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Not Fair

2008-01-21

Category: philosophies

You have probably seen the plight of others and heard someone say, "That's not fair." On the other hand, you may have seen someone have a streak of good luck and then heard the complaints about fairness. It has been my experience that when people lament that life is not fair, what they mean to say is that life is excruciatingly fair and they just don't care for the consequences of it.

People tend to equate fairness with compassion. We want everybody to be happy and healthy and to have their needs met. More correct to say that fairness is the application of the rules to everybody evenly regardless of extraneous circumstances. In human society, we can bend the rules to satisfy our needs and wants. Nature, however, allows for no rule bending in the slightest.

Some may ask, "But LibertyBob, is it fair that some people have lots of money when other people have none?"

Well, let us examine this. Why is it that some people have more money while others have none. Sometimes it is because of birth status; the parents financial state is passed down to the children. Other times, the person with more may have gained the more either through hard work, cleverness, or exploitation of others (which could fit into the other two categories.) Sometimes, the wealthy person may have just stumbled into a situation that led to riches while some poor people have no money due to circumstances beyond their control. Sickness and natural disasters can easily wipe out a person's financial resources.

We tend to forget that we are animals living the natural world. Though we establish our own rules to play a cooperative, societal game, those rules are only binding when we all agree to play by them. The rules of nature area always binding and no one can get around them.

Rules of nature suggest that animals pass on their survival traits to their off spring. This is reflected in the wealth by the fact that some people inherit money from their parents while others inherit poverty. Oh, how unfair! However, it is unlikely that the family was always wealthy. At some point in the past, one or more of those ancestors had to gain the initial wealth to pass on.

How did they gain that wealth? Some worked hard. Some stole it or oppressed others to build wealth. Others just did something clever. Often it involved a little of everything. Today in the United States, some companies are building wealth by opening trade deals with the far east. Hey, wasn't that how a bunch of people made wealth in the 1800s? Hey, didn't the Italians do that back in the 1500s? It seems like some of the better ideas just keep producing.

Of course, having a clever, hardworking, or oppressive ancestor is no guarantee of personal success. We've all heard of the spoiled, rich kids who grow up with no sense of how to build wealth, but only a knowledge of spending. In a generation or two the descendants are working as clerks in convenience stores because their parents were strung-out junkies.

Working hard itself is no guarantee of success. Farm laborers work very hard. Some make a good future for their offspring though. They do that by working hard and learning lessons. They make the sacrifices necessary for their kids to learn more productive ways of working. How many immigrants try to send their kids to college? (For bonus points, how many natural-born Americans sacrifice to make a better life for their kids?)

There are people such as drug dealers who make a fortune selling drugs that ruin the lives of others. Is this in the category of fair? In the natural world it is. Most drug users started doing drugs voluntarily. They may not have had a true understanding of what they were getting into (after all, it isn't like anyone ever mentions the dangers of drugs in public.) The proto-junkie may have psychological problems, such as depression, that make the dangers seem worth while. Well, the wolves select the weak and the foolish from the herd. Drug dealers are no different. We can make drug dealing illegal, but we cannot make it unfair in the natural world.

Sickness and natural disasters all happen in accordance with the laws of physics. Hurricanes hit the Gulf Coast the south-eastern United States. Is it fair to the people who moved their and built houses? Well, yes. Right now, the temperatures outside my window are far below freezing. A person could die by being out there for a very short time. Is that fair to people like me who choose to live here? Yea, sure, you betcha!

Viruses and bacteria are just trying to make a living, just like you. Is it their fault that they have to live in your respiratory tract and destroy your tissue? Is it fair that I wash my hands far more often than many people or that I minimize contact with communal surfaces like stair rails and door knobs? Don't they have the same chance to wash?

Yes, nature is very harsh, but those rules are applied to everyone and everything evenly with no discrimination or appeals for mercy. Some people suffer and other people do not. The natural world is a part of our existence and we are part of it. Of course, sometimes you can cope or minimize the damage that comes your way, that is, if it's in your nature.


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