Friday, June 10, 2005

The Fair Society

"Destiny is determined by the actions and decisions one makes in the present, but perception is affected by past experience and education."

We all therefore are in conflict with each others perceptions since we each often experience the same events differently because of our perceptions. A perfect example is when one shares stories with a sibling about a particular event, but have varying recollections of that specific event. Both were raised in similar enviroments but do not particularlly share similar views.

Our perceptions of truth, justice, morality, righteousness, and fairness are therefore influenced by our experience and education. These are more commonly noted as our biases, which extend to our values and beliefs.

It is at the very least difficult, if not impossible for the affluent to make an accurately honest judgment of the poor. Spite best of intentions and honest efforts this still remains a conflict of perception in most of modern societies.

Humankind has built monuments, eradicated disease, flown through space, created empires, yet we fall short of effectively addressing the needs of the poor. I attribute this failure to the inability to obtain concensus on what constitutes a fair standard of living. Albeit, fairness, may be agreed to be relative to ones perception.

I postulate that one's sense of fairness is a direct relationship to truth, and an inverse relationship to wealth, once basic needs have been met.

as wealth increases, one's perception of fairness actually increases until it peaks where wealth and need reach equilibrium. Equilibrium is when one has sufficient wealth to obtain the resources necessary to meet fundamental needs. Fundamental needs are typically food, shelter, healthcare, transportation, and possibly education. These are the typical resources essential to maintain reasonable security and happiness. Once we pass the point of equilibrium our perception of fairness decreases because we no longer motivated by a sense of need, but a sense of maintaining or adding to our wealth. Hence we transform from needy to greedy. The following graph illustrates my argument:

Where one's perception falls above or below the truth curve determines the sense of fairness and the motivation for it. Obviously if one is dellusionally optimistic they will fall above the truth curve regardless of wealth. If one is dellusionally pestimistic they fall below the truth curve regardless of wealth. If one is on the truth curve, then their wealth determines the degree of fairness sensed and the motivation for it.

I find this phenomenon an intriguing one. Some poor people feel they are treated fairly and deserve their station in life, as found in some countries like India. This is evident in the culture of the caste system, which extends to their spiritual beliefs. Further, there are many examples of where the poor felt they were treated unfairly although most of their basic needs were met. Like in more modern societies of North America and Europe where typically socialist societies met those needs. They still felt compelled to strike for more benefits due to perceived unfairness.

On the other end of the spectrum the rich sometimes do not perceive themselves as being greedy although their fortunes sometimes exceed any reasonable need many times over. They sometimes justify this wealth as fruits of their well deserved labor and hard work. I critically question whether they truly work any harder than many people less affluent. Some are obviously wealthy by birth, good fortune and advantagous opportunity, not work. That perception of fairness is not completely accurate.

That said however, it would be just as inaccurate to generalize that one is rich because they work hard or because one is poor they are lazy. Wealth is not a sole product of labor and fairness. Economic fairness is however dependent on one's wealth and power.

There are also rich who, spite their mass fortunes, still perceive the world as unjust and unfair because governments tax their fortunes at a different rate than the less fortunate. I argue that they fall into the greedy arena because they fail to see the justice of forced compassion. They often view the government as meddlesome and taxes unfair. They will always feel they deserve a larger share of profit and diminish their argument to a simplified principle of survival of the fitest as the natural order of things. Often they display shelfish traits in words and behavior, and only offer a pretense of charity when it becomes profitable or theraputic to relieve a guilty conscious. Rarely do they discount their goods or services as an act of good conscious, but only when downward force from competition dictates. Limiting profits is contrary to their nature or desire, the higher the better. Greed may stimulate growth, but it has negative consequences that promote unfair practices. I have been amazed at the number of books and institutions that tout greed as acceptable behavior, some of them which also claim to be Christian based. It is absurd to associate the two.

Unbridled and unregulated growth breeds consumption and poverty. We have seen this in our own recent history. During the 1950's and 1960's when organized labor held corporate greed in check, there was much less poverty and most laborers experienced a higher standard of living with much better healthcare and retirement benefits. Since the decline of these unions in the past four decades, the percentage of the population falling into poverty is on the increase. Yet during both periods of time corporations made profits. Some of today's corperations are even experiencing record profits!

Even though I can not honestly say which period in time is more economically fair, it would appear that when less people live in poverty it is more desirable. Then more people would perceive the world as fair and their would be less tension. As shown by my chart, when one's perception is distorted from the truth it is in tension. When ones view is in extreme tension they are more likely to act accordingly. If one is in truth close to equilibrium but in perception believe they are poor then they are in extreme tension and will most likely act. If one in truth is poor and perceives the world as unfair there is not as much tension because they may perceive themselves as powerless to change it, unlike one that perceives themselves as poor and has the means to change it. Similarly, the rich feel less greed at the extreme end of the spectrum and are less likely to be in tension as those closer to equilibrium.

In closing, it would be ideal to have everyone feel the world is fair and wealth distributed accordingly, but the reality is often far from the truth. The truth is we all feel differently and our perceptions of need change with fair treatment. Many models of economics and government have approached the problem with static solutions to a dynamic problem. Our best model is for government is perhaps the best of our technology. Social systems are not unlike a rocket ship. Its survival is dependent upon its limited resources, applied laws, constant monitoring, and leadership. Without all of the essential elements engineered to make the mission, we will never obtain our destiny. I like to think that our destiny as humankind is economical fairness so we all can share in true freedom, equality, liberty and happiness.


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