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« Super-Turing Computation is Coming | Main | A Cut at 'Rational Optimism' »

10 April 2012

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billy T

What is fairness? I guess it all depends on what the meaning of the word "is" is, to paraphase a former Democrat President. Noticed AARP jacked up its health insurance premiums on its employees last year so the employees will fall under the Cadillac Plan penalty. It is fair that workers with good benefit plans are hit harder in the pocketbook? Is it fair that only union shops are allowed to bid on Federal Highway construction? Is it fair that a wage earner scraps together $100.00 a month after taxes and puts it the stock market only to be taxed again on his gains. Sounds like double taxation. Is it fair that all the drivers of electric cars do not pay gasoline taxes, yet use the roads and freeways without paying their share? Is it fair that the government offers up to 10k in rebates for buying a electric car and offers nothing for people buying a a non EV auto? Is it fair that those who contribute to and increase the wealth and prosperity and standard of living of a community are singled out as the problem and forced to pay for the irresponsible and leaches of society while also being forced to satisfy their insatiable demands? None of us asked to be born. That in and of itself is not fair.

Ryan Mount

Yep billyT. Fair compared to what? What is "fair" and what are it's parameters. I have lots of kids running around the house who occasionally proclaim "That's not fair!"

So I ask them, well, "fair compared to what? What do you want?"

Almost invariably it's more about entitlement than fairness: I'm entitled to that candy, I am entitled to watch TV...etc.

So people tend to confuse "fairness," which is vague, emotional and has entitlement underpinnings, with "justice" is all about essentially the contracts we have each other. One is for the lazy, the other requires negotiation and work. Or as my Dad used to tell me, you don't get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate. (fairness = deserve, justice = negotiation).

I'm not necessarily a big Bible fan, but I love the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard to illustrate that point between fairness and justice. Whaaa! He only worked one hour and got paid the same! Whaaaaa!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parable_of_the_Workers_in_the_Vineyard

George Rebane

'Fair' can only serve if all the involved parties agree on a common utility function that allows the measurement of various allocation or assignment policies. And Kenneth Arrow won a Nobel prize for showing that absent that, fairness among more than two parties is not decidable.

What about 'from each according to his abilities, and to each according to his needs'? ;-)

Michael Anderson

"The Bureau of Indian Affairs has already achieved troglodyte status in the federal government."

No way will this ever go viral. The BIA is unique. Just ask the Germans.

Ryan Mount

>'Fair' can only serve if all the involved parties agree on a common utility function that allows the measurement of various allocation or assignment policies.

I would call that being "just." Contracts, entered into with good faith are "just."

George Rebane

RyanM 430pm - 'just' and justice is always defined according to a code (e.g. of laws) that can be imposed by anyone or any group in power, and it may not have anything remotely to do with fairness - it only requires compliance to the code. But you are correct that if contracts are executed in the context of a code known to all parties, then they may be labeled 'just'.

BTW, entering a contract 'willingly' and in 'good faith' are semantically independent; one can be done without the other. For example, you may be forced to enter a contract against your will, but being an honorable man, you will execute it in good faith. And in the larger context, the contract conforming to the established code will be a just one.

billy T

Mr. Mount. Funny you mentioned the parable as that exact same illustration entered my mind as I was typing the first post. Also another saying of Jesus "to whom much is given, much is required" as well. Your illustration of kids crying foul "its not fair!" is most appropriate as well. My beliefs have always been to play the hand you are dealt. If I was born with one leg so be it. Comparison is a killer, which is why one should never divulge one's wage in the workplace as a general rule of thumb. If I agree to work for 6 bucks an hour, I agreed to 6 bucks an hour. I may be worth more in my own eyes, but that is the wage I agreed to. The ABC's are accept, change, or eliminate. Comparison to others is a poison that breeds discontent and spreads like gangrene. It is a soul sickness. I believe strongly in focusing on what I can control in myself and my immediate environment rather than things out of my control. I will never have a great singing voice nor great looks or the intelligence of others. It may not be fair, but life is not fair. Its ok to have your head in the clouds as long as you have two feet on the ground. That is where we live: on the ground, in reality. Its really none of my bees wax how big the bankroll of someone I don't know is. Seems the wealthy ( a minority of the populous) already have been paying their fair share cause they have been paying the lion's share of the cost of everybody's ride. Every second spent focusing on someone else is just a diversion from looking at the real problem, aka, the man in the mirror. Raiding Warren Buffet's or Bill Gates's Foundation and leaving them penny less will not improve my life in the least. Guess some just can't image life without the evil rich to kick around.

