Wednesday, June 22, 2016

This post is unfair!

Much to the displeasure of Ramesh and Anne, I constantly explore inequality and fairness.  In case they, or you, need a refresher, I will gladly point to the following samples:
Those two posts, among many, always lead to the same bottom-line: The best thing that you can do is to choose your parents well.  Of course, we do not get to choose our parents, which means that ...

It is not merely income inequality that results from this accident of birth in the correct (or incorrect) geography.  It shows up in various attributes of life, like even the lifestyle choices.  Things are different on the other side of the railroad track.

Like with health and life expectancy:



In the old country, the juxtaposition of the rich and the poor is perhaps best symbolized in Antilia.  Being born in the wrong place makes all the difference in one's life.  A luck of the draw, in which we are not even active participants given that it is pretty much determined at birth.

These are the kinds of intellectual and practical issues that led to me graduate school in the first place. Which is also where I got to read John Rawls--in a condensed form, because the book itself was way too big!

This video explains the importance of the Rawlsian argument, and why figuring out fairness is important and is also difficult.



As important as these ideas are, the fact that people prefer instant gratification and entertainment over reading and thinking, and the fact that thinking politicians have been replaced with demagogues, mean that we will never get to addressing the effects of being born in the wrong zip code, or the wrong country, or the wrong skin color, or ... and then we wonder why the world is so unfair!

4 comments:

Mike Hoth said...

I read an article this morning about the dozens of Indian farmers who were struck and killed by lightning in the last few days. Here in the US, when somebody is struck by lightning we think of it as a freak accident, and assume the person struck was doing something foolish. India sees 2,000 deaths a year. Even weather sides with the wealthy, while our climate controlled living may be worsening the lightning storms for India by heating the oceans.

Sriram Khé said...

Oh yeah, climate change is one HUGE example of the fairness and justice issue that the rich folks are conveniently ignoring. (Trump believes we ought to compete against India to make America great again. Does he know even a tad about the extent of material deprivation there? He seems to think every Indian lives in a Taj Mahal ...)
Think about it: If we did not know where we would be "sent" in this world, we will seriously think about the Maldives, which is already experiencing rising sea levels, or the Sahel, which seems to be drying, and we would not assume we would be assigned to this beautiful Willamette Valley ... unfortunately, the real world offers no such Rawlsian "veil of ignorance" and we engage in what is mine is mine, and let them eat cakes mentality ;)
BTW, I am not sure if increased lightning strikes are in the causal relationship you write, but we could confidently state that everywhere the climate will get weirder than what the regions and people were used to ...

Ramesh said...

Oh I have no problem with your discussing the problem of inequality. Gives me an opportunity to disagree more with you.

Yes, the lottery of birth plays a part. But to keep stating that you can do nothing about getting out of an unlucky draw is both wrong as well as an affront to so many people who have climbed out of that situation. I know you have succumbed to the disease that afflicts many of your countrymen that the US is the world, but just look at China and India and rejoice in the millions of people who were born boor and have done well in life. In case you did not know, both Mukesh and Anil Ambani, when they were kids stayed in a slum with one toilet for some 50 houses or so.

Sriram Khé said...

Of course, we shall disagree.
BTW, it is not any disease that I have succumbed to ... all we are discussing is justice and fairness, and our disagreements very much parallel the other reading that was paired along with John Rawls'--it was Robert Nozick's book.

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