One has to wonder why it’s such a struggle for our social consciousness to get politically serious about the word “fairness” when it comes to economics. We seem to simply equate fairness with personal freedom, and not pay much attention to the fact that the extent to which people are free is largely dependent on their economic circumstances.
I have often referred to “the luck of the womb.” Not one of us had anything to do with where we came from. Some of us were financially gifted from birth, but most of us were not. And far too many of us started our lives with little to nothing. Not exactly a fair start. We wouldn’t start runners in a race with some starting near the finish line, some at the half-way point and most way back at the beginning. Actually, our enthusiastic love of sports makes for an interesting comparison. Athletic competition is where rules of fairness are very strictly enforced, and when broken, like in the recent cases of steroid use and spygate, there’s a price to pay.
In contrast, when it comes to personal economics, there are those who get all the education they want given to them, others who wind up owing years of their post-grad work to pay off loans, and most who don’t get much of an education at all. This is just one critical example of how the uneven start plays out. Another is how the majority who are without capital to invest cannot come close to enjoying the same freedoms and privileges as those who have it. The point is, like in sports, although not evident to most, there is a price – a very steep price – to pay for these unfair inequities.
There are certainly good reasons why prisons are full, human activity is such that ecosystems are breaking down, and security here at home and throughout the world is increasingly becoming the highest priority. I believe all have something to do with economic fairness, and all are growing threats to our survival. Too often what you hear is the overly simplistic rationalization that “life just isn’t fair,” justification for many to close their eyes and ears to the pain and suffering of others.
I believe we need to make the word “fairness” universal in our everyday vocabulary, and the measurements of it constant, like we do the stock market. I believe our legislators, educators and business leaders need to place more emphasis on the social sciences, and that ultimately it won’t be as important whether or not the market is up or down, as whether the gap between the rich and poor is closing. We need leadership that’s socially idealistic, and right now we can’t afford less. This I believe.
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