Skip to comments.Fairness and Justice
Posted on 02/11/2015 6:31:06 AM PST by Kaslin
Oxfam reports that the richest one percent of people in the world own 48 percent of the world's wealth. Many claim that we should be alarmed by income inequality because it hampers upward mobility. Others argue that because income is distributed so unevenly, justice and fairness require income redistribution. Let's look at fairness and justice.
What constitutes fairness and justice has been debated for centuries. Widespread agreement has proved to be elusive at best. However, I think that an important part of an intelligent discussion about fairness and justice is the recognition that knowing results of a process cannot establish whether there is fairness or justice.
Take a simple example. Suppose Tom, Dick and Harry play a weekly game of poker. The game's result is that Tom wins 75 percent of the time. Dick and Harry, respectively, win 15 percent and 10 percent of the time. Knowing the results of the game permits us to say absolutely nothing about whether there has been poker fairness or justice. Tom's disproportionate winnings may be a result of his being an astute player or a clever cheater.
To determine whether there has been poker justice, we must ask process questions. Was there obedience to neutral game rules, such as those of Hoyle's? Were the cards unmarked and dealt from the top of the deck? Did the players play voluntarily? If the answers to these questions are affirmative, there was poker justice, regardless of the outcome, including Tom's winning 75 percent of the time.
Similarly, a person's income is a result of something. Knowing that one person's yearly income is $500,000 and another's is $12,000 tells us nothing about economic justice or fairness. To determine whether there has been economic justice, one has to ask process questions. Most people -- including economists, much to their shame -- who discuss income inequality fail to acknowledge or make explicit that income is a result of something. As such, a result cannot be used to determine fairness or justice. To determine whether there has been economic justice or fairness, we must go beyond results and examine processes.
Let's look at a couple of examples, among hundreds, of processes that cause economic unfairness. Taxi owner-operators can earn an annual income of $70,000 or more. Many people can manage to buy a car and the necessary items to become an owner-operator for less than $30,000. Here's the unfairness: In order for someone to operate a taxi legally, many cities require the owner to purchase a license, or medallion. In Philadelphia, Chicago, Boston and New York, medallions cost between $350,000 and $700,000. The effect of these licensing requirements is to close the market to most prospective entrants and thereby create economic injustice.
There have been instances in which managers of Housing and Urban Development low-income housing projects have wanted to repair dilapidated units by employing residents to perform some of the unskilled work, such as pulling out unsalvageable parts of the building and assisting skilled craftsmen. However, the Davis-Bacon Act, which covers federally financed or assisted construction, requires that the workers be paid union wages. If high union wages must be paid, the manager is forced to hire only skilled laborers, very few of whom are residents of the project. That means these workers earn less. It is economic injustice to deny a person who is ready, willing and able to work the opportunity to do so.
There are hundreds, possibly thousands, of examples in which the economic game is rigged. Instead of focusing on what's claimed to be an unfair income distribution, we need to examine whether there is injustice in the rules of the economic game. But that's whistlin' "Dixie." Politicians receive large financial contributions from vested interests to write laws that rig the economic game.
I was shocked at the taxi licensing fees. Yowza. Now, I wonder how many of the 1% have the best lawyers out there to get this kind of legislation passed so there is no competition?
Other than that wondering, and believing the Word of God, it is not how much you accumulate or what you are given, but if you are loving God with your whole heart and your neighbor like yourself while you are making or spending all your money.
While that's true, it doesn't take into account, I think, human nature. One thing the Islamists seem to get, as with the communists, is that envy and/or the perception that one isn't getting their “fair share” is damned powerful. Powerful enough to lead people to rebel even against their own self interest. I
don't think this aspect of human nature, as it relates to preserving a capitalist society in an age of wide open communication and the clash of cultures, is properly appreciated by conservative writers and thinkers. It's not that the facts are wrong, but they don't work as much of a convincing argument with regard to the people who really need convincing it sometimes seems.
Good points in the article.
“Oxfam reports that the richest one percent of people in the world own 48 percent of the world’s wealth”
I answered an internet quiz about my income once to see what income percentile in the world I fell into. I was one of the wealthiest 1%. (I made a good salary now but not really that much at all considering I lived in SF bay area)
Then the quiz tried to make me feel guilty because millions of people in the world live on a dollar a day. What it didn’t mention is what they can do on that dollar. What one dollar will get you as far as standard of living has to include geographical data to be useful.
I live in TX now and live better than I did in SF bay area on 1/3 of my income. When I lived in CA the union liberals scoffed at TX wages and I had to constantly explain that to them. Some of the reasons for the differences are the reason mentioned in this article.
This country is unique because one is not stuck in the social class they were born into if they work hard, get an education, and make good choices. That’s how I grew up to think. I was taught personal responsibility, not getting a “fair share”.
An English boy and an American boy saw a new BMW drive by. The English said, “when I grow up I want to make sure no one can have nice cars like that”. The American said, “When I grow up I want to have a nice car like that”.
sorry but the poker analogy is lame...poker is a zero sum game so that’s just a redistribution via personal talent..
the wealth is not a real zero-sum redistribution...wealth is created it’s an art it’s a skill
A Michelangelo or Rembrandt or Beethoven create new things of great value that didn’t exist before..
there are people of great talent that great create wealth...
the whole point is hopefully we all create wealth.. value
.all our labors add to the world ...we do not redistribute wealth amongst the world its not zero sum
Freeper tophat9000 doesn’t agree with you. I do
I would not call the poker analogy lame - but it definitely is simplified. Perhaps even over simplified.
However, the author simplified the analogy in order to reach the economic illiterate, not to reach anyone who understand that wealth can be created.
Wealth is usually created with a lot of hard work, knowledge, ambition, etc.
The union leader I used to work for insisted that successful businessmen were just “lucky” and made money on the backs of labor. Some people are just happy to work for someone else. They don’t want to put the effort into acquiring more skills for better jobs or work long hours to start their own business. There is nothing wrong with that, society needs all kinds of people; but they don’t have a right to call the system “unjust and unfair”.
If the gov’t makes it too difficult for people to own or expand a business, That’s unfair to the people that just want to have a job.
I make enough money. Not much, but enough to eat well and buy a new guitar or bass every few years. 18 year old car, 10 year old Harley, but a wife I love, good health, no debts and very little stress in a “dead end” job. I’ve friends who make 5-10X what I do and they are no where nearly as happy, new beemer, 1.5mil house or no. My best friend from college makes 500K a year, but if one of his co worker made 550 he feels he’s “lost”.....
The reason poker is a very bad analogy is it zero sum.. no wealth is created or destroyed... it is pure redistribution.. and you average socialist communist will love this analogy to be accepted as the truth.. fairness to them is banning poker..because the weak are getting hustled by the strong
But capitalism is not poker...capitalism is the creation of wealth.. the growth of wealth..
the proper analogy would be the farm... you plant a seed you labor over it and it return more then you put it... it benefits all because you created something new.... it is not zero sum
What about the rake? The casino makes money off of poker.