Editor’s note: It wasn’t long ago that I made a point about the idea of “greed.” In a social media post I wrote: “It’s silly to say someone like Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates is ‘greedy,’ as if simply wanting money forces people to give it to you.” What I meant was that men like Bezos and Gates have provided services and products that people are willing to pay for. They did not coerce anyone into giving them money. And their ability to produce is what made them their fortunes, not some vague collectivist idea of immorality. It was a response to this post that prompted me to think. The response: “You aren’t greedy because people give you stuff. You’re greedy if you intensely want more than you’ll ever need or more that is fair.” The implications of this response are a reflection of the deep-seeded problems of America’s youth, which I address in the following column.
Fairness: The Non-Ideal
When something is ideal it is the perfect version of itself. Statements that start with, “In an ideal world,” are followed by the preferred scenario of a given situation. “In an ideal world” an airplane flight takes off and lands on time without complication. “In an ideal world” an Internet connection works at lightning speed and doesn’t ever disconnect. “In an ideal world” a retailer allows a customer to order goods without having to leave his house and delivers those goods right to his front door. The “ideal” is perfect, something to strive for, the end result of the ultimate idea. What the ideal is not, is “poor.” What the ideal is not, is “almost.” What the ideal is not, is “gently used.” What the ideal is not, is fair — fairness, is not ideal.
What’s troubling is that in this country there are more calls for things to be fair than for things to be ideal. Some may even say that “in an ideal world, everything is fair.” This sentiment is so backwards that it shows the regressive nature of the modern man — especially young men in their twenties and thirties. Millennial men care more for fairness than they do for the ideal, and this is a demonstration of the consequences of collectivism, i.e., altruism — and from such, the destruction of the ideal.
When an entrepreneur starts a business, does he ignore the ideal and produce only what is fair? — of course not. If this were the case, we’d have almost none of the technological advancements that we enjoy today. It behooves entrepreneurs to produce the best product possible — the ideal product — because if they strive only for a fair product, the competition will surpass them in all aspects of business, and rightfully so.
Why would a customer buy a “fair” product when there are better alternatives? Would a parent send their child to a “fair” school if they have the option to send their child to a better school? In a capitalist economy, the buyers, i.e., the market, free to choose what they wish, will always choose the better option. It is because of this freedom of choice that entrepreneurs must at all times act to improve their products — to strive for the ideal. Competition between entrepreneurs, therefore, is better for the market; better for society as a whole. This, however, is only possible when the market is free from government control. (Put another way: capitalist.) If the government withdrawals this freedom by, for example, forcing citizens to buy a certain form of health insurance coverage, the ideal is no longer an option, only the fair. Politicians will champion this “fairness” as an ideal, but the fair and the ideal are incompatible.
So why do so many want what is fair and so few want what is ideal? It is because there are so many that are unable to produce and so few that are. Men have ideas all the time, but only the able can bring those ideas to fruition — these men are the entrepreneurs. The men who grit their teeth at the success of the entrepreneur are the looters — those that want to give the government more control of the economy to redistribute what is fair. They wish to take — to loot — what is created by the entrepreneur and redistribute it to society according to what is fair. But who decides what is fair?
Is there to be an Orwellian Ministry of Fairness that acts as ultimate arbiter of the distribution of goods, services, and the wealth that is a result of those goods and services? This could not be in a free society. What incentive is there for an entrepreneur to create when the fruits of their labor will be stolen by the looters of the Ministry of Fairness and distributed as they see fit? Who would benefit from such a system? — only those who are unable to create. In a system governed by fairness, the entrepreneur becomes a slave. They do not benefit from their ideas but instead are punished for them — all in the name of what is “fair.”
Picture a child in school. She is being told by her teacher to “reach for the stars.” Then, as she walks toward the door to take on the world, to bring her ideas into existence and place them on the open market, to provide a service to the world that the world will welcome and pay for gladly and of their own free will, is then pulled aside by the arm and told that she is only to reach for what is fair. She is told that others will not have the ability she has, they will lack ideas and ambition, and her prowess as an entrepreneur will be seen as unfair. And since she will have abilities that others will not, and that this is not fair to them, she must only work until she has what she needs to survive — nothing more. Or worse, she will be forced to produce the maximum that she is able, only to watch as the product of her ideas is ripped from her and given away to the unable. Is this the world we have created by forcing what is fair?
Those who are unable will always rely on those who are able — this is a fact of human existence. It is the reason surgeons must go through years of school to hone their skills, and why they get paid handsomely for those skills. It is why factory floor workers are paid less than the engineers who design the products within those factories. It is why one man has an idea for a smartphone, but hundreds of millions own and use them from the moment its alarm wakes them in the morning to the moment they set that alarm before falling asleep. Intelligence is not distributed fairly, yet it is expected by looters that the fruits of that intelligence should be distributed fairly. Similarly, wealth redistribution wrongly presumes that wealth is distributed to begin with. But wealth is not distributed at all — it is created. In order to “redistribute” wealth, it must be stolen from the creators of it and given to those who are unable to create it.
And this is what is considered fair?
Image credit: Wiki Commons