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Bernard White


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Equality versus Meritocracy. Which Wins?

I have been having this debate in my Head for quite a while now, and I can't decide. Which is more important? Both are in conflict to a certain extent on various issues, like "Education" for example.
It could help to watch this TED talk :
- Jonathan Haidt: The moral roots of liberals and conservatives.
I ask this because many politicians talk about "Fairness" they usually mean many different things. Roughly speaking when Liberals talk about "Fairness" they typically mean "Equality". While when Conservatives talk about "Fairness" they typically mean "Meritocracy".
So which one is more important to you? (Or in other words, What do you mean when you say "Fairness"?)


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    Jul 31 2013: Let's say a test is given. 10% of students receive an A, 50% receive a B, 30% receive a C, and 10% receive a D. Then the teacher decides that in order to be equal all students will receive a D. Is that fair? 90% of the class was just cheated out of their hard work! Maybe they would work, and try and bring those other students up, but be realistic here, that is a long shot. Most would likely stop trying, and perform at a D level because it doesn't matter what they do the grade will be the same.

    Even if the situation was reversed, and the teacher gave all A's instead of all D's, the outcome would be the same. Sure you would have a lot of happy students, but the only students reaping a real benefit would be the students who already preformed at an A level. The others would have no need to try because they knew the A students would make sure everyone got an A.

    Equality isn't fairness. Fairness is getting what you deserve, or in other words meritocracy.
    • Jul 31 2013: There's a problem though - what you deem fair, isn't necessarily what others deem fair. It's the funny "human factor", which for some reason, even Popper fetishist conservatives largely seem to disregard. Based on environment, you might as well live in such conditions that you're forced to do something in terms that you see unfair, because alternative option is starving. The next guy, on the other hand, seems this completely fair as the gift of life is worth to preserve above all.

      I'd also love to know, how would water be distributed? How do you "fairly" decide, that this body of water is owned by x company? It's already mapped, it's already discovered. Do you just simply... chug it up before anyone else?

      The whole "get what you deserve" sounds rather ideological to me. What doesn't make it into one?
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        Aug 1 2013: That is a great point! The human factor is quite bothersome when trying to discuss something like this, because you are right, " what you deem fair, isn't necessarily what others deem fair." This is indeed where things get dicey. I think you would agree that "fair is relative".

        However, I still do believe "fair" is getting what you deserve. The first part of your response was articulated well, but the rest of it seems like jumbled thoughts to me at least. I apologize. I would assert though that you are asking the wrong questions though. You ought to have asked, "What determines what you deserve?" From here we can dig into humanity as smaller units versus as a whole.

        For instance, a family of four would need more water than the individual. Let us go further, and say that two members of the family are small children who do not contribute significantly to the economy. Would they deserve less water? Of course not, if "the gift of life is worth to preserve above all." Now, would it be acceptable for the individual to steal from the two children because he works harder, and he thinks he deserves more?

        Even if one accepts that fair is a relative idea, there must be some sort of limit of how relative that idea is. Otherwise, this discussion is useless because we will never come to any sort of agreement, and we will hammer back and forth forever.

        One last thing: "I'd also love to know, how would water be distributed? How do you "fairly" decide, that this body of water is owned by x company?" I am not entirely sure where this was going, but I do not appreciate the sarcastic "I'd love to know," as if I would not have an answer to your questions. If we are going to discuss this matter, please let your sarcasm out before you type.
        • Aug 2 2013: Yeah, I apologize, they are indeed sarcastic questions thrown at you. Their purpose was to serve to the point where it's ultimately hard to distribute something on the grounds of "fair", though same applies to grounds of "equal" as well, ironically for the same reasons - fairness is subjective.

          Now, your premise of "fair is relative", I find that ultimately very true. However, want to know what I fear the most? When there's nothing to catch a person from his fall which he deemed to be unfair. That's unfortunately what I can't see laissez-faire model to work at. Don't get me wrong though - I'm a large critic for the "modern western" world. That's why I'm also worried - I can see that the westphalia, after initiating modern global economy in Britain, couldn't protect itself from the inevitable. Now people are not happy and they certainly are worried. You can't find a job, you're living in pretty poor conditions and have hard time getting anywhere from these conditions.

          And this is where the meritocracy comes in conveniently in it's laissez-faire model. It promises wealth, it promises minimal unemployment, it promises a whole lot of things. But, just like the current model, it's tangled with the "human factor" where you have an impossible amount of moral issues just like we do now. But the difference is, more people are employed in x conditions, but less people are covered by a welfare to help with their fall, should one occur. Current model has a problem where welfare is getting expensive (and abused) when structural unemployment gets high due to outsourcing, whereas laissez-faire model would have no security for people who need it but couldn't afford it. This sort of desperation unfortunately leads to irrational actions.

          By the end of the day, when you discuss about these things, you have to accept the uncertain aspect of it. Which leads to the next point - only way to truly know is to try. But when you try, don't disregard the possible consequences.

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