Tuesday, July 31, 2012

What is fair?

I'm currently reading "The Road to Freedom," by Aurthur Brooks.  While I think about what is in the book I want to record some of my thoughts to reflect upon later.  The following is not fully thought out, only my thinking in a medium of writing.

What is fair? An equal playing field or equal results?

Let's try an analogy.

(Before we begin this analogy, let me point out that a baseball game is not a direct 1 to 1 comparison for economics and the government.  For example the goal for individuals is not to win at the expense of another but to succeed as much as we are able.  In my baseball analogy, the best result would be one where both sides had high scores, because that means they both did well even if one did better than another.)

Which is more fair?

Option 1: A baseball game that always ends with a final score of 2 to 2 (equal results)
Option 2: A baseball game that always starts with a score of 0 to 0 (equal playing field)

Apparently a majority of Americans, and minority of other people, prefer option 2.

If baseball is an analogy for economics and personal success then a world like option 1 would be a world where it doesn't matter how hard you work or what you do.  Whatever you do you'll get the same results.

If you choose option 2 then your work and effort can take you to great success or failure, but the options are there for you.

Roosh wrote a book, "Don't Bang Denmark."  Denmark is a country that has chosen option 1.  In talking with the Danes, Roosh noted that if he said something like "Polish is a difficult language to learn."  That statement would be frowned upon, because it implies that he knows another language and that may make others look bad in comparison.  He noted that he would not get kindly responses if he said things that sounded like bragging, even things like the fact that he has traveled the world.  He describes everyone as being similar and uninteresting.  They are all equal and all the same (despite their own thought to the contrary).

A final note about his book is the fact that that book's title starts with "don't."  His other books about countries do not include that word, and coincidentally have also not moved as much towards option number 1.

Of course the world isn't perfect.  We are not all the same.  Some of us are healthier, smarter, or better looking than others (too bad you're not me).  Some of us got born into happy families, or inherent wealth.  And others are not so lucky.

Our options aren't really: 1 or 2, but 1 or 3.

Option 3: A baseball game that randomly starts with a score of 4 to 0

Our options are option 1 or 3.

I would still prefer option 3 to option 1, because I know that even if I am not born lucky I still have a chance to be great.  A baseball game that starts with an unfair advantage still leaves the unlucky team a chance to win.  If a team chooses option 3 they can still work harder than their opponent and come out ahead, even if it is harder than it would have been had they had option 2.

There are an endless list of options for this baseball game of ours, but I will only comment on one more.

Option 4: A baseball game where the score starts at 4 to 0 and the umpire randomly chooses to help or hinder one side or another.

Option 4 is how America currently operates.  It is clearly inferior to options 2 and 3, but is it still better than option 1?

I think that it could go either way.  If the umpire's help and harm (taxes, subsides, and regulations) are minimal, or at least predictable, then even if you are on the side that got all the harm and started behind, you can still have a chance for victory (or success).

If the umpire really prefers one side or makes calls at random, then there would be no hope for someone not favored by the umpire to succeed.  That team could not hope to know what it is that they need to do in order to win.  Unless they are the preferred team.

Some on the left want to tax the rich more.  If we enter this into our analogy that would be like the umpire saying for each 5 runs scored the fifth point is awarded not to the team that scored it, but instead to the other team; to make it more fair. 

If we look at countries that have tried things to make things more "fair" in this way we can see that they have problems too.  For example, in France a company that employs 50 employees needs to allow the employees to form a union, pay for more extravagant benefits, etc.  What this often results in is companies who get to be around 48 employees big, but then not employing any more people because the cost increases would make it too expensive to do so.

To summarize:

If we choose to have equal results there will be no incentive to work hard.

An equal playing field does not exist in this world.

If the rules are the same for all, an unequal playing field still gives everyone a chance for success.

If the playing field is unequal and the rules are unequal, or worse, random or biased, then we get a world where you may, or may not, succeed, and your actions will not influence the outcome.

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