What is Fairness?

I rarely write about social/cultural issues on this blog but I have been bothered during this political season about the concept of “fairness.” This term is being used frequently by our President as leverage for raising taxes on the rich-that they might pay “their fair share.”  It is being used as a common refrain by the Republican party as a counter attack about the “50%” of the population that pay no tax at all-“is that fair?”

What is fairness?  How are we to think on that word and therefore decide who is telling the truth.  “Fairness” according to Merriam-Webster is something which is marked by “impartiality and honesty-free from self interest, prejudice or favoritism.”  At least that is one central piece of the definition.  And it is this piece that I think is missing in the debate.  I’m sorry, but I don’t really trust either side when it comes to impartiality and honesty.  I don’t believe that either side does not have some self interest, prejudice or favoritism at stake in this matter.  Apparently many Americans share my point of view.  In the most recent RealClearPolitics poll, 78% of Americans disapprove of the job that Congress is doing.  According to RCP polls Americans are split right down the middle on the President’s job approval-47% approve and 47% disapprove.  Confidence is waning.

Fairness, as it is being bandied about in political circles today, is arbitrary.  What is fair for one does not seem fair for another.  It is idealogical in nature.  And I have never seen a political landscape so divided along idealogical lines in my lifetime.  We are being hoodwinked into thinking about “fairness” when we should be considering “justice.”

“Justice” as it is defined by Merriam-Webster means “the administration of law” and “conformity to truth, fact or reason.”  Justice has a measuring line.  Justice has a standard.  Justice forces you to determine where you truly are in the argument.  It is not arbitrary-at least not be definition.  And therein lies the problem with human fairness or justice.  We are inherently unfair and unjust.  We are arbitrary about all things because we are inherently selfish and self preserving.

To have true “fairness” and “justice” there has to be a true standard.  A universal standard.  There has to be a universal law and lawgiver that is righteous-so that justice can prevail.

Consider the following from the Bible:  Romans 3:22-26                                                   For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.  This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he passed over former sins.  It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

To rise above our self centeredness we have to admit our need for the just law giver who graciously provided our redemption through the cross.  We will never get to “fair” or “just” any other way.

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  1. You are very astute. If we had agreed upon universal absolutes (which we evidently no longer have) then perhaps we could have a set of agreed upon terms for our “jumping off point” for any further discussions about the increasingly “hot button issues”. In so many matters it distresses me to realize we are very much like the culture identified in the final verses of the book of Ruth. “In them days there was no King in Israel so ea did what was write in his own mind” As the mechanic’s always say, “There’s your trouble!”