What Happens When Your Philosophy is Fairness and Not Efficiency?

Monday, May 11, 2009

An AP article by Matt Apuzzo and Brett Blackledge highlights a trend we are going to see more and more in the future. The article “Stimulus Watch: Road money skips over needy areas,” highlights a fervor and danger in opening the redistribution of wealth box. According to the article:

“Although the intent of the money is to put people back to work, AP's review of more than 5,500 planned transportation projects nationwide reveals that states are planning to spend the stimulus in communities where jobless rates are already lower.”

“One result among many: Elk County, Pa., isn't receiving any road money despite its 13.8 percent unemployment rate. Yet the military and college community of Riley County, Kan., with its 3.4 percent unemployment, will benefit from about $56 million to build a highway, improve an intersection and restore a historic farmhouse.”

There are so many philosophical issues that need to be addressed when taking the role of a god and deciding who will get what. What are your standards? Who gets what and how much? Obama left these questions to be answered by state and congressional politicians. However, when you promise relief to those that are hurting most, what is the likely mindset to those listening? The answer is that those that feel they are hurting in any way; feel they are hurting the most.

Let’s put this article into perspective. On the whole, one unemployed person is the same and hurts as much as the next unemployed person, right? So what does it matter if we are helping the unemployed from an area of 3% unemployment versus one with nearly 14%? It matters because it doesn’t sound fair to those living in the area where there is 14%, pay taxes as much as everyone else, yet they do not receive assistance. Does it still sound reasonable?

Once the promise is made and the door to redistribution is open there is no end to what would be the fairest outcome. For example, the BLS shows that 15% of those unemployed are black males. This is the demographic hardest hit by the recession. Logically, the stimulus funds should go to aid districts with high rates of black male unemployment regardless of the overall unemployment rate of the area. Surely, this is an even better measure to distribute the stimulus than the unemployment rate of the geographic area?

I could go on creating examples of the fairest distribution of the stimulus package and each one will probably sound reasonable. The point however, is that there is no end to the debate of fairness. In truth, the fairest outcome in an economy is one where people have the greatest opportunity to gain wealth as opposed to one that tries to dictate and calculate the worth of an individual then send that individual their supposed fair share. The answer to the distribution question is capitalism.


Mark Meloy said...
This comment has been removed by the author. May 11, 2009 at 5:22 PM
Mark Meloy said...

The stimulus is not just going where there are unemployed. It must go where there are projects in need of doing, that might have been overdue. Re-paving a road for the sake of re-paving alone just to create jobs is insane. Creating those jobs on projects that were overdue but lacking funding previously is the point.

Race should play no role in where stimulus dollars go, no matter the percentage. 15% are African American? So? In the best of times, the African Americans male population has the highest unemployment rate. If one lives in an ear where jobs are scarce, such as the inner city, move to where there are jobs. There is a limit to what the government could, and should do. Paying someone to repave the road in front of their home once a month to make it convenient is idiotic.

May 11, 2009 at 5:31 PM

Great post! A few months ago my wife asked me if Obama was a standard 'liberal.' I told her that he was more of a pure progressive. She was sitting at the couch and typed 'progressive' into an online dictionary. The definition that popped out? Progressives believe in fairness and equality more than freedom. Simple as simple. I went on to tell her how that is a complete 180 from what we are founded on, and that equality and fairness will change with the winds from each Authoritarian to the next.......

May 11, 2009 at 7:16 PM
Devrim said...

CG, we rarely disagree, but we have to this time. As Mark pointed out, what is being built is more important than where or by whom it is being built.

When a bridge is being built, the demand for steel will go up, some steel mills will re-call workers back to meet increased demand. If there is sufficient road/track capacity, that steel will get to markets. So at this point making sure the product reaches the markets is more important.

If it was up to me, I would call the heads of Walmart, Sears, Target etc and tell them I won't collect any corporate taxes from them anymore but they would be in charge of the Transportation department. Do you think they would let the roads to fall into disarray or keep them in tip-top shape to get the products from A to B as fast and as cheaply as they can ?