Douglas Keachie

Is it fair that some insist on polluting the air and putting the country at risk with their gas powered vehicles? Of course they should be paying a penalty, by paying more than hybrid and all electric vehicles.

billy T

Doug, you will be relieved that fairness is coming. As the Feds and States are hurting because of the decline of gasoline tax revenues, a silver lining is approaching. States are figuring out ways to tax the non paying users of our roads. First idea is a GPS at gas pumps to monitor the mileage used by Hybrid vehicles. Other proposals include GPS in vehicles that also send out miles driven on the vehicles and comparing that data to fuel purchases and odometer readings. Fairness is coming. If you are going to play, you are going to pay.

billy T

In related news, a worker in a lab outside Detroit was injured when a lithium battery prototype exploded. The battery is being developed for a new car called The Spark. That is certainly a fair moniker for the car.

Ryan Mount

Hi Doug-

The polluting the air example is not an example of a lack of fairness. It's categorically the wrong argument. Strictly, and I hate to break to everyone, there's no such thing as fair. Fairness almost always is an expression of entitlement or a willingness to inflict force on others to get one's way. And the difference between the two are expression and access to power. Not to mention that "fairness" is more subject to whimsy and impulse.

Which is why, and words matter, I choose to use the word justice instead of fairness.

Now George you're picking the proverbial fly poop out of the pepper, splitting hairs with this willing and unwilling contract business. But it's for a good cause. So let me clear, said in my Constitutional Law Professor voice, entering into a contract unwillingly is an unjust proposition. And it happens all the time usually forced by one party who's more powerful (say, the government) than the other (me, a relatively powerless, yet sarcastic citizen).

We'll give Ryan an offer he can't refuse...

Douglas Keachie

Well let's see now. Let's add an RFID and take into account the weight of the vehicle to get at the real wear and tear on the roads. The gas pumps could then charge more or less. Each passenger carried would also qualify you for a ride share discount, and they would have to flash their ID's electronically too.

How about my insurance company, California Casualty, which now tells me they are recording the conversation, regardless of the fact that California is a two party consent state (no can record without permission of both parties), and I don't want to be recorded. If you ask them if it is OK if you record them, they say "no, it is not OK" thus leaving them with evidence and you with jack squat, should it ever become an issue. I suspect in the fine print all corps will now have you waiving you rights not to be recorded. Hope to see an ACLU case from this soon. Coirporations are even nastier than the government, IMHO.

George Rebane

RyanM 800am - "Now George you're picking the proverbial fly poop out of the pepper, splitting hairs with this willing and unwilling contract business."

Guilty as charged. I hail from a crusty crowd that takes definitions ("fly poop") seriously in the hope that barns are not circled gratuitously. Along that line (let me not mince words), the notions of justice entering into a contract and its post hoc validity are orthogonal, and you are simply confusing them. See 'Getting to Yes' by Fisher and Ury of the celebrated Harvard Negotiation Project.

Fairness and justice are two distinct ideas in the precise use of the English language. For example there is an entire field in systems science and decision theory called 'fair division algorithms' that is much studied and used to great profit by the business world. Much to their chagrin, even lawyers are beginning to invoke its principles when their usual perfidies fail them.

As you have noted and well taken part in, sorting through pepper is one of the unique and revealing cachet's of RR. Do not forsake your magnifying glass.

Douglas Keachie

A XB passed me on the freeway, it had a bumper sticker that said, "you just got passed by a toaster" --- you gotta get that!

http://www.usa.siemens.com/electromobility/electromobility.html?stc=usccc020026

For a mere $70,000

http://www.hybridcars.com/electric-cars/ebox.html

Scott Obermuller

re: Douglas at 9:12 -"Coirporations are even nastier than the government, IMHO".
If you don't like the policies of your insurance company, all you have to do is tell them to take a hike and get a new company. Try that with the govt.

Douglas Keachie

It is tried and is somewhat more effective, via elections. When all corps lock up together on policies and attitudes towards the public, you can't stop them except by government regulations and court judgements. In the corporate world for sure, he/she who has the gold, makes the rules.

George Rebane

How true, how true - in the private sector Golden Rule #2 is 'Them that's got the gold makes the rules.", in the government sector we dispense with the golden rules and go directly to 'Them that's got the guns makes the rules.'

