LeadU presents Fairness is not Sameness

LeaderW@RE

TPOVs @F-L-O-W

Fairness is not Sameness

I loved the "go bama --> roll tide" in this movie.  It makes my hair stand up on the back of my neck.


In researching some topics, I ran across this pretty amazing piece, which eludes to the criticism of Amartya Sen, who created a "capability" approach in 1980, much of which guides the process across the world in capability and development, with liberal exceptions of course, surrounding justice and fairness.

"Liberal critics of Sen often identify the focus of the Capability Approach – ‘the ability to achieve the kind of lives we have reason to value’ – as problematic because it appears to impose an external valuation of the good life, whatever people may actually value. Rawls, for example, notes that the reason for liberals to focus on the fair allocation of general purpose resources rather than achievement is that this best respects each individual’s fundamental right to pursue their own conception of the good life.

This relates to Rawls’ conception of justice as political rather than metaphysical: it is not the task of justice to assess people’s achievements, but rather to ensure the fairness of the conditions of participation in a society. Justice should be neutral with regard to judging different people’s conceptions of the good.

But this neutrality seems incompatible with the Capability Approach’s concern with assessing people’s achievements, which would seem to require a much more substantive view of what counts as a good life than one needs for assessing general purpose resources. Rawls suggests that this constitutes the privileging of a particular (non-political) comprehensive conception of rational advantage or the good."http://www.iep.utm.edu/sen-cap/#H5

Clearly, what has happened in the liberal mind as justice and morality have evolved, is that the meme of fairness has somehow been co-opted by "sameness". This same affliction was pointed out by Pinker, in The Blank Slate —> "... he argues that political equality does not require sameness..."

Sen responds to the liberal criticism, pointing out clearly the roots @F-L-O-W, that people are different, and capability is varied, as our values, and without a conception of what is good, right, and true, which is universal.

NOTE: I’m reading this TPOV years after having written it and IMHO, I would pull the politics referenced as liberal, noting that all political viewpoints confuse fairness with sameness.

There are some important points made here in regards to wants vs. needs, fairness vs. sameness and capability vs. values that are important to remember, IMHO.

"In replying to this criticism, Sen particularly points to the heterogeneity (variability) in people’s abilities to convert the same bundle of resources into valuable functionings. Theories of justice that focus on the distribution of means implicitly assume that they will provide the same effective freedom to live the life one has reason to value to all, but this excludes relevant information about the relationship between particular people and resources.

Even if one abstracts from existing social inequalities or the results of personal choices (‘option luck’), as many liberal theories of justice do, one will still find a substantial and pervasive variation in the abilities of different members of a society to utilize the same resources – whether of specific goods like education or general purpose goods like income.

That means that even if it happened that everyone had the same conception of the good, and the same bundle of resources, the fact of heterogeneity would mean that people would have differential real capability to pursue the life they had reason to value.

Therefore, Sen argues, a theory of justice based on fairness should be directly and deeply concerned with the effective freedom – capability – of actual people to achieve the lives they have reason to value." -  http://www.iep.utm.edu/sen-cap/#H5

What Sen points out is that people differ in values and they differ in the capability to actualize those values. This is extremely significant in view of the assessment models which generate a values hierarchy. In those models doing so, they equate capability with valuing, and Sen produces a large amount of counter-argument which indicates that values are one thing, capability another.

To the point about fairness and sameness, and the next moral evolution:

The Moral Dilemma @F-L-O-W can be constructed from this set of foundational ideas - fairness is not sameness, values are not capability, and the moral question is how to we deal fairly with what are clear differences in each.

The mistake that is clear to me, being made by evolving liberal, and relativist systems is that we have this dilemma about what to do about differences, so the moral convention is that we treat people the same, that begs the questions:

1) Is treating different people the same, fair.
2) Why aren't people the same.

Each question begs a different moral position. In treating people the same, it's not fair, as a reverse argument to question:

1), and that brings up the dilemma of
2) why people are different.

Yet the second question is one that we have yet to answer because it evokes an unknown territory of philosophy, and that is, if people are different, for whatever reason, and we treat them differently, is that fair? First, the question - is it fair to treat different people differently.

Second, why?

We have not been able to answer the second, the first is self-evident, different people are treated differently in every aspect of modern day life, either directly or indirectly. Discrimination is based on a diverse number of reasons, for many different values, including race, gender, intellect, and so on, height, weight, aesthetics, income, education, and we can keep going.

The societal dilemma is dealing with the fallout, the why.

Moral Dilemma @F-L-O-W is solved in the transition state and that is to answer the question should different people receive different treatment as fairness, and the answer is YES.

Now, what happens when you are not in control of differences?

That is the larger moral question, which @F-L-O-W, a transition system, can't answer, but only raise in the current form, as the post-modern system is in a cul-de-sac; and in order to deal philosophically with the question, we have to recurse back far enough in the system to get to the decision tree bifurcation that confused the issue of fairness with sameness.

@F-L-O-W, the moral treading of water while waiting for the next ship to come by, to provide the answer to the moral question, why are we different, and hence not the same, is occluded by the present emphasis on sameness, as fairness.

@F-L-O-W, we recognize we are different, and not the same. 

This then, brings us to a dilemma of what to do.

