DX8 Topic 16 - Life Is Unfair. So What?

Monday 8 February 2021, 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm

Venue:  - Cafe Brunelli, 187 Rundle St · Adelaide [please buy a drink at least! We are 'renting' the seats for two hours.]

About Focus Questions: a) Please read them before you come to the meetup. Think about them so you have more than "instant opinions" to offer. b) Feel free to add more focus questions. c) THE FOCUS QUESTIONS ARE JUST A MENU TO CHOOSE FROM. From this menu we can discuss whatever seems interesting. d) Focus questions are not intended to push one viewpoint! You can adopt any position you wish. We actually like friendly disagreement - it can lead to deeper understanding

Focus Questions

1. Children have an intense sense of what is fair and unfair to them personally. Why, for a large part of every population, does a commitment to fairness, never get much beyond the personal?

2. What is your personal response to being treated unfairly? Example? When does the price of a response (e.g. revenge) become too high?

3. Why is it often worthwhile to unfairly fix unfairness ? For example, with progressive taxation, richer people widely believe that it is unfair that they should pay a higher tax rate, while poorer people widely believe that their income is unfairly too small. Is this sort of thing a moral question, or a pragmatic problem?

4. Automation, robots, A.I, etc give jobs to some, but worldwide are already on the cusp of eliminating an employment future for tens of millions of people. From the perspective of losers this is intensely unfair, and will lead to societal breakdown (e.g. reference USA). Avoiding any moral argument (moral arguments are not winnable), what are some pragmatic solutions? Would a Universal Basic Income be a workable pragmatic solution?

5. Are various kinds of gender inequality unfair? Which ones? Why are they fair or not fair? When should you try to do something about it?

6. Should the 'best person' always get the job? Is meritocracy always a good idea?

7. Why do so many people desperately want to be unequal (superior .. ) with others? Are they being unfair? Examples?

8. In every society, some people are "more equal" than others (e.g. refer George Orwell's 'Animal Farm'). Does it matter? Does it matter how they got there? Should it be fixed? How?

9. Is it fair that 30% of Australian companies pay no tax, including most of the biggest ones? They operate "within the law" and it goes on year after year. Maybe you say 'the law should be changed', but it hasn't been and probably won't be. Why do unfair laws persist?

10. In strongly class based cultures, and for people with certain religious beliefs, there is often an idea that inequality of position and opportunity is both morally correct and necessary. Examples? Is there any justification for trying to change these ideas? If so, how? [Also, contrast with the self-evident lie in the American constitution that "all men are created equal"]


-------------

Extra Reading & Links

Jennifer Delgado (n.d.) "Life is unfair, so what?" Psychlogy Spot @ https://psychology-spot.com/life-is-unfair-to-me/ 

Thor May (2001) "Mr Dog Looks For Breakfast" [children's story] the Passionate Skeptic Website @ http://thormay.net/lxesl/mrdog1.html

BibleStudyTools Staff (29 August 2018) "Bible Story of Job". BibleStudyTools @ https://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-stories/bible-story-of-job.html 

Thor May (2016) "A Universal Basic Income $400 per week indexed to the CPI". Academia.edu @ https://www.academia.edu/25127267/A_Universal_Basic_Income_400_per_week_indexed_to_the_CPI 

Thor May (2015) "If half all jobs disappear, what then?" Academia.edu @ https://www.academia.edu/21436802/If_half_all_jobs_disappear_what_then 

Thor May (2014) "The Problem of Work and the Rise of the Precariat" Academia.edu @ https://www.academia.edu/8682789/The_Problem_of_Work_and_the_Rise_of_the_Precariat 

Thor May (2017) "Some failures and disincentives in a welfare system: the Australian case". Academia.edu @ https://www.academia.edu/31553099/Some_failures_and_disincentives_in_a_welfare_system_the_Australian_case 

Thor May (2012) "The Contest for Competence". Academia.edu @ https://www.academia.edu/1958933/The_Contest_for_Competence 

Thor May (2003) "The Case for Favoritism". Academia.edu @ https://www.academia.edu/16652401/The_Case_for_Favoritism 

Thor May (2014) "Fakes, liars, cheats, deceivers, animals in the forest" Academia.edu @ https://www.academia.edu/8480396/Fakes_liars_cheats_deceivers_animals_in_the_forest 

Thor May (2014) "Crime without Punishment – the journey from means to ends". Academia.edu @ https://www.academia.edu/6807011/Crime_without_Punishment_the_journey_from_means_to_ends 

Thor May (2010) "Somebody Else’s Problem – Decision Making in China". Academia.edu @ https://www.academia.edu/1937265/Somebody_Else_s_Problem_Decision_Making_in_China 

Dominic Rushe (22 January 2021) "JP Morgan boss Jamie Dimon is paid $31.5m after decrying income inequality." The Guardian @ https://www.theguardian.com/business/2021/jan/21/jamie-dimon-jp-morgan-pay-income-inequality 

Helen Davidson [in Taipei] (23 January 2021) "'Touching fish' craze sees China's youth find ways to laze amid '996' work culture - An online movement is pushing back against the country’s ferocious work culture of long hours for seemingly little gain". The Guardian @ https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jan/22/touching-fish-craze-see-chinas-youth-find-ways-to-laze-amid-996-work-culture 

Heather Boushey (September 11, 2020) "A reckoning is coming for Wall Street". Brisbane Times @ https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/business/markets/a-reckoning-is-coming-for-wall-street-20200911-p55uk2.html 

