Fair Shot, Fair Share, Fair Play: Why “Fairness” is Relative

The United States, by all external accounts, has one of the fairest judicial processes in the world.  Hundreds of thousands of pages of rules and laws have been written and established with fair justice as the principal goal.  Yet, look at the O.J. Simpson trial, or more recently, the Casey Anthony Trial.  Ask most Americans if the outcome was fair and they will tell you that both of them got away with murder.  Clearly, our own experience shows us that life is not fair and no government can provide fairness.

In an odd way, the system itself recognizes life is not, nor ever will be, fair.  Our form of justice is not as much about fairness as it is equalization of injustices, both perceived and real, by the transfer of some value or asset from the defendant to the plaintiff.  Even things that are clearly recognized as accidental, now include compensation for the victim as part of the “fairness” concept of justice.  In the early 1800s through the mid-1900s, liability for damage due to death from addictive patent medicines rested in the hands of the person who purchased it and chose to take it.  If you used a piece of equipment in the 1840s or 1850s and you lost a finger—well, its a shame you lost the finger, stuff happens you know!

Today, for some, by no means all, such events become a life changing payday.  Our concept of fairness has evolved much over the last century or so.

For this election, President Obama is now decided to use the main theme (sound byte, talking point, mantra – you pick it) of Fair Shot, Fair Share, Fair Play.  In these moments he contra-poses the hope of fair with the negative of things like the mortgage foreclosure crisis or the stock market collapse, or the “greed” of wall street and the rich corporations.  Without stating it directly, first he imparts the message that we should expect fairness and it can, in fact, be attained.  Secondly, he is building the image that only he is fair and anything else is not fair.  He makes the statement that everyone should be able to buy a home but does not discuss whether or not they should have the requirement to afford the home in the first place.  If they can’t get the loan, for whatever reason then the lender is not fair.  If they buy the home and now the lender wants to collect or repossess the home than the lender is not fair. He uses terms like unscrupulous in these cases to paint a broad picture.

Clearly, some lenders are unscrupulous, just as some people seeking loans are also unscrupulous.  But being a lender does not directly equate to being unscrupulous any more than being a borrower automatically equates to deadbeat.  While one side can quote statistics to show how all the lenders did such-and-so to be unfair to home buyers, conversely the national statistics on upside mortgages and home mortgage defaults leads one to draw the conclusion that a large part of borrowers are deadbeats.  Neither of those assumptions are of course true.

Framing the argument for his re-election in such a lopsided way is indirectly and in some cases directly, instilling in the public that they have a right to own a home regardless.  If they, you know those unscrupulous people, don’t loan you the money or you can’t pay it back it is they, the unscrupulous, that are unfair…

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(Tom Loker served as the Chief Operating Officer of Ramsell Holding Corporation. Prior to joining Ramsell, Mr. Loker was the founder and senior partner of Wild Tiger Holding Company and Thomas Loker Consulting. Visit his website at www.loker.com and his blog at tloker.wordpress.com.)