What's Fair

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:

  • Parents to ensure that their kids are not truant from school so that said kids have a chance to receive an education. If the kids don't attend school, make the parents pay more/receive less fed-forced charity.

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:

  • Overweight/obesity is a major public health issue. The office of the surgeon general "serves as America's Doctor by providing Americans the best scientific information available on how to improve their health and reduce the risk of illness and injury." The surgeon general chosen by BHO, Regina M. Benjamin, is, according to the definition she accepts and publishes, a health illiterate. Further, she admits that she is fat and is obviously without the bona fides to tell others how to "improve their health and reduce the risk of illness" regarding the major health threats we face.

  • Eric Hampton Holder, Jr. is the attorney general of the United States. Holder is pursuing a lawsuit alleging that "the state of Arizona's recently passed immigration law, S.B. 1070[,]" "unconstitutionally interferes with the federal government's authority to set and enforce immigration policy." Prior to filing, during a House Judiciary Committee meeting, Holder admitted to not having read the law, despite repeatedly voicing concerns about it, especially about "racial profiling." His statements must have been based on hearsay. An attorney general who intends to sue without the benefit of having read the law that is the subject of the threatened suit is an interesting choice. Holder's own fairness -- i.e., impartiality -- in performing as AG has been questioned, as when he "spoke of 'my people' and meant only a subset of Americans, it confirmed the suspicion of bias that he was trying to counter."

  • Timothy F. Geithner is secretary of the treasury. Geithner is a person who demonstrated an inability to properly do his own taxes even with the help of a mass-market consumer tax preparation software package used by people without a financial background. It would be expected that a person nominated for treasury secretary would be able to figure out how to do taxes. An argument in favor of Geithner's nomination is if tax simplification is intended. Then the standard of "If Tim can do it, it is simple enough" comes into play. I am not aware of this valid rationale for supporting Geithner having been posited by BHO or anyone in his administration.

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:

America's political system relies on the civility of its citizens -- "civility" not in the contemporary sense of mere politeness but according to an older meaning which a dictionary [link not in the original] close at hand defines as "deference or allegiance to the social order befitting a citizen." The wording of the definition is particularly apt in the American case. Civility is not obedience but rather "allegiance" and "deference" -- words with old and honorable meanings that are now largely lost. The object of these sentiments is not the government but a social order. And these things are required not of a subject but of a citizen.

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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