M. K. Bhadrakumar (January 19, 2021) "Biden’s CIA director signals a shift to the left - Appointment of veteran envoy William Burns as new spy chief speaks to Biden's likely policy approach and priority." Asia Times @ https://asiatimes.com/2021/01/bidens-cia-director-signals-a-shift-to-the-left/  [Quote: "US President-elect Joe Biden did two spectacular things last week that may rewrite the assumption that his presidency would return America back to the Barack Obama era. One was the US$1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief plan Biden rolled out on Thursday and the other his choice of William Burns, a veteran diplomat, to lead the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Seemingly unrelated, these two things convey a powerful signal that Biden understands that the real pandemic danger in America is social collapse and what is needed is a national policy that prevents societal disintegration – and a foreign policy that reflects that top priority". [Thor, comment: Bhadrakumar is right. This kind of policy sophistication will never be understood by the general public who live from trivial distraction to trivial distraction, but it is the only option which can turn USA away from its trajectory of becoming yet another dangerously failed state]

Dennis Glover (January 17, 2021) "US cannot ignore the lessons of history". Brisbane Times @ https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/world/north-america/us-cannot-ignore-lessons-of-history-20210117-p56upe.html  [Quote: "If something can happen once, it can happen again. This is the oft-ignored first lesson of history. The second lesson is that humans usually forget lesson number one. Watching the attempted coup unfold at the Capitol building, those two lessons kept working through my mind. Never have I felt like I was living so intensely in history ... In 1923, after almost a decade of economic suffering caused by the First World War, Germany was hit by an intense economic shock – hyperinflation, which destroyed middle class savings and raised the cost of a simple loaf of bread to several billion marks. Into this turmoil stepped a little known agitator named Adolf Hitler – a man considered an embarrassment to his establishment backers but who had a gift for speaking to the people."]

David A. Graham (January 16, 2021) "We’re Just Finding Out How Bad the Riot Really Was - More than a week after insurrectionists stormed the Capitol, video recordings, news reports, and federal charges are revealing a situation even more dire than it seemed at the time". The Atlantic @ https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/01/it-was-much-worse-it-looked/617693/  [Thor, comment : You can't come away from this piece, and the Mogelson article below, without understanding that USA is in deep, enduring trouble over and above the havoc of pandemic. There is pretty well every ingredient here of 1930s European Nazi fascism, including the racist white supremacy stuff, corrupted religiosity, and scrambled ideas of 'truth'. It is going to be a long, delicate process to put USA back together, even if it is possible and the will is there. The reviled American east coast political elites and financial interests are reviled for a reason, and even now might be too entrapped in their own hall of mirrors to have the will or capacity to remake that country. Yet another banana republic. Australia of course is trapped between this American wreckage and a neo-Confucian Chinese dictatorship]

Luke Mogelson (January 15, 2021) "Among the Insurrectionists - The Capitol was breached by Trump supporters who had been declaring, at rally after rally, that they would go to violent lengths to keep the President in power. A chronicle of an attack foretold". The New Yorker @ https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2021/01/25/among-the-insurrectionists  [Thor, comment - this is written by a reporter mixing with the leaders and other individuals of the attempted coup for months before they invaded the Capitol. It is VERY long, but if you want to get inside the heads of these people, it is a good guide]


Stan Grant (24 January 2021) "Jennifer Lopez's inauguration performance left out key verses — and truths about America". ABC news @ https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-01-24/jennifer-lopez-inauguration-left-out-key-verses-america-truths/13081688 

Nassim Khadem (25 January 2021) "Oxfam report says rich getting richer and poor getter poorer amid coronavirus pandemic". ABC news @ https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-01-25/covid-19-pandemic-exacerbating-wealth-inequality/13089128 

Greg Feldmann comment - Central to this [topic] is some definition of fairness, of which there are several. A short description can be found here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/am-i-right/201205/its-not-fair-what-is-fairness 

Thor, comment - Thanks Greg. Serendipity is my favourite English word - "the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for". Its opposite (in some situations) may be the idiom: "The road to hell is paved with good intentions". Is history on the side of serendipity? Perhaps. Politics, pretty often, is the story of getting fortunate outcmes for all the wrong reasons. Since politics about getting both good and bad humans going in the same direction, it often happens that workable outcomes are only possible by being 'unfair' from the viewpoint of an ideal. For example, if a Universal Basi Income seemed necessary because millions of jobs had been eliminated, paying to UBI to the rich at one extreme, and the lazy at the other extreme might seem unfair. However, getting such a law passed would probably require the cooperation of both the rich and the lazy, fairness or not.


Arthur Dobrin (May 11, 2012) "It's Not Fair! But What Is Fairness? - Three different ideas of fairness: sameness, deservedness, and need". Psychology Today @ https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/am-i-right/201205/its-not-fair-what-is-fairness 

Michael Collins, Jessica Guynn and Sarah Elbeshbishi (January 30, 2021) "Stock frenzy echoes anti-establishment anger behind Trump rise, analysts say". Brisbane Times @ https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/world/north-america/stock-frenzy-echoes-anti-establishment-anger-behind-trump-rise-analysts-say-20210130-p56y24.html 

Christian Busch (20 January 2021) "How to be lucky - Most of us think that luck just happens (or doesn’t) but everyone can learn to look for the unexpected and find serendipity". Psyche @ https://psyche.co/guides/how-to-open-up-to-serendipity-and-create-your-own-luck 


--------------------


Life Is Unfair. So What? (c) Thor May 2021 

return to Ddiscussion