One of the things that I learned early on in life is that life is not fair, and though I usually joke about it being a circus instead, the reality is that there are no guarantees in life, and whether or not something is fair can depend on who has the toy that you want to play with when you want to play with it.
The Definition Fairness
So, if we can (for the moment) dismiss the basic foundational truth stated in the first paragraph—that life is not fair—we are left with the question of what is fair? I mean, Sen. Obama wants us to believe that fairness is everyone getting rich, instead of just a few.
According to Dictionary.com, fairness can be described as something that is free from bias, dishonesty, or injustice. In that we should expect that there are no unfair dealings.
So, where then, comes the idea that I deserve someone else’s money, or that it’s only fair that those that make more should be taxed more?
What I Deserve
Fairness, in the way that Sen. Obama uses it, is not a strict definition, but a candy-coating of envy. Hence the terms class-envy or class-warfare to suggest what’s going on when politicians attack one group of people simply because they have accrued more money in their lifetime.
How can they get away with this shift? Simple.
Start with the premise that “This is American, and we all have equal opportunity in America, so if we all work hard, we can all be rich.” Then mix in the idea that “Some of us work really hard, you work really hard, don’t you?” And for flavor, add “Well, if you work hard, and you aren’t making what the rich guy down the street is making, then something unfair must have happened in order for him to get rich and you not to.”
Of course this is a logical fallacy, but it is one that we want to believe. We want to believe that hard work is all that is involved, and we want to believe that we deserve to be rich as well.
Different Ways of Judging Wealth
However, there are many problems with this whole class warfare scenario—the first of which is your way of judging wealth.
I recently opened a new personal checking account, but my wife was not there with me when we did it. We believe in having account joint, so I asked for a signature card so that I could get her name on the account. When she went to fill it out later, there was a section for employment (Homemaker) and one for “source of wealth.” She looked at me, and we joked about putting down “my kids.”
You see, some people will trade a salary for being able to spend time with their children, to raise them and train them. Salary.com calculates every year at Mother’s Day the cost of replacing what a full-time mom does, and it’s much more than I make at my day job.
Yet seldom are moms considered wealthy.
Wealth is more than digits in your bank account. It’s more than what you own. Wealth is derived from how content you are in your circumstance, how well your needs are met, and can encompass even you health. Simply because someone trades time and health for dollars does not make them wealthy.
The Rich Have Rights
But even then, there’s a big problem with the idea that it’s somehow fair for the rich to have their money taken and given to the poor—or to make the country go. The rich have rights to.
If the tables were turned, and the government says “We don’t think it’s fair for brown haired web developers with children to make the money you do, so we’re going to raise your taxes” I would not be pleased. Why? Because they arbitrarily chose what is fair, and focused on one set of attributes in order to judge wealth.
Again, if wealth is not defined by digits, but is really a combination of things, then signaling out any aspect of wealth could be fair. The government could tell the Duggards that having 18 kids is not fair, so they will have to be taxed more. Would that be just?
So why do we think it’s just when the rich are taxed more? Envy. Our sin causes us to look and cast judgment on another class of people (which most of the time we don’t know, or if we do, we have no clue) simply because we want what they have. We want their lifestyle. We want their bank accounts, etc.
Envy is a Sin
Though greed is a sin, envy is also. Envy made it into the Ten Commandments. Translating to the 21st century:
Do not covet your neighbor’s wife, his Ferrari, his employees, or his retirement account.
We are supposed to focus on doing our best, and working with what we have. Looking at what someone else has is destructive to ourselves inside. Using government to take what someone has to give it to us out of a sense of “fairness” is really robbery because of envy.