Thursday, 1 September 2016

'Fairness' As A Policy Basis.

Reading through some policy development discourse and statements it seems that ‘fairness’ has become a basis for all kinds of decisions, from what used to be equality of outcome to political party sloganeering.
“This may be true of professional public discourse, which has a way of sucking the life out of potent words, but I don’t think it’s true of the way that ordinary voters understand the concept. 
Fundamentally, fairness is about the desire for a moral order.”
Whose morality? Yours? Mine?

We know that until very recently a majority of people in the UK said they wanted a return to the death penalty: the most recent poll in 2015 suggested that 48% of British people were still in favour and a year on I’d put 50p on that figure being significantly above 50% today. Morality is incredibly fluid, across time and geography.

Why did ‘Equal Opportunity’ become ‘Equality of Opportunity’ which in turn became ‘Equality of Outcome’? Why has ‘fairness’  - so much less measurable, less defined, less meaningful - become the mot juste?

Cui Bono?

Here’s a good article on the subject, which recognises three definitions of ‘fairness’.

Fairness as Equality
Fairness as Equity
Fairness as Need

In summation it draws our attention to the essential condition of this discussion, the same condition in every human situation: power.
“When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’
‘”The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’
‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.”