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panpareil

What Is Fair?

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A fair deal is impersonal, honest, and open.

http://www.wired.com/2010/03/evolution-of-fairness/

“These findings call into question the standard assumption in economics that preferences are innate and stable,”

The above quote from the article is illustrative of why non-Austrian economists have it all wrong, and why empiricism does not work in economics. Even with essential goods and services you can never know exactly what people will want, it is always a whim of the moment. So, a controlled market driven by even the brightest will fail more than the free market which is driven by and therefore responsive to these whims.

Also, this article is conflating fairness with sharing, which are two different things. Fairness is the perceived equity and balance of giving and receiving among all parties. In sharing there is inherent imbalance and inequity in giving and receiving. Sharing does not lead to fairness, but is dissonant with fairness.

I also disagree that fairness corresponds with community. Fairness is just as possible among strangers as it is with perceived family. The stress on the necessity of community is due to the authors conflation of sharing with fairness. With sharing a sense of community is necessary since the action is one way.

And fairness is not antagonistic to selfishness, only when one is ignorant of the personal advantages of fairness in a given situation.

Understanding fairness is less confusing when one focuses on equity of actions, instead of results. I can understand why that is because results are more easily understood than the complex actions necessary to produce them.

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Even with essential goods and services you can never know exactly what people will want

That you do not know how to do it suggests that you can't know whether others do. Ignorance being a lousy basis for a claim of knowledge, you dig?

Also, this article is conflating fairness with sharing

No. It is analyzing sharing to determine varying levels of fairness. Some share fairly, some do not.

Fairness is the perceived equity and balance of giving and receiving among all parties

That is not all that it is. Fairness is about treating others properly. It is about justice, dignity, human rights, and playing by the rules.

In sharing there is inherent imbalance and inequity in giving and receiving. Sharing does not lead to fairness, but is dissonant with fairness.

Only if you assume both that a single transaction can occur in a vacuum, and that it us possible to measure all the things others give you. This is something you need to understand, on at least a subconscious level, to have a successful marriage.

The stress on the necessity of community is due to the authors conflation of sharing with fairness.

Nah. The authors are saying that treating strangers differently than you do family is unfair. Not wrong, mind you, but just unfair. The sharing experiment measures treatment of strangers, and the reaction to how strangers are treated. That is compared to the baseline hidden assumption that people share fairly freely with their family.

And fairness is not antagonistic to selfishness,

As motives, they are. As outcomes, they are not.

Understanding fairness is less confusing when one focuses on equity of actions, instead of results.

I'm afraid focusing on any one aspect of fairness can only lead to confusion of what fairness actually is... Edited by mererdog

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That you do not know how to do it suggests that you can't know whether others do. Ignorance being a lousy basis for a claim of knowledge, you dig?

Not ignorance of a knowable, but knowledge of an unknowable.

No. It is analyzing sharing to determine varying levels of fairness. Some share fairly, some do not.

Apples and Oranges. Sharing is not fair. It is compassionate, it is empathetic, it is self serving for emotional and social reasons by assuaging ones guilt and enhancing ones social status. But it has nothing to do with fairness. Fairness implies balance, equity, reciprocality, in essence a two way exchange. Sharing is a one way transaction, a gift, charity.

That is not all that it is. Fairness is about treating others properly. It is about justice, dignity, human rights, and playing by the rules.

These meanings of fairness have no functional connection with the meaning associated with sharing here. The focus is on the distribution of material assets and labor, which is associated with transactional fairness.

Only if you assume both that a single transaction can occur in a vacuum, and that it is possible to measure all the things others give you. This is something you need to understand, on at least a subconscious level, to have a successful marriage.

Of course transactions do not happen in a vacuum. They happen among all the other transactions in society, which is how market value is established. The clearing value at which a transaction can voluntarily happen and both parties benefit is the value that is equal to or greater than the value someone else is willing to transact. You either accept that or you forgo the transaction. It is your valuation of what you will receive that dictates the limit of what you will pay. If the buyer pays more than the seller asks that portion is charity. If the seller takes less than someone else will pay then that is also charity. Of course no one can know what someone else will pay unless they are a current bidder for the item. If you are unaware of what someone shares with you how can you ascertain what is fair to return, or if your obligation has already been met?

Marriage is a voluntary socialist state I have entered gladly. At this level, socialism works just fine. Property is shared and everyone's contribution to the family unit is evident. In society at large the contribution of others is not evident, leading to a reasonable reluctance in sharing.