I like the approach by Sen, because his approach allows, even what he criticizes, as utilitarianism, and resourcism, becomes essentially the gambit, "...achieve the kind of lives we have reason to value," is better served when "realized" to move off of the value point of achieve, as most people are not driven by achievement.

This approach..."realize the kind of lives we have reason to value" runs on the BS Platform extremely efficiently, so his algorithm is co-opted because the CORPORATE system of value-making is active in influencing what we value, and literally sidetracking the philosophical discussion about why we are inborn different, and as a result of epigenesis, largely controlled by factors outside of general control, shaping what we value, as wants, versus inborn needs.

These are two separate issues now...

On one hand we know that capability and values are not equal, we also know that fairness is not sameness, yet what confounds the entire movement away from the cul-de-sac is BS substituting wants for needs, driving what are in effect the emergent arguments of Sen about resourcism and utilitarianism.

@F-L-O-W, there is an important distinction to be realized. 

Eliminating a problem is more EES than solving it in almost every case I can find. 

The consequences of each, elimination and solution, are each the same.  A new set of problems arrives – that is the hallmark of an open system, and we live in an open system.

The question becomes, is it easy to solve a problem, or eliminate and go on to the next set of constraints, realizing that constraints are arriving like the trains in a 24hr train station.

In the issue with Sen's argument, I can suggest we don't need to worry about resourcism, or utilitarianism if we solve the problem that BS is creating by substituting wants and needs.

Next, once we eliminate those problems, we can move onto the bigger issues undergirding the problems that are arising that are actually confounding the issues of fairness.

@F-L-O-W doesn't answer the philosophical question or dilemma of why we are different.  It can't.  A new morality is required to hold the paradox.  Through no fault of my own, I am not the same, or as __________________ as you. I am not as pretty, as tall, as healthy, fit, motivated, ambitious, extraverted, accepting, confident, etc. 

IT is what it is @F-L-O-W.

However, that being the case, then fairness is related to "each to his own" and if you contribute for whatever reason, then the contribution to be fairly rewarded is defined as dissimilar to someone who doesn't contribute, in whatever form, process, or matter, with whatever meaning attribute.

I might not be able to contribute as much as you, I may not be as strong, as good-looking, as ambidextrous, healthy, tall, etc., and it's not in my control, so now what?

And this is a Moral Dilemma @F-L-O-W which is solved by a "rights" issue, but not everyone will have the same rights — this is the confounding issue — where rights are not the same. This leads directly into the slippery slope that has tripped up civilization almost since it became one.

However, to blindly continue to pretend that we go on, in the face of the facts that we are different and that under no condition, will rights ever be the same at the absolute level, and only at the figurative level, in that people have the right to exist, and may not be able to be guaranteed to realize the life they value — especially when those values are derived by wants.

This double-bind is the convergence of multiple slippery slopes which we continue to avoid by pretending that we are the same, and that is fair.

Philosophically, I do NOT know how we tell someone in a lineup, you are entitled to this, and you are not because of differences that they or we have had no control over, but it's a fact, not some story.

The real question is how do we live together in view of these differences, that values are not correlated to capability, and that fairness is not sameness.

For me, the question remains that there are constraints on all of us, our systems, and our social perspective.

Helpful Hint: To continue down the path, limited by growth in the same fashion is going to limit options, the only way I know how to approach the space in-between now and what is next is to become more EES, which requires, IMHO, a reversal of wants and needs, which helps in some respects to eliminate part of the problem between haves and have-nots... allowing the haves to contribute more to the have-nots in a variable format without a drop, but usually a corresponding increase in happiness.

So while we wait on the impending evolution of our philosophical and moral dilemma, we can at least recurse back to where wants were substituted for needs, calming the waves of differences between capability and values, simplifying the equation between needs and wants, and beginning to navigate the deadly reef of fairness and sameness, part of the problem goes away.

Action Step: Individually, evaluate your wants and needs, understand your values, and your capability.  Stay on a path closely rooted to inborn happiness, while scaffolding success requirements that move you off that path. 

In future iterations, choose success requirements that are more closely aligned to your capability and values, helping you to realize the life that you value, while collaborating with others to support the life they value. In the process, what will happen is that your social experience will actually enhance your needs for less, not more, while the wants for more as constructed as an experience directly, or indirectly through collaboration.



If you have any comments, questions, suggestions, or need some additional help, please use the form below to submit them.  Someone will get back to you within 48 hours.  Or if you prefer, at the bottom of this page leave your comment and someone will get back to you.

    Your Name (required)

    Your Email (required)

    Subject - You may check more than one box. (required)

    CommentQuestionSuggestionOther

    Your Message (required)


    We hope you pick up valuable insights, ideas, and tools during this process, which you can use for your own development as well as your work and leadership with others.

    You, Me, and We @F-L-O-W

    Mike R. Jay is a developmentalist utilizing consulting, coaching, mentoring and advising as methods to offer developmental scaffolding for aspiring leaders who are interested in being, doing, having, becoming, and contributing... to helping people have lives.

    Mike R. Jay
    Leadership University


    © Generati

    Learn how you may become a member of our Inner Circle and receive the cutting edge on the most current thinking in Leader Development.  Visit Inner Circle Membership.

    Disclaimer | Terms Of Service | Earnings Disclaimer | Privacy Notice | Contact Support | Buy the Book | Media Disclaimer