Tuesday, December 1, 2015

A Question of Fairness

NOTE: I was fixing some links in "Children's Programming and Left Wing Thought", which (because I copied them from earlier essays) still pointed to my old blog. In the process, I discovered this essay, which I know I have cited a number of times, had not yet been copied to this blog. So I am posting it now to allow me to go back and fix those old links. (It is not actually the essay itself that maters so much, but rather the single end note, which is my first mention of the lack of meaning for the word "fair", the initial instance of a thought which would develop later into many essays such as "Weasel Words and Hollow Words".)

I am not normally one to decry unfairness, as I believe life is inherently unfair and you have to deal with what comes your way, fair or not. As I said in "Life Is Not Fair - And Trying To Make It So Makes Things Worse" and " Fairness and the Free Market", fairness is not a valid consideration when speaking of the economy*, or of life in general. Things just are, to claim reality is "unfair" is to show a profound lack of understanding of reality.

On the other hand, when it comes to volitional human actions, especially in arbitrary choices, that is those where they can choose any course at all, it is valid to speak of fairness. Of course it is still rather pointless to complain of unfairness, as capricious human acts are common, but at least it makes sense to accuse those people of being unfair, if only to point out that perhaps they should not be entrusted with power over their fellows.

And I think there is a bit of a double standard on the part of some of the press and members of the political left. After all, these people were ready to investigate Cheney for ties to Haliburton, accusing him of being involved in criminal acts simply because he was once employed by Haliburton and, in their minds, Haliburton profited form the war.

Well, by the same standards, isn't Obama a valid target for investigation? He once worked for ACORN and then ACORN profited through his election. In fact, he was elected in part because of the actions of ACORN, which he then rewarded with large sum of money, despite charges of their participation in election fraud. Not only did he give them money, but they were also never investigated, as an organization, concerning their role in election fraud. Charges which their recent illegal activities make more plausible.

Now, before anyone gets upset, let me say I don't think Obama knowingly involved himself in election fraud. I suppose he may have known from his community organizer days that ACORN was pretty much straddling the line of legality, and often coming down on the wrong side, but even given that it would be hard to prove he did anything wrong. No, my point is the opposite. On the basis of very thin evidence, many on the left were ready to hang Cheney, or even Bush, and some in the press even granted them credence, or at least treated their accusations as having some plausibility. However, with much stronger evidence of ties to wrongdoing, the same people are going out of their way to state that Obama has done nothing wrong.

Just something to keep in mind whenever someone says you are crazy to think there is a press bias. Also, maybe something for those on the left to consider before they dive headlong into the next conspiracy theory.

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* I include the economy because, though driven by human choices, the market as a whole is largely impersonal. So it is hard to say that the totality of choices made by all our fellows are somehow "unfair". They may not produce the outcome we want, but that does not make it somehow unjust. Then again, the word "fair" has so many meanings in conversation it is almost worthless, as it can mean almost anything. Like "justice" it is a protean word that can be used in deceptive argument, meaning one thing to one audience and something else to another.

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POSTSCRIPT
For those who have not read my blog before, I am no fan of the theory of "unbiased reporting". I think it is an historical anomaly, and one that has proved itself impossible to maintain in practice. It would be much better for us to admit bias and create a number of competing biased outlets, allowing the public to know the bias at the outset and then use that knowledge to evaluate the news reported. It has to be better than our current "smuggled bias" reporting. (See  "The Death of Impartial Media",  "The Impossibility of Unbiased Reporting",  "The Press Versus The Nation", "Some Thoughts on the Media")

Originally posted in Random Notes on 2009/09/17.

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