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Does an unequal trade off necessarily mean there is a "loser" and a "winner"?

You can talk about this question in a variety of fields. In almost any inequality (of which there are a bunch) you can address this question to. I'd expect there wouldn't be one answer that fits all inequalities, but we'll just see where this discussion goes. Some related questions in case the phrasing or definitions of a loser and a winner (which you can certainly address in your comment) were a problem would be, "Is a win-win situation possible when there is trade of unequal items (items here being a very loose term)?" or possibly "If a person benefits more than another in some interaction, can that situation be considered a win-win?"*

Please ask any clarification questions and feel free to go to any field/inequality you can use this question to talk about.

*Sorry about still using the words "win-win", as if they are more well defined than winners and losers. If any of you guys can think of a better term I will change the wording as soon as I can.

Thank you!

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    Sep 18 2013: this playing with words is worrisome. back in my day, win meant positive outcome, loss meant negative. the question whether gaining a little is a win or not made no sense. but it seems today it is not even surprising.

    but there is more to that. who is to determine whether a certain cooperation is "fair" or "equally beneficial"? i would say only the two parties cooperating. if i'm okay with a transaction, i will engage in it. and i want nobody to show up and correct me. or if so, let it be an advise, and i might wise up in effect.

    but we also face the problem of valuation. who is in the position to judge the internal, psychic value of something? maybe in a very poor area getting one dollar a day is a fortune, and really helps, while in the US, a dollar is a negligible amount that paypal deducts to test your credit card. how to do a 50-50 split? in dollar value? in hamburger equivalent? in psychic gain?
  • Sep 28 2013: Winning and losing are not absolutes but are based upon the subjective perceptions both by those involved in the transaction and by those observing the transactions. i.e. Jack and the Beanstalk. The perception of winning and losing is also time sensitive; i.e. short term loss for a long term win. If you lose money gambling but have fun doing it, is that a win or a loss?
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    Sep 19 2013: Inequality inherently implies mismatch of its outcome. Whether this outcome is named or felt as 'loser' or 'winner' depends on the topic this inequality is about and the 'length' of the stick someone got.

    'Win-win' situations are related to its 'reference point', in other words, to what you compare it with. If this 'reference point' lays within this unequal 'trade off', the 'smaller winner' is to be considered a 'loser' in comparison. If this 'reference point' lays outside this unequal 'trade off' and if 'gains' is measured absolute against 'nothing' and without cross-comparison, then both sides are to be considered 'winners'.

    Its only the scale and direction of comparison.
  • Sep 18 2013: All so far seem to not come out and say that there has to be a weighting system and it varies from party to party.
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    Sep 18 2013: Two parties can definitely both benefit from an arrangement even if one benefits more than the other. In economics such a trade is called "pareto superior" to no trade.
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    Sep 18 2013: It is a common fallacy that things are a zero sum game when they are not. E.G. the U.S. is often accused of exploiting cheap labor in other countries. The reality is that the Chinese would rather have the wages working in a factory than the wages they would get by farming. The U.S. could be restricted from buying .the Chinese goods but that would force the Chinese to go back to farming which would be less desirable to the Chinese.

    Values are different with every individual, if they were not then no trade would occur. E.G. a customer could buy the lower cost item with a longer lead time or he could buy the higher cost item now. There are an infinite number of possibilities when it comes to values. He could buy the apple smart phone at a 50% higher cost with the nicer features.