Nah. The authors are saying that treating strangers differently than you do family is unfair. Not wrong, mind you, but just unfair. The sharing experiment measures treatment of strangers, and the reaction to how strangers are treated. That is compared to the baseline hidden assumption that people share fairly freely with their family.

As I have just said there is no way to ascertain if someone else has contributed to my well being as my family has. Without this information, sharing resources that belong not just to myself but to my family, with a stranger could be a detriment not just to myself but to my family, with which I have a previous and verified fiduciary relationship. This is why to diminish the standard of sharing with family or those who have made a verified contribution in favor of a strange who has not is in itself unfair.

Sharing instead of trading leads to a system of inequity and unfairness simply due to the fact that a strangers level of contribution is not available information, and that hides those who take more than they receive. Just the same as the evidence of large assets does not reveal whether a stranger gives less than they receive. There is no evidence that a society based on sharing is any fairer than a society based on trading. It does not even make sense.

As motives, they are. As outcomes, they are not.

Fairness is not in anyway dependent on selflessness. One can act fairly and be selfish. Acting fairly yields benefits which squares nicely with selfishness, regardless of the benefit for others.

I'm afraid focusing on any one aspect of fairness can only lead to confusion of what fairness actually is...

There is only one meaning of fairness that applies to the distribution of goods and services.

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Not ignorance of a knowable, but knowledge of an unknowable.

And how do you prove that something cannot be proven? I mean, if your claim is that something is unknowable, how do you prove your claim?

Sharing is not fair.

It can be.

It is compassionate, it is empathetic, it is self serving for emotional and social reasons by assuaging ones guilt and enhancing ones social status. But it has nothing to do with fairness. Fairness implies balance, equity, reciprocality, in essence a two way exchange. Sharing is a one way transaction, a gift, charity.

Sharing is also a way to handle issues of joint ownership or non-ownership. It is also a way to cooperate, when you have a joint goal, whether it be trying to build a barn or enjoy a play date.

These meanings of fairness have no functional connection with the meaning associated with sharing here. The focus is on the distribution of material assets and labor, which is associated with transactional fairness.

What do you mean by "the meaning here"? Up to this point, you've been fairly vague about what you are talking about, and everyone else has been talking about a broad range of things. The paper I linked to, that you were commenting on, is about a theory of an evolutionary biology theory about fairness as a general concept. If you are only talking about the one narrow definition, it would appear you are the only one. And I would say unequivocally that you cannot understand the one kind without understanding all the others, because social transactions do not occur in a vacuum. You have to read The Theory of Moral Sentiments to really understand The Wealth of Nations...

It is your valuation of what you will receive that dictates the limit of what you will pay

Buyers are rarely that rational. People will pay more because a seller us pretty, or pay less because a seller is an ass. Price as a reward/punishment system should not be ignored. One of the things the fairness experiments show clearly, for example, is that people will gladly gladly get nothing to prevent someone else from getting too much.

If you are unaware of what someone shares with you how can you ascertain what is fair to return, or if your obligation has already been met?

You understand that transactions do not exist in a vacuum, and instead of trying to fulfill your obligation, you assume that you are always obligated, as is everyone else. Since you owe your life to the actions of people you will never meet, how could it be otherwise?

In society at large the contribution of others is not evident, leading to a reasonable reluctance in sharing.

Reasonable not being the same as fair. After all, it is reasonable to not feel obligated for things you do not know you have been given, but it is not fair to take without giving in return. Acting unfairly, simply by virtue of using a narrow focus when determining what others deserve is fairly commonplace...

As I have just said there is no way to ascertain if someone else has contributed to my well being as my family has. Without this information, sharing resources that belong not just to myself but to my family, with a stranger could be a detriment not just to myself but to my family, with which I have a previous and verified fiduciary relationship. This is why to diminish the standard of sharing with family or those who have made a verified contribution in favor of a strange who has not is in itself unfair.

Transactions do not occur in a vacuum. A baby has never contributed. We understand the babies potential, and we value it, thus we do not consider this an unfair use of resources. To protect yourself and your family without doing the same for others is to say that you and yours have more value than others. That is unfair. It may be reasonable or a good idea. It is also patently unfair. How fairness can be a survival trait, despite leading to actions that can seem unreasonable, or a bad idea is a fascinating question the paper is trying to address.

There is no evidence that a society based on sharing is any fairer than a society based on trading.

All societies are based on both. Societies cannot learn to trade without first learning how to share.

Fairness is not in anyway dependent on selflessness.

Who said it was?

