Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Life's Not Fair

Some of you know that an argument with me that gets anywhere close to the phrase, "Well, that's not fair!" is unlikely to sway me very much.  That's mainly because anytime I couldn't make my point to Mom without resorting to this saying, the debate was over.  Amanda, Adam, and Lee can back me up on this one, Mom is famous for the phrase, "Life's not fair." When she made it to this point, what else was there to talk about? We were better off heading to our room to get the sulking done.

I always knew that Mom was really smart, but I didn't know that her pithy little observation on life would be the foundation of a 4-part series on fairness by one of the smartest people on the planet, Thomas Sowell (I don't know if Dr. Sowell asked her for input, but she could have written these columns).  Here are the links to his columns:

It is an outstanding read.  One of the more intriguing points that Sowell writes about is the fact that the barbarians living east of the mountain ranges in Europe were spared invasion/conquer by the Romans because the Romans did not want to climb mountains do it.  The conquered barbarians probably didn't think that was fair, but the descendants of these groups have taken widely divergent paths mostly due to the "unfair" geography in Europe. The first column also discusses whether standardized testing creates differences or highlights differences that already exists.

In keeping with the fairness theme, Andrew Klavan has observed recently, "Free people can treat each other justly, but they can't make life fair. To get rid of the unfairness among individuals, you have to exercise power over them. The more fairness you want, the more power you need. Thus, all dreams of fairness become dreams of tyranny in the end." In other words, when justice and fairness are confused and conflated, the result is something that does not resemble either concept.

So, when I hear myself telling Sophie, "Life's not fair," I am affirming one of the undeniable truths of life. I am also saying, "Thanks, Mom!"  Hopefully, one of these days Sophie will pass on this wisdom with the same understanding that I now have.

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