1. Milton Friedman said, fairness is not an objectively determined concept. Faimess" like. needs," is in the eye of the beholder. http://www.stat.uchicago.edu/~amit/MFI/NSFTC/NSFTC007a.pdf While it is difficult to define, it is central idea of life, and hugely important to nearly everybody. 2. One way economists have studied fairness is by the Ultimatum Game. a man approaches with a proposition. He offers you $20 in one-dollar bills and says you can keep the money, under one condition: You have to share some of it with your friend. You can offer your friend as much or as little as you like, but if your friend rejects your offer, neither of you get to keep any of the money. What do you do? Under a strictly utilitarian view of economics, you would give your friend the lowest possible amount. In this case you've got 20 dollar bills, so you would give your friend a dollar. Since it's found money, your friend should accept the dollar. Your friend might call you cheap, or perhaps offer a bit of gratitude drizzled generously with sarcasm -- but, hey, at least he or she made a dollar out of it. The thing is (it) doesn't translate to how people actually behave when faced with this decision. HowStuffWorks "What's the ultimatum game?" 3. In society, the giving out is, by some, considered a function of government. But most see providing essential services and a minimum safety net as the function, and redistributing earned income, just to get more equality, as not fair. a. If income were handed out purely arbitrarily, most would agree that money should be distributed in a more-or-less equal way. In our system, even if it is imperfect, we earn success through hard work and initiative: merit. 4. In the early 19th century, the prescient Alexis de Tocqueville wrote on American meritocracy, saying Americans were contemptuous of the theory of permanent equality of wealth. Winning the fight on 'fairness' - Society and Culture - AEI a. To take from one because it is thought that his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of associationthe guarantee to every one of a free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it. Thomas Jefferson, The Greatest Thomas Jefferson quotes b. The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal. Aristotle The worst form of inequality... at BrainyQuote 5. ONCE UPON A time in the land of America, there lived triplet brothers named Tom, Dick, and Harry Class. They were 45 years old, had virtually the same aptitude (skill), and were raised in the same home. Each was married and had two children. All three were employed as carpenters making $25 per hour, working50 weeks a year. While they were almost identical in most respects, they had different preferences and values. For example, Tom, who worked 20 hours a week, had a different work ethic from his brothers, Dick and Harry, who each worked 60 hours per week. Neither Toms nor Dicks wives worked, while Harrys wife worked 40 hours per week as an office manager making $50,000 per year (the same hourly rate as her husband). Tom and Dick spent all of their income, and were relying on Social Security to take care of them when they retired. Harry and his wife, on the other hand, saved most of her after-tax income over many years, gradually accumulating $300,000. They invested this money in bonds and real estate that produced $25,000 a year in interest and rental income. The Inequity of the Progressive Income Tax | Hoover Institution a. Obama: If youve got a business -- you didnt build that. Somebody else made that happen. Which one Tom, Dick, or Harry Class? From which one should we redistribute? And, how much? Is "fairness" involved? What is?