One can act fairly and be selfish

Yet one cannot be fair and act selfishly.

Acting fairly yields benefits which squares nicely with selfishness, regardless of the benefit for others.

It can. It does not always.

There is only one meaning of fairness that applies to the distribution of goods and services.

Fair dealing, fair pricing, fair trade, and fair market value all use different meanings of fairness.

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This seems to point more towards culture as the motivator. I would agree; that seems reasonable.

(Referring to the paper that Mererdog posted)

Edited by Coolhand

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And how do you prove that something cannot be proven? I mean, if your claim is that something is unknowable, how do you prove your claim?

What I am claiming is that the desires of all individuals is information that is diffuse and ever-changing, and there no current mechanism to gather, hold, much less analyze this information. It is known as the knowledge problem. And the complexity of this task is in continual growth. It is also the primary reason why centralized control has no means of fulfilling the desires of the populous, because it can not know what they want. So, at present, fulfilling the desires of the populous is not a process that can be carried out by any government devised. Nothing so far devised has an efficacy greater than random.

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It is known as the knowledge problem. And the complexity of this task is in continual growth.

You're mangling Hayek, but, anyway. You do not know how to do it. You are therefore ill-equipped to recognize if someone else can. When you assume that no one can do it, you are creating a prejudicial bias that prevents you from fairly judging on merit. Note that past failures in no way indicate that success is impossible. They simply indicate that past methodologies did not work. Absence of evidence is not evidence of anything, right?

On a more personal level, would you rather be the Wright Brothers, or the people who said they couldn't do it?

Here's some sciency stuff about this kind of unfairness...

http://m.livescience.com/18678-incompetent-people-ignorant.html

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You're mangling Hayek, but, anyway. You do not know how to do it. You are therefore ill-equipped to recognize if someone else can. When you assume that no one can do it, you are creating a prejudicial bias that prevents you from fairly judging on merit. Note that past failures in no way indicate that success is impossible. They simply indicate that past methodologies did not work. Absence of evidence is not evidence of anything, right?

On a more personal level, would you rather be the Wright Brothers, or the people who said they couldn't do it?

Here's some sciency stuff about this kind of unfairness...

http://m.livescience.com/18678-incompetent-people-ignorant.html

I have a personal theory about ignorance driving a persons or a groups acting with or describing the rest of the world. It will reveal it when it is complete. This article is helpful.

I'm not the type of person to say things cannot be done. I'm more the type of person that does things other say cannot be done. (With a substantial sense of relish I might add.)

But there is nothing that would lead one to believe that knowing the desires of humanity could be done, except lack of information. There are 7 billion disparate separate people ever dying and being replaced, speaking hundreds of different languages with a sense of desire that is constantly changing, driven by individual circumstances on unique personalities. On top of this each of the attributes for this system contains a certain amount of unpredictability due to miscommunication and misunderstanding, and an element of inherent randomness as does every other physical process. Even if it were possible to take a snapshot of all the information presented therein, it would never repeat again, and would have no predictive value greater than random.

In any event if one chooses to undertake the challenge feel free, but do so by allowing all others to be equally free not to participate, and utilize ones own resources instead of wasting the resources of others. That would seem to be fair, no.

Besides, to force people into a situation that attempts to read their desires queers the results, would it not. The real problem is to not disturb the freedom. The prime directive.

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But there is nothing that would lead one to believe that knowing the desires of humanity could be done, except lack of information.

You are still being unfair. You have admitted that your knowledge on this subject is limited. It is therefore only fair to admit that others may know things you do not know that justify them holding positions contrary to your own. Once again, the danger of this sort if unfairness lies in programming yourself to dismiss new information out of hand, thus preventing you from learning when you are wrong.

Even if it were possible to take a snapshot of all the information presented therein, it would never repeat again, and would have no predictive value greater than random.

Of course it would be greater than random. How, exactly, do you think that Wal-Mart decides how many toasters to buy in a given month? Getting greater predictive value than guesswork is routine. The problem centralized schemes have is that they aren't good at absorbing losses when predictions don't pan out. That whole Too Big To Fail thing, you know? Redundancy always seems inefficient until something breaks...

That would seem to be fair, no.

So, you want someone else to do the work, and take all the risks, but you'll be glad to benefit from it when it all works out? That's your idea of fair?

Besides, to force people into a situation that attempts to read their desires queers the results, would it not.