Douglas Keachie

a la George Zimmerman?

billy T

There is justice in the world. I take back everything I ever said about little electric go carts and high priced hybrids. I am going to get myself one of them there smart cars just to be fair http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5S1NAMnYKM&feature=related or maybe two smart cars just to make help the economy http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=644jq9PUF5M

George Rebane

DougK 1101am - Zimmerman made no rules. The question is did he follow established rules. Contrary to the prosecutor's strained protestations, this man will be tried in the media which trial has already come to a conclusion in the mind of the mob - get the rope.

billy T

Well Dr. Rebane, you finally fell into Doug's trap. He has been dying for someone to post about Zimmerman and open the door for some down and dirty arguing. OK, Zimmerman has been charged and justice will be dispensed. 2nd degree murder may be a high bar to prove, but that is for criminal lawyers and the judge to hash out. We are now officially spectators to a Florida case without full knowledge of the details. The fallen teenager's parents have been the only sane ones in this debate. Now that this case is in the judicial system, what are the race baiters doing hanging around? What can Rev Al possibly contribute? Not certain the good Reverend can testify as an expert witness with his background of being James Brown's manager. I guess we all don't want to have another Rodney King riots on our hands. At least there was no looting and donybrooks after that other Fla trial of Casey Anthony. Even Mayor Bloomberg has weighted in against stand your ground laws, which is funny since NY is one of 25 states that do not have such laws on their books. Whomever said "opinions are like butt holes, everybody has one" was on to something.

George Rebane

That's a great commentary that RyanM's 1146am points us to.

And yes, I am again in DougK's tender trap. One of the duties of the host around here. It would be interesting to bear witness in the media to all the wanton black-on-black murders that happen every day. That these are ignored by the national media says a lot on the real racial values of the journalistic profession.

Scott Obermuller

No Doug - changing car insurance companies takes a couple of phone calls and 15 minutes. All on your lonesome you are going to get the govt to stop jacking you with 2 phone calls and 15 minutes?

Paul Emery

Scott

"all you have to do is tell them to take a hike and get a new company. Try that with the govt. "

that's a very cynical observation.
What do we need to do to "get a new Company" (government) ?
I've been singing this tune for weeks now. All we need to do is vote third party-any party in the next election and we have instant revolution. Once you eliminate the Republicrats then we can acually begin discussing real solutions not those bought and sold by special interests.

I know who I'm not voting for for sure.

Scott Obermuller

A cynical observation? It's called free market capitalism. Treat me right or I'm gone. It's why we have a high standard of living, although it's now declining since we are moving towards socialism and away from free market capitalism. Yes, we can have a 3rd party win. All you need are votes. Obama is buying his votes. With your money and mine. The question is what kind of 3rd party? I believe the 3rd party that Paul would vote for wouldn't be my cup 'o tea. I want the fed govt slashed back to what the Constitution clearly calls for. Most regulations can be made at the state level. Spending will be limited since the states can't print money and the feds won't be bailing them (or the banks) out. Not perfect, but waaaay better than the mess we see in socialistic fed govts.

Paul Emery

Scott

I was referring only to the "Try that with the govt" portion of you're statement which you contrasted with our ability to shop for providers of goods and services. Sorry for the confusion. In my view the message should be that we're fed up with the monopoly of the Republicrats running our government. Until we break that stranglehold we can make no progress. Reform of that institution (yes it's singular) is impossible since they are bought and controlled by special interests. That can be done in one election cycle by voting third party. I doubt if you are in the Republicrat camp so we can likely agree on that. I'm really looking at a rejuvenated Libertarian Party as an option. I really like Gary Johnson and think he is a man of the future that won't be a Republican kiss ass like the Paul,s that think they can operate within the party. There are other options. Once the powers that be understand that we're fed up and are throwing them out you'll see a great diversity of independent parties that will vie for our attention and not take us for granted. Imagine the fun that would be to see a mass exodus of all the Republicrats in one election cycle. The fact is it's totally possible but as long as we are conned into believing we don't have that power we are doomed to more of the same whomever wins.

This is exactly what Thomas Jefferson meant when he said “Every generation needs a new revolution.”

Scott Obermuller

re: Paul's 5:55 I see. My comment, of course, was about Doug's complaint about his insurance company and his stated great fear of private companies. I'm trying hard to think of Avon or Fuller Brush throwing innocent folks in jail or the slaughter of millions as have multiple govts, but he still fears them more than dictators and despots. To each his own.
Gary Johnson has much to recommend him as a president, but I can't see the greens and the occupy crowd voting for or supporting him. Jefferson would be appalled at the average American citizen today. Their lack of education and ambition to better themselves would give him pause as to what sort of mess we would end up with in any sort of new revolution. It's one thing to not like the current oppressive and corrupt govt, but you have to plan something better before you throw out the bath water. These days, I see folks too eager to toss out just the baby and leave the dirty bath water. As much as Tom would want a fresh revolution, he would not change his core beliefs in governance. He would want to change the people at the top, not the Constitution.

Paul Emery

So Scott are you saying just vote Republicrat (either version) and let it go at that? How well educated were the revolutionaries in Jefferson's time?

So in your view we're better off sticking with what we have rather than to shake things up by throwing the whole lot out? Can there, in your view, be incremental improvement within the two party system and how could that happen with the billions of bucks thrown at them for influence?

