Any parent who has watched kids play has watched while one kid will do something incredibly unfair and then appeal to the parents to impose his sense of fairness. For example, at Joe’s birthday party, Mike will immediately take Joe’s brand-new toy, and when the toy is returned to Joe, Mike will say, “that’s not fair!”
Appealing to “fairness” is silly and childish because fairness is by its very nature subjective. What you perceive as fair, another doesn’t. Throughout history, kings thought it was “fair” for them to own most of the land because they organized armies to protect the country. Slaveowners thought it was “fair” for them to buy and sell human beings. Stalin thought it was “fair” to send millions of counterrevolutionaries to the gulags to protect the Soviet system.
It should seem self-evident that we don’t base society on subjective goals of fairness.
And in fact, this is what the best philosophers in history realized when trying to create the framework for a just society. They discussed at length the fact that fairness is subjective, and there really are three natural laws on which a society should be based. These three laws are: protection of life, protection of liberty and protection of property. The great Roman philosopher Cicero recognized “true law” as natural law. In pondering just government, Locke said:
“To properly understand political power and trace its origins, we must consider the state that all people are in naturally. That is a state of perfect freedom of acting and disposing of their own posessions and persons as they think fit within the bounds of the law of nature.”
When the Founding Fathers formulated the Declaration and the Constitution, they were relying on the philosophers before them who had developed theories for how a free and just society should exist. They recognized that abstract concepts like “fairness” were useless because a tyrant could determine something was “fair” and then take away the rights of others in his pursuit of fairness. Instead, the Founders appealed to laws that were given to men by their Creator. This is why Jefferson appealed to “self-evident” truths in the Declaration: these natural rights cannot be taken away because they are given by God and are therefore “inalienable.”
When it comes to property, the Constitution reminds us that it is protected under natural law, both in the 5th amendment and again in the 14th amendment. And of course in D&C 134, we are reminded again that the purpose of good government is to protect life, liberty and property. As Jefferson said: “A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned – this is the sum of good government.”
Why must government be “frugal” and “leave men free to regulate their own pursuits?” Because history has shown that governments always want to expand, and in so doing the majority begins taking away the rights of the minority in the name of “fairness.” Jefferson again: “All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression. ”
Madison agreed: “In Republics, the great danger is, that the majority may not sufficiently respect the rights of the minority.”
Today, appeals to “fairness” are always used by the majority (those with less) to take away the natural rights of the minority (those with more).
I should intercede here that emotional appeals to “fairness” certainly have an appropriate place in voluntary, religious actions. The scriptures clearly point out that equality should be promoted through voluntary giving, and the scriptures make it clear that those who refuse to give voluntarily are under condemnation.
But, just to give one example, D&C 134 makes no such claim on just government. In fact, D&C 134 establishes that “no government can exist in peace, except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will security to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life.” Then D&C 134 goes on to clearly divide between religious laws (which include voluntary giving) and just government, which should not interfere with religious devotion and should protect the “inalienable rights” of the governed.
It is self-evident that appeals to “fairness” are contradictory and hypocritical. Today, we are hearing that a rich person must pay his “fair share” and that a “fair share” would be returning to the Clinton-era tax rates of 39.6 percent. In addition, “millionaires and billionaires” should pay their “fair share” with an additional tax. As Jefferson and Madison warned, there is no place in a Constitutional government for a majority determining what is fair for a minority.
Let’s take this position to its logical extreme. If 39.6 percent is “fair,” why allow somebody to keep 60.4 percent? In fact, during the 1950s, the top tax rate was 90 percent or more (note to the greedy and covetous: nobody paid this because of deductions). But if 39.6 percent is “fair,” why isn’t 70 percent “more fair” and 99 percent “fairest of all?”
But that is not far enough. Even the poorest American is rich compared to the poor in Latin America or Africa. Why aren’t they being “fair?” If we want to create a truly fair society, all Americans who have one dollar more than anybody in Africa should be forced to sell all they have and send it to the poorer people in Africa. But even such a system would not be “fair.” The Americans would have a higher salary than the Africans. Therefore, they must continue to give nearly all of their salary to everybody worldwide for the rest of their lives.
There is a name for this kind of “fairness.” It is called “slavery.”
Indeed, progressives today are lauding a ridiculous quotation from Harvard Prof. and Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren on the wonders of the “social contract.” Let’s take a look.
There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear: you moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for; you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate; you were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did. Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea? God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.
Prof. Warren is a candidate for a federal office, but almost all of the things she lauded are the result of local taxes. Roads, schools, police and fire: these are all mostly paid for by local taxes, which are, by the way, constitutional and supported in theory by almost all people. So, she is fighting against a classic straw man: almost nobody, including me, is saying that government should not help pay for roads, schools, police and fire on the local level. And, by the way, Madison and Jefferson would have no problem with local and state governments paying for such things, and this is exactly the America they imagined in the future.
Their concern was a massive central federal government in which a majority would force a minority to pay for things like endless wars and the forced redistribution of wealth.
And even Prof. Warren admits that factory owners should be able to “keep a hunk of it.” Well, how generous of her! So, how do we arrive at what a “fair” hunk is without going down the logical road to slavery as described above? it is literally impossible.
No, government is not based on determining what is “fair” when it comes to your property. Government is based on the natural laws. Government should protect your life, your liberty and your property. The Constitution, if you re-read it, was clearly laid out to protect your rights, not to give excuses for other people to come up with new ways to make you a slave.
If this is so, what should government do?
1)Return government funding to the local level as much as possible.
2)The federal government should remain confined to its enumerated powers, which are laid out right there in the Constitution.
3)Taxation that helps the government remain within the confines of its enumerated powers on a federal level is constitutional. We can discuss federal taxation, at a much lower rate than today, that maintains a much smaller government.
4)Remember, nobody is saying such a policy can be introduced tomorrow. There will have to be a transition period back to constitutional government. But this should be our goal.
I could go on for years on this subject, but I will end here for now. Notes to commenters: we have no problem with disagreement. Snarky, nasty comments will be deleted faster than you can say “I love Elizabeth Warren.”