February 5, 2012
What's FairBy Michael Applebaum, MD
On January 24, 2012, POTUS delivered his State of the Union address.
The word "fair" appeared 8 times, either followed by words such as "shot," "share," and "play" or preceded by "un-" or "not."
The predominant domestic policy use of "fair" was in relation to those who allegedly have contributing more to those who allegedly have not. The scheme, broadly speaking, was for involuntary contributions to be made via taxation.
"Fairness" as policy is problematic. Policies that are consistent and predictable (or with little wiggle room) are preferred.
Consider: with everything else being equal, what type of consumer would choose a store with a return policy that differs from one item to the next over a store whose return policy is the same for all items?
One person's fairness is someone else's unfairness. For example, one may find it unfair that good-looking people tend to get higher-paying jobs than the ugly. The ugly and their supporters may advocate for an ugly (unfair-looking) premium or legal recourse to level the paying field. Oh...they already have.
Others may consider it fair for:
In 2011, the Heritage Foundation, using government data, examined all poor families with children with an amenity score of 16 to determine which items appeared most frequently in these homes.
§ These homes typically had both air conditioning and a personal computer.
§ For entertainment, they typically had cable or satellite TV, three color televisions, a DVD player, a VCR, and a video game system, such as an Xbox or PlayStation.
§ In the kitchen, they had a refrigerator, a stove and oven, a microwave, and an automatic coffee maker.
§ Other amenities included a cell phone, a cordless phone, and a clothes washer.
These points, and the many others that can be generated, fall under the heading of "To Be Fair, What Those Who Receive Money from the Rest of Us -- Not in Return for Products Purchased or Services Rendered, or as a Gift, but from What Most of Us Earned by Our Efforts and Has Been Taken from Us by Governments -- Can Do to Lessen the Burden We Shoulder in Supporting Them."
In addition to the matter of no one demanding "fairness" from the recipients of government-forced munificence -- i.e., largesse under duress -- there is also the issue of what qualifies POTUS to determine what is fair for the country.
And if his overt racism and sexism are inadequate to disqualify him as the arbiter of what's fair, then clearly his decision-making opens him to question. As examples:
Perhaps it is time for the 46% of households who pay no federal income taxes, the 45.8 million who receive food stamps, the "about half of the people [who] are getting something from government," and those receiving other government-forced perks too numerous to enumerate to be fair to "the other half [who] are paying for it."
Richard Herrnstein put it thusly:
It is past time for those who take from the rest to be fair and behave as citizens, with allegiance and deference to the social order.
What a concept.
Michael Applebaum is a physician and attorney practicing in Chicago. He believes that "fair" is not an inherent quality of life.
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