May 11, 2009 at 9:35 PM


Read carefully, I was not taking a stand. I was pointing out an article complaining about who gets the money. When you make your campaign and policies over the base of fairness, you always find others that cry out, "what about me?" I agree with my first statement. One unemployed person has the same need as the next unemployed person. I was mocking the article in an indirect way.

May 11, 2009 at 10:29 PM
The Law said...

Obama left these questions to be answered by state and congressional politiciansHe has to. This country is way to big for one person to allocate all the funds for every project. And doing so would fall onto the "bigger government" category, would it not?

Obama talked with all 50 govenrnors to assess their needs. He created a plan to get them money. After that, it is the state's responsibility to meet the goals of the plan. Mark and (yes) Devrim are right here... a net decrease in unemployment is a net decrease in unemployment, regardless of who is benefitting the most from it.

LCR - this country was founded on the idea all men are created equal. Is this not equality? The constitution instituted a checks and balance system. Is that not fairness? Isn't equality and fairness what make us free? If powers go unchecked and unbalanced, someone's freedom is inherently inhibited. Progressives aren't freedom haters, it is a movement to challenage the status quo. That too, left unchecked, is just as dangerous as pure conservativism. I think it is better to think of the two ideologies as complementary rather than combative. In doing so, I think we see more progress.

May 12, 2009 at 1:51 AM
Devrim said...

CG and tL my question " Do you think they would let the roads to fall into disarray or keep them in tip-top shape to get the products from A to B as fast and as cheaply as they can ? " stays unanswered.

tL correct me if I am wrong; I can not make the distinction between a low Do and a high Sol, should I have "equal" airtime as Beethoven or Aerosmith ? Under your "fairness" system, I should be making as much money as Mick Jagger while I suck at singing; and I should have the right to sue Mick Jagger if he makes more money than me. Maybe we should get Mick Jagger to work for minimum wage ? If we get Mick to work for minimum wage, what do we do about Ravi Shankar or Loreena McKennith ?

May 12, 2009 at 3:37 AM
The Law said...

Dev, there is no question they would. In fact, it's probably be the best damn road in the country, with anti slip tarmac to prvent hydroplaning, LED lamps to save energy brightly light up the road without glare, and and banked curves to make turning at high speeds less dangerous.

Let's say TheLaw-Mart comes into the competition and completely out competes wal-mart, forcing them to close their doors. With Walmart out of business, and TheLaw-Mart having no franshise in that towns that connect the walmart road, who takes care of it? What if building roads wasn't a priority of TheLaw-Mart as we fly everything in? Does that mean as long as I'm in business, the citizens of the area have to navigate through the pot holes that later form?

And your second question... lol, have you turned on the pop radio lately? I'm sure if you had the right connection you can get a record deal. Hell, Joe the Plumber got one! But there is a distinct difference between fairness under law and fair opportunities to be a singer.

May 12, 2009 at 5:09 AM
Devrim said...

tL, that is why I wanted a consortium of companies, not just one company take care of the roads. What is the budget of the DOT ? Let's pick 10-20 companies who rely on roads to get their products on the market whose corporate taxes equal to the amount of the DOT budget. If LawMart who flies everything in instead of using 18 wheelers knocks Walmart off the market, we can simply replace Walmart with K-Mart or give a chair to LawMart as they still need to get their product from the airport to the store AND airports are still a part of "transportation system".

I gave you the music example, as I believe you are in the music business. How about me versus Michael Phelps or me versus Steve Jobs or me versus Stephen Hawking ?

Another question; Steve Jobs (Apple) vs Bill Gates (Windows) vs Linus Torwalds (Linux); Under your "fairness doctrine" 1/3 of every computer would be forced to use Linux. Do you really want the government to dictate what operating system you have to use ?

May 12, 2009 at 11:15 AM

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