- The Palestinian issue.
- Destruction of Afghan’s primary money crop, poppy fields.
- Compensation of people and businesses harmed by the BP oil disaster in the Gulf.
- The U.S. financial-crisis bailouts.
- Delay or reduction of Social Security benefits for current and future retirees.
- Affirmative-action labor issues.
- Tax cheats.
- The Estate Tax.
- CEO compensation.
I could go on, but there’s no end to it of course. Fairness or justice is at the heart of virtually every political problem there is, and the point is this: Government efforts to achieve fairness have, in my opinion, become counter-productive. People have become unhappier and government has gotten larger and more inefficient. The two parties
now oppose each other out of pure ideology and the common good goes begging. Government spending, as we all know, has gotten completely out of control. (Compensation of government workers has now far outgrown that of the private sector, a symptom of bloated government.) We have institutionalized the concept of poverty, for example. Poverty is defined numerous ways and ranges from about $365 a year in the Third World to about $18,000 a year in the U.S., but its definition is largely subjective.
A principal problem with defining and compensating for poverty is that money is fungible. Fungible is a word that should be part of the active vocabulary of every person who wants to discuss money. It means mutually interchangeable, as in, “money that is raised for one purpose can easily be used for another”. If government supplies welfare aid to help a poor person and that person manages their meager resources poorly, is that fair to taxpayers? If they waste money on cigarettes, is that fair to taxpayers? Is a cell phone a necessity? If you give someone food stamps, how does government track the fungible money that is thereby freed-up?
Thomas Sowell had a very good editorial in today’s (8/15/10) Joplin Globe. I found it online HERE. It is about a lot of the silliness that
happens in the never-ending search for fairness in matters of race. Yes, there has been lots of unfairness, but the adjustments never end. Blacks have affirmative action, Native Americans have casinos and tax-free cigarettes (and, apparently, their own “nations” – I’ve never understood that one.) (Strangely, Asian-Americans don’t seem to need much help.) When will Martin Luther King’s dream come true, a time when we will each be judged by the quality of our character?
I have no doubt that, no matter how big government gets, we will never achieve fairness. It is a mirage, at least in the popular sense. The best we can hope for are those rights specified in the Constitution, the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is important to note that there is no guarantee of success in the Constitution, nor of equality of wealth, only equality of opportunity. And, since we are all born unequal in every other way, including abilities, intelligence, inheritance, health, and looks (one of the prime factors in American culture), we should really be, not necessarily happy, but resigned to settle for just opportunity. Equality by government in material matters has already been tried. That is called Communism and it looks like Cuba.
We must limit the size of government. If we do not, it will grow until it smothers all of us in its vain attempt to achieve perfect fairness. The battle is worthy, but success would bankrupt us.
I say, vote for the person who stands for a smaller government and a balanced budget, and then hold them to it. It is our best hope.