Thursday, December 8, 2011


President Obama gave a speech in Osawatomie, Kansas this week in which he beseeched the American people:

“We are greater together when everyone engages in fair play, everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share.”
The speech opens a new campaign theme. President Obama wants to help Americans do what is fair.

That is certainly a compelling theme, but there might be unintended consequences. While Americans are reflecting on fairness, they might stumble across its central tenet:

Fairness is relative.

There are always three aspects of fairness: what is fair for the individual, what is fair for the identity group, and what is fair for the rest of society.

The censure of Representative Charles Rangel (D-NY) showcases these different aspects. Representative Rangel had a very personal impression of the fairness of censure, while the identity groups associated with the House of Representatives and the Congressional Black Caucus had their opinions as well. There were also the viewpoints of those in the overall population with an interest in the Rule of Law. Which of these was the fair approach?

While considering that dilemma, note how the president’s speech also ties into the notion of Authoritarianism. When there are conflicting points of view on fairness, people are drawn to “the strong horse.” We look to an influential group to be the tiebreaker.

In that context, we are now hearing a message about a broken system that needs authoritarian figures to help us achieve fairness.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Democratic Party and president Obama are ready to fill that void.

UPDATE 12/9/2011:
Linked by Left Coast Rebel!  Thanks, Tim.

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