Tax lecturer, blogger and Labour candidate Deborah Russell says we all deserve a fair go:
In New Zealand. . . Our big shared value is fairness. We think that everyone ought to have a fair go, a fair chance at getting ahead and a fair opportunity to participate in our society. We’ll hear politicians talking about fairness a lot this year in the lead-up to the election.
But what exactly is fairness? . .
Our attitude to tax shows that when New Zealanders talk about fairness they are concerned about outcomes. We can’t make the outcomes identical for everyone but we do try to even out at least some of the biggest differences.
Think of it like this. Imagine three people wanting to look over a fence to see a parade: a short person, a middling person and a tall person. If we find a box of exactly the same size for each of them to stand on, then the short person still can’t see over the fence, and the tall person has a great view. That’s “fair” because we made sure each of them had the same size box — but the short person is left staring at the fence.
Then imagine if we gave two boxes to the short person, and the tall person just stood on the ground. Each person could see the parade because we made sure that we took their individual needs into account. That’s being fair, too.
So which sort of fairness is best? Treating everyone exactly the same or treating people according to their needs? The right of politics prefers people to be treated the same. The left thinks we ought to take some account of individual needs so everyone can get a fair go. . .
Pete George has another story which shows the flaws in this reasoning:
. . . What if there were three people are of similar height?
One got up early, went and cut up a log and made three boxes and stacked them so they could see a parade over a fence.
The second person got up late and stood behind the fence complaining they couldn’t see over it.
The third person came along and took one box of the first person and gave it to the second person. Now they both weren’t high enough to see over the fence. And the third person took the third box for themselves so they could rest their feet on it when they watched their leader’s parade from a balcony. . .
The right doesn’t think people should always be treated the same.
Only those devoid of compassion don’t accept that some people need more help than others.
Where the right and left usually diverge is in the difference between equality of opportunity and outcome.
It is fair for those who have fewer or poorer opportunities to be given a bigger hand up than those who have more and better ones.
What isn’t fair is for people who help themselves to be penalised to help others who could help themselves but don’t.