If you’re a parent, I’m going to lay odds that you’ve had this said to you at some point, by a child feeling hard done by, maybe that a sibling was perceived to get more of something or other, or a better something or other perhaps? And maybe you’ve done like I’ve done, and explained that fair doesn’t mean the same, or equal. They are three different words with three different meanings.
I’ve explained it a number of ways to my children. I’ve asked if getting them the same sized tops would be fair – they’d get exactly the same. It would fit or suit any of them, because I’d have to get a size somewhere in the middle, but surely it’s fair? Um, no.
And here’s another thought – let’s imagine you’re all sat down at the table eating tea, when unexpectedly some guests turn up. You apologise for not having much, but say you’ll share out what’s left equally, that’s got to be fair, right?
Once again, no. Equal isn’t anywhere near fair if one of the people at the table is a six month old baby now wondering why there’s quarter of a pizza on their plate, and another is a six foot bloke just back from a day’s labour on a building site.
It’s all sorts of things like that that you have to take into account when you’re working out what is fair. And I think our politicians think we are stupid when they say it’s only fair to cap benefits at 1% because after all, people who are working have had pay freezes too.
The problem is that benefits should be tagged to give a basic reasonable standard of living. And if you set them so that they don’t increase at the same rate prices are going up, you’re actually effectively cutting them. Which means that people who already have very little are suddenly struggling with even less. Now that’s not fair, and I think politicians presenting it as if it is are trying to pull the wool over our eyes. I’d really like it if we’d all resist the temptation to fall for the politics of envy and greed and tell them precisely what we think of their spin. I think that would be very fair. What do you reckon?