Maybe. But remember Wal-Mart. This isn't science fiction. It's how markets work. Every retail business out there is eager to figure out what you want and what you are willing to do to get it. They are also eager to shape your desires and make you more desperate to have those desires fulfilled. The bigger they are, the bigger the populations they are working to understand and manipulate. And they get a little better at it every day. Of course, using force to impose monopoly would reduce variables and make the job easier, but I doubt anyone would call it fair play... Edited by mererdog

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You are still being unfair. You have admitted that your knowledge on this subject is limited. It is therefore only fair to admit that others may know things you do not know that justify them holding positions contrary to your own. Once again, the danger of this sort if unfairness lies in programming yourself to dismiss new information out of hand, thus preventing you from learning when you are wrong.

I understand the problem, I understand the proposed solutions, and I understand the limits of the solutions proposed. I am perfectly willing to accept what works, especially what works best. It is fair to oppose what does not work or what works less efficiently when it concerns my life and the lives of others.

I would be more amiable to consider proposals with previous real world results. If something will work on the whole of society it will work just as well on a small piece where copious metrics can be gathered for an appropriate period of time, which for something like Obamacare would be over a whole lifetime, since it has lifelong effect. This instead of the usual "it sounds good to me lets try it and see what happens, we can always tweak it later".

Of course it would be greater than random. How, exactly, do you think that Wal-Mart decides how many toasters to buy in a given month? Getting greater predictive value than guesswork is routine. The problem centralized schemes have is that they aren't good at absorbing losses when predictions don't pan out. That whole Too Big To Fail thing, you know? Redundancy always seems inefficient until something breaks...

This is a sandbox, a controlled sub-environment that can be tested. The entire environment cannot be sandboxed or controlled, which is why empirical snapshots of partial data are not informative. Deductive logic is required to solve problems that cannot be sandboxed. Actually Wal-mart guesses, and adjusts their guess when it is wrong. They are unable to correctly project with certainty. I would expect no more in an indeterminate world.

So, you want someone else to do the work, and take all the risks, but you'll be glad to benefit from it when it all works out? That's your idea of fair?

Which is why certain things are expensive, you have to pay to share in the results of others' risks. But only if you want a share, others who do not seek a share have no ethical responsibility to pay.

It's like someone delivering something to your house and expecting you to pay for it even though you didn't order it. You are not required to pay for it or even to ship it back, in fact you could demand payment if your property is damaged in the process.

My archetype for those who demand payment for supposed service is the squeegee guy who jumps on your car when you are trapped at a red light. He smears oily muddy news papers all over your windows and then demands payment for his "service". Sometimes the value of a mans effort and work is less than zero, even if he thinks it is more.

Maybe. But remember Wal-Mart. This isn't science fiction. It's how markets work. Every retail business out there is eager to figure out what you want and what you are willing to do to get it. They are also eager to shape your desires and make you more desperate to have those desires fulfilled. The bigger they are, the bigger the populations they are working to understand and manipulate. And they get a little better at it every day. Of course, using force to impose monopoly would reduce variables and make the job easier, but I doubt anyone would call it fair play...

Coercive force is not fair unless it is counteracting coercive force, and only then when it serves no other end.

I would also think that science that requires coercive force is no longer ethical science.

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I think the only thing in life that is fair is death. We all die, and nobody messes that up.

True.

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Fairness in the philosophical sense I equate with justice. I recently attended a Bahai group meeting in which the topic was Justice, and there were readings from many religions and philosophers on the topic. The common thread in these readings was the idea that Justice, what is fair to our fellow man, is that we desire for them the best of what we desire for ourselves. Understanding, love, compassion, caring, and uplifting - these are the ultimate spiritual justice.

This idea seems to be supported by recent studies of primate behaviour where-in the monkeys become upset when the best food isn't shared equally among them, or when one member of the group doesn't uplift the needs of the others. The instinct for fairness is a survival trait within social species which have evolved to survive through group strength and group support rather than individually.

As an agnostic I tend to consider both the spiritual and scientific explanations for a given reality.

Edited by Tsukino_Rei

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What cannot be separated when discussing fairness is the equity of what is given in relation to the equity of what is returned. The equity of what is received only stands when there is an equality in what is given. When nothing is given or when giving does not have a relationship to what is being received then the focus is on the equality of what is received. But when what is being given has an effect on what one is receiving then what becomes important is the ratio of what is being given and received. In other words, It is fair to receive the same when all give the same or when giving is not relevant to what is received. Otherwise fairness requires all to give the same to receive the same.Everyone gets the same portion at a free lunch. But when there is a bill what one gets is equivalent to what one pays.

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