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Life may not be fair, but that's still no excuse for an unjust society

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CHIMO Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-02-09 07:32 PM
Original message
Life may not be fair, but that's still no excuse for an unjust society
What's "fair"? Well, it's a concept that is horribly abused. Almost everybody seems to be complaining that they are the victims of some gross injustice, showing little sense of what fairness really means. It could be Michael Caine crying out that it's not fair that he has to pay a 50p tax rate to keep some layabout in bed. Or it could be working-class voters tempted to vote BNP because they are outraged so many immigrants allegedly have automatic access to schools, housing and hospitals for which they haven't paid. Oh, it's all so unfair.

To those who believe fairness is a liberal value, here it is being hijacked against progressive taxation on the one hand and reasonable immigration on the other. Meanwhile, the government is so blind to the popular ideal of fairness that it tried to stop Gurkhas who had fought for Britain from settling here.

What is fair is difficult territory. Too many on the left assume that preferences for more equity and proportionality are so widely shared that support for liberal policies is semi-automatic. Higher rates of income tax for the better-off, Harriet Harman's Equality Bill or making public services available to everyone on the basis of need are so self-evidently the right thing to do that the mass of popular opinion will rally to one's side.

There is a consensus on fairness waiting to be built. The majority of people believe in the principles of equity, proportionality and merit and are prepared to support the needy as long as they don't cheat their way to benefits. Get the story right and the British will back progressive taxation, universal benefits and even fair immigration and we would be quicker to see Michael Caine's arguments for what they really are - self-interested and delusional.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/may/03/wil...
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Tangerine LaBamba Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-02-09 07:36 PM
Response to Original message
1. A basic truth -
when human nature is involved, unfairness must be expected.

It's that simple, and we have to behave the best we can, but expect that others might not.

That's what makes it so interesting, actually..................
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CHIMO Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-02-09 08:08 PM
Response to Reply #1
3. Pretty Much Summed Up
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Tangerine LaBamba Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-02-09 08:10 PM
Response to Reply #3
4. That strikes me as a bit of a cheap shot -
using the photo from the Depression to illustrate the article.

Smacks of sensationalism, shoddy enough so that I quit reading the article after one paragraph.

Why didn't they use a photograph from today, I wonder?
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CHIMO Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-02-09 08:18 PM
Response to Reply #4
5. "They"
Didn't use the photograph. I used it.

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Tangerine LaBamba Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-02-09 09:33 PM
Response to Reply #5
6. No, it accompanied the article........
The link under the photo leads to an article which uses the photo. That's what I was referring to.

Man, you didn't know that?
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Juche Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-02-09 07:43 PM
Response to Original message
2. The fairness they describe is not the same
Edited on Sat May-02-09 08:28 PM by Juche
The moral value supported by the right wing is generally reciprocation and reciprocal altruism (people get the consequences of their actions, good and bad) and group dynamics (who counts, who doesn't in the social group). ie, they try to prey on people's need for reciprocal altruism by claiming 'those' people are getting something they didn't deserve. And if 'those' people just happen to have a trait that makes them non-members of the social unit (wrong nationality, wrong skin color, wrong religion) all the easier to rile people up. Those mexicans with brown skin are breaking into the country and using our schools (that is what is said here in the US). However once the politicians who talk about that get elected, they go for a supply side economic agenda, not a right wing populist agenda of abortion and xenophobia.

Left wing fairness seems to be egalitarianism (the idea of making society as inclusive, fair, protective and nurturing as possible), the idea that the wealthy and powerful shouldn't run roughshod on everyone else and that people shouldn't be excluded from power, success or influence because they are the 'wrong' sex, age, orientation, religion, race, etc. There is reciprocal altruism in that too (ie, the idea that a person shouldn't work hard for a company for 30 years only to have it close and move to another country so that the CEO can get a bonus), but egalitarianism seems to be the main moral value behind left wing populism.


I would assume you need different mechanisms to actually influence people based on which one you need. The right wing populist says 'the welfare queens (who are black but nobody says that) are taking your (you=tax paying white person) money and spending it on luxury cars'. Reciprocal altruism and group dynamics.

The left wing populist says 'progressives have made life easier for americans and the world for generations. We fought for medicare, social security, child labor laws, ending jim crow, the minimum wage, womens rights, consumer protections, human rights in our foreign policy and countless other benefits. Conservatives opposed all of these things. Now we have to keep fighting for gay equality, universal healthcare, animal rights, the rule of law and other issues'.

So I don't agree that you can use the same psychological or sociological 'levers' for right vs left wing populism. Egalitarianism is not the same moral value as reciprocal altruism and group dynamics because conservatives and liberals do not think the same.

George Lakoff writes on this stuff. His stuff is ok, but I don't agree with all his views on the nation as a metaphor for a family.

Being right is not enough by Paul Waldman is 5x better than Lakoff IMO.
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