Ever seeking to paint himself into history using the most vivid colors possible, President Obama made some remarks in a recent posturing session at the National Archives. In his speech he enumerated some of our founding ideals and he inserted the word ‘fairness’ alongside the words freedom, liberty and justice. This is typical Obama, well-schooled as he is in how to mix leftist notions into standard American fare. It is both effective and somewhat devious. Fairness is a problematic concept. It sounds like a good word, but what is fair, and how do we achieve real fairness? Can it ever be attained? Should it?
When I was in grade school I had a good friend named Lance. Lance was smart, a natural athlete and the fastest kid in school. No one could beat Lance in a footrace. Not even close. How did this make the other kids feel? Was it our fault that we couldn’t run as fast? Was this Fair? What can be done in the interest of fairness to keep the Lance’s of the world from excelling well beyond the rest of the pack? Allegiance to the idea of fairness demands that we act, doesn’t it? The left would have us believe that other inequities of skill and ability are matters that can be evened out by state intervention.
The kernel of the issue it seems to me lies in the difference between the words fairness, equality, and justice. They are so often used interchangeably without distinction, but they are not precisely the same. It is this word ‘fair’ that is the nebulous one and its overuse blurs the lines of meaning. Thus it is an effective tool for the left, which seeks control through language. Surely we all want to live in a just society, but is that achieved by making everything exactly equal? Is an equality of outcomes always fair? The word is so troublesome that the writer George Will said that he has banned it from his home.
The founding fathers believed in equality before the law and equality of opportunity. But they most certainly did not believe as the left does in an equality of outcomes or situation. John Adams said: ‘no two men are perfectly equal in person, property, understanding, activity and virtue, or ever can be made so by any power less than that which created them’.
The left believes that the deploying of government force to achieve something more like an equality of outcomes is a good, moral and noble thing to do. So we shall not be allowed to run as fast as we may, as it leads to too much inequity, too much unfairness. Are we to remain a society that values freedom above all else, or are we not? The choice is already being made. Fairness it appears is to be placed as the higher value in the new American age, and government shall be the instrument of its making.
I close with the words of George Washington: ‘government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master’.