Fairness Part I

So I got an email yesterday that was flatly offensive to me. Instead of replying to the email (and/or all of its recipients), I’m going to reply to its content in a more appropriate place/manner–here on my blog.

the email:

subject: This is Priceless - Explains A Lot

Some articles say it better than I can…

One time there was a young teenage girl that was about to finish her first year of college. She considered herself to be a very liberal Democrat and her father was a rather staunch Republican.

One day she was challenging her father on his beliefs and his opposition to programs like welfare. He stopped her and asked her how she was doing in school. She answered that she had a 4.0 GPA but it was really tough. She had to study all the time, never had time to go out and party and often went sleepless because all of the studying. She didn’t have time for a boyfriend and didn’t really have many college friends because of all her studying.

He then asked how her friend Mary, that was attending the same college, was doing. She replied that she was barely getting by. She had a 2.0 GPA. Never studied. Was very popular on campus and was at parties all the time. She often wouldn’t show up for classes because she was hung over.

He then asked his daughter why she didn’t go to the Dean’s office and ask why she couldn’t take 1.0 off her 4.0 and give it to her friend that only had a 2.0. That way they would both have a 3.0 GPA.

She fired back and said “that wouldn’t be fair, I worked really hard for mine and my friend has done nothing”. After a moment of silence, she replied, “I guess I will never vote Democrat again”.

We need some definitions…

…because what is described in this less-than-witty anecdote is communism, not a welfare system (these were actually Miriam’s first words in response to this, and she has lived under communism and in the U.S. both–14 years each this May).

communism n. A scheme of equalizing the social conditions of life; specifically, a scheme which contemplates the abolition of inequalities in the possession of property, as by distributing all wealth equally to all, or by holding all wealth in common for the equal use and advantage of all (source)

socialism n. A theory or system of social reform which contemplates a complete reconstruction of society, with a more just and equitable distribution of property and labor. In popular usage, the term is often employed to indicate any lawless, revolutionary social scheme. (source)

welfare n. 1. Health, happiness, and good fortune; well-being. Prosperity. Welfare work. 2. Financial or other aid provided, especially by the government, to people in need. Corporate welfare. (source)

It seems that the author of this story is confusing their definitions a tad, in the name of propaganda. It is probably trying to argue that the government is redistributing wealth, ala socialism or communism, through taxation and the welfare system, however the grades analogy does not–cannot–represent that. It is simply a poor analogy which must only resonate with those unwilling to pursue the matter with a little more rigor. Our economic system, and the government’s involvement in that system by way of taxes, expenditures, and allowances, and humanity’s history, even our nation’s recent history, is much more complicated than that; but it certainly does not allow for the redistribution of wealth for economic equality across its citizenship.

So without belaboring the point too much, I submit my alternative version of the above story:

One time there was a young upper middle class white teenage girl that was about to finish her first year of college. Because she went along with whatever her peers thought, she considered herself to be a very liberal Democrat and her father, because he also went along with whatever his peers thought, was a rather staunch Republican.

One day she was challenging her father on his beliefs and his opposition to programs like welfare. He stopped her and asked her how she was doing in school. She answered that she had a 4.0 GPA but it was really tough. First, she had to study all the time. Fortunately she had the time to do this, since she was not required to hold down a job, her generous parents providing for both her education and living expenses throughout her college years. She also never had time to go out and party. This was such a burden for her, because at her white suburban middle-class high school, she was always at the center of any social calendar. The lack of social interactions in the artificial manner of her way was really hurting her self-esteem. Because everything had come easy to her before college, she was an inefficient student and writer, and so often went sleepless because all of the time consumed studying. She didn’t have time for a boyfriend and didn’t really have many college friends because of all her studying. Again, this was the first time she had been without a cadre of friends or a boyfriend since the seventh grade; but she was determined to get good grades and so she felt this terrible sacrifice still worth it.

He then asked how her friend Mary, who was attending the same college, was doing. She replied that she was barely getting by. Mary comes from the part of town where the white people lock their doors when they drive through. She’s not white. She’s lower class. She has a toddler at home (one time she even had the gall to bring the child to class! …something about daycare closing). Her parents have both long since disappeared. She had a 2.0 GPA. Never studied–at least not in the library with all the freshman and Greek pledges. Was very popular–she had student loans! Loans from the government of all things! She was apparently at parties all the time–she could never stay after class or meet for group projects at night; something about her boy. She often wouldn’t show up for classes because she was hung over–or at least looked that way.

He then asked his daughter why she didn’t go to the Dean’s office and ask why she couldn’t take 1.0 off her 4.0 and give it to her friend that only had a 2.0. That way they would both have a 3.0 GPA.

She fired back and said “that wouldn’t be fair, I worked really hard for mine and my friend has done nothing”. After a moment of silence, she replied, “I guess I will never vote Democrat again–I’ve earned my life of privilege, damnit, and the only way they are going to get me to stop being self serving and merciless is to rip this gun out of my cold dead hands!”

Ok, so I might have gone a little overboard with the NRA thing right there at the end, but there are a couple things–deep values (like fairness) and issues (like with authority), interpreted in different ways–that I do want to explore more deeply…that exploration will be soon to follow…