Do you ever have allergic reactions to words? I do. The ones that usually make me itch are the pseudo-intellectual trendy expressions like “gravitas” or “meme,” but lately the word that’s been giving me hives is a simple old Anglo-Saxon word – “fair.” In fact when it’s coupled with another old word, “share,” it makes my skin positively crawl. It’s an expression a 4-year-old would use and demonstrates about the same level of economic awareness. What’s worse, it’s our president who’s using it.
It’s true that fairness is a value buried in the hearts of all decent people; even small children are deeply aware of its importance. When my youngest granddaughter was little more than a year old she expressed her sense of outraged justice one day when she saw her older sister enjoying a lollypop. They’d both been given one the night before and wise Julia had saved some of hers for the next day. Little Violet hadn’t planned that well and had finished hers off before bed. When her mother told her no, she couldn’t have another one, her eyes filled with tears, her lower lip quivered and with great indignation she said her first sentence – “Julia lolly.”
Would it have been fair for their mom to take Julia’s sucker away from her and give it to Violet? Would it have been fair for her to give Violet another one? Of course not. And it wouldn’t have been wise either. That baby girl needed to learn that fairness is connected not with what one has at any given moment. Fairness is about what one does. Fairness has never been about stuff per se; it has always been about just recompense for efforts made, talents used, ideas realized, wise decisions made. Sometimes that results in stuff, sometimes just in satisfaction and recognition. Fairness is about rewarding the good and punishing the bad. It is about good and evil.
To deny that is to deny reality. To say, as our conniving president often does, that the rich have to pay their “fair share’ is no different from a toddler crying about Johnny hogging the toys. Here’s the problem: we stock playrooms with a finite number of Barbies and Matchbook cars and a finite number of children, hence concerns arise amongst the kids about who gets what. If a person never develops a more mature, sophisticated idea about economics, one continues to think that fairness = stuff and there’s never enough stuff. This is called zero-sum economics.
If one grows up, one begins to understand that fairness is a cause and effect phenomenon.
· I work hard = I get stuff.
· I pick up my room = I get my allowance.
· I save my sucker for the next day = I get to enjoy it longer.
Then we learn that there is no limit to stuff. I know that’s a shocking idea, but wealth can be created almost ex nihilo and those who learn how to create it have a right to it. They are the cause; wealth is the effect.
Let me give you an example: A man (we’ll call him Will) writes a book, a wonderful story that mesmerizes everyone who reads it. He created this story out of nothing. He sells it to a publishing house that produces it – they make it out of paper, which someone else made out of wood pulp, which someone else raised in a tree farm. Already this make-believe story has produced jobs for hundreds of people. Then Will’s book is transported, set out in shop windows and sold. More jobs, more wealth. Then Hollywood gets in the act and, well, you get the picture. Something out of nothing – nothing but effort and imagination.
Now, Obama says Will is supposed to give a greater proportion of his money to the government because it’s his “fair share.” Did he do something illegal that he’s being fined for? No. Does he use more of the government’s services than anyone else? No – he just sits there in front of his computer and writes stories that please people. Then why does Obama think Will’s “share” should be higher than anyone else’s? Why did Woodrow Wilson think so a hundred years ago? Because Will has more. We’re back to the playroom again. In spite of the fact that he’s been creating more toys, he’s not allowed to actually have more toys. Explain to me how that has anything to do with fairness.
What’s even worse is that the wealth we’re taking from Will is not just being used to fight battles and help those in dire need. No decent person wants out of those obligations. Will’s money goes to the government and as we’ve seen lately with the GSA scandal, Solyndra, the Secret Service guys, and lavish presidential vacations, the government is up to no good. They’ll give just enough of Will’s money to his fellow citizens to buy votes, and then they’ll use the rest of his money to vacation in Hawaii or fly off to Spain. Where is fairness in that?
If I thought that President Obama and his crew were really confused about the meaning of “fair” I’d send him this post and save the rest of you the trouble, but he knows that he’s just pandering to the lowest lusts of those who find envy more attractive than actually producing something themselves. He’s just assuaging the guilt of those who aren’t comfortable with their success, providing an avenue for them to feel charitable without having to be charitable. This has nothing to do with fairness; it has to do with power.
Which gets us back to the playroom. Do you remember from your childhood the bossy little girl who wasn’t really interested in the toys, but wanted to control everything that happened? She tattled, and whined and pushed other children whenever the grownups weren’t looking. She’d grab someone’s doll and then accuse another child of stealing --anything just to feel like she was in control. Washington is full of those little “girls” and nothing about them speaks of fairness.
Fairness, though we heartily desire it, does not grow well in human soil because 1) we tend to be selfish, and 2) we do not have all the facts. God can be perfectly fair -- For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. (Romans 5:19) – because he is totally unselfish and perfectly omniscient – He knows all the facts, all the thoughts, all the actions of everyone.
We don’t have that capacity and shouting about it on campaign tours doesn’t fix that. Let’s just consider one thing – every person who lives in this country (action) should pay one person’s worth of taxes (result). That’s as close to actual fairness as we’re going to get. Yes there are some complications with that, but if necessary revenue is all we’re after, the kinks will work out. If you don’t like that then you’re not interested in fairness. Maybe power, maybe revenge, maybe atonement, but not fairness. Please leave that word alone.