Scott Obermuller

Not saying that at all. If you follow my posts you will remember I voted for Keys in the last election and have stated I won't be voting for Romney in the next. I'm just pointing out that quoting Jefferson and using that as an excuse to throw out what we have now and install anything that isn't mainstream, isn't going to necessarily be any better. For example, there are all sorts of Dems that think Obama is too right wing. It's not good enough to simply say we need a 3rd party. That web-fed "middle of the road" 3rd party that tried to get started recently was nothing more than a bunch of left wing populists.
And yes, I'd say that considering the almost complete lack of educational opportunities of the colonial folk, they were much better educated overall than the idiots that squander the vast resources available to the average American today.

Paul Emery

Scott

Thanks for the conversation. We need lots of third parties and lots of ideas. Kinda like when the framers of the Constitution got together and put this whole thing together. They gave up on negotiating with the British and hashed it out among themselves. Somehow I feel that you and I could agree on lots of things if we had to come together and come up with a plan. First of all we need a rousing no confidence vote on the current system of one party rule and move on from there.

Michael Kesti

Paul E. writes, "All we need to do is vote third party-any party in the next election and we have instant revolution."

OK. Would such a revolution be the revolution that you/I/we want? Would the outcome would be a net positive for both the country and the citizens?

Paul Emery

Michael

I have no doubt that the dissolution of the Republican and Democratic parties would lead to a grand and glorious renaissance of America.

Scott Obermuller

As to simply getting rid of the 2 major parties, I still am not comfortable that it would guarantee a good outcome. The founders did get together and came up with a first class system of governance. All we have to do is follow it. It doesn't matter what party is in power - they must follow the Constitution or we sink. And we are sinking. It all starts with a populace that is properly trained to think of a government as a guardian of our protection and rights first and foremost. The gov is not a provider of goods. As long as the sheeple think the job of the gov is to give them goodies, then it doesn't matter what party or group is running things.

Paul Emery

Scott, of course there's no guarantee, but it would be better than the one party system we have now. Bi-partisan support for unconstitutional wars alone should be enough to toss them out if the Constitution is important. It would mainly send a message that we've had enough. You already are likely to vote independent and I'm joining you though I'm not sure where to put my vote.

Scott Obermuller

I hate to sound per-snickity Paul, but when you state - "but it would be better than the one party system we have now" - you are making a guarantee. I'd like to think it would be better, but I can also cite a lot of instances in history when it didn't turn out so hot. We have in this country a few good instances -the beginnings of the Republicans and the Bull Moose Party to mention, but overall did that really lead to anything better? Who is happy with the Republicans now? And we can look around in the last few decades at some so-called democratic revolutions and see the populace overall ended up in the dark ages. I'll take the Shah of Iran over the sociopaths that run that poor country now. They execute youths for "punk" hair, or for being homosexual. Always be careful to make sure of what you're getting before trading in what you have. Yes, we can do better but thinking it has to involve electing a new party blinds us to more pressing problems. The changes can happen within an existing party just as easily (or as hard) as with a new party. Will we have a new (3rd) party in the future? Perhaps, but that in and of itself won't make the difference.

Douglas Keachie

Scott, if ALL the insurance companies, and other companies as well, take the approach that they either don't have to do business with you or will make it very difficult to do business, in regards recording conversations, and other similar stuff, then switching from jackal A to jackal B doesn't help any.

In short, the laws written to support the consumer are quickly being nullified, as fast as they are created.

Scott Obermuller

Well Doug, if most of the consumers agree with that (that's democracy, remember) then you're just SOL. If the consumers don't like it, then they'll leave the most onerous company. And that company will go out of business. And the others will take notice. If the govt requires the insurance companies to do it any way, then we're back to the govt running things, not the free market. There are a lot of folks out there that think that gathering evidence just before the crash IS consumer protection. I'm not sure anyone can hear me in my car, anyway - I have the interior lined with lead foil!

billy T

Mr. Keachie, surely seeking and obtaining auto insurance is not a Herculean task. Don't make a mountain out of a mole hill. In fact, my insurance must be ready to re-up right now because I have received 3 auto insurance junk mail solicitations today alone. One from that cute reptile Geico, one from Century 21 and one from The Hartford Group via my AARP membership which I cancelled a couple of years ago. I have Progressive and they treated me like a King after the kids smashed 2 cars (not their fault) and fixed them no questions asked in a very prompt and informative manner. Besides, Buffet has a huge chunk of Geico and I like the Fran commercials Progressive churns out. If buying insurance is becoming a major upsetting issue, then come into town and grab an AllState agent. Be forewarned: the agent may ask you some questions. Or call crisis hotline. Hopefully they won't put you on hold or record your call. :)

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