I read a post recently entitled “That’s not Fair” by Barnabas Piper
I understand the point being made – that children need to learn early what fairness really means and that there is a difference between winning and losing, etc, but part of it really aggravated me.
Sometime over the past few decades a mindset of â€œfairâ€ has developed, calling for everyone to finish in the exact same place and receive the exact same reward. Fair has become equity in the finish instead of equity in the process.
I agree with almost everything else in the article, but here I think Piper is seeing something that is not there. I can’t speak for the area where he lives, or the school where his daughter attends, but I don’t think society as a whole is buying into any argument that everyone should end up in the same place.
I’m being unfair to Piper because his post was more about how to teach kids, and I agree mostly with the points he was really trying to make, but his article may have simply been poorly timed for me. The day before I read it, I read a transcript from an interview Rick Warren did for This Week on ABC.
OBAMA: And I believe in God’s command to love thy neighbor as thyself. And when I talk about shared responsibility, it’s because I genuinely believe that in a time when many folks are struggling, at a time when we have enormous deficits, it’s hard for me to ask seniors on a fixed income or young people with student loans or middle-class families who can barely pay the bills, to shoulder the burden alone.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: So, is he — is he right?
R. WARREN: Well certainly the Bible says we are to care about the poor. There’s over 2,000 versus in the Bible about the poor. And God says that those who care about the poor, God will care about them and God will bless them. But there’s a fundamental question on the meaning of “fairness.” Does fairness mean everybody makes the same amount of money? Or does fairness mean everybody gets the opportunity to make the same amount of money? I do not believe in wealth redistribution, I believe in wealth creation.
The only way to get people out of poverty is J-O-B-S. Create jobs. To create wealth, not to subsidize wealth. When you subsidize people, you create the dependency. You — you rob them of dignity. The primary purpose of government is to keep the peace, protect the citizens, provide opportunity. And when we start getting into all kinds of other things, I think we — we invite greater control. And I’m fundamentally about freedom. You know the — the first freedom in America is actually the freedom of religion. It’s not the second, third, fourth or fifth.
Rick Warren, an evangelical pastor, was asked about a comment President Obama made about God’s command to love thy neighbor as thyself. He answers the question in three sentences by essentially saying Yes, God says we should care for the poor, and then comes the BUT followed by more than a dozen sentences about fairness, subsidizing people, and creating jobs and wealth. His answer was right out of the Catechism of Milton Friedman.
His argument is standard neo-con rhetoric – Some mysterious conspirators have conspired to change fairness into something it is not and we are all the victims of that change. We need to stand up and take control before we are forced into doing the right thing. Never mind, that it’s the right thing to do – somebody better not tell me to do it!
The substance of Rick’s rant is important to look at too. He has essentially set up a straw man argument about fairness when he asks “Does fairness mean everybody makes the same amount of money?” No, it doesn’t but I think there are fewer people touting that than he would have us believe. He follows that up with “Or does fairness mean everybody gets the opportunity to make the same amount of money?” Well, except for his preoccupation with money, yes, that’s what fairness is about – equal opportunity. I think many more people understand that than he thinks. The question really is – do his ideas contribute to this kind of fairness? I think not. I wish there was a way to express to these disciples of Rand that there is more to life than dividing people into the lazy and the hard working. There are people in this world who do not have the same opportunity I have in life, and they deserve to be helped.
His very next sentence is this “I do not believe in wealth redistribution, I believe in wealth creation.” I find it very enlightening that he takes a question about helping the poor and turns it into a debate about wealth creation.
Full disclosure. I’ve never been a big fan of Warren’s. I’ve got a lot of issues with some of his theology and his politics, but I am not a hater either. I’ve only written about him once that I can remember, and that was six years ago! Wow, it was six years ago tomorrow, actually. .