Life isn’t fair. And you know what? It can’t be. Here’s the problem: The word “fair”
doesn’t mean “justice” or “equity” or, indeed, anything very specific. Instead, it’s become a sort of all-purpose
statement of moral superiority —superiority tinged, paradoxically, with victimhood. Now, fairness does have an exact meaning in
certain contexts. For example, if we’re playing a game, fairness
means that the rules should be applied impartially. When we are kids and our parents and teachers
set the rules, the word still has that essential meaning: it’s a young person’s way of
demanding what we might call “equality before the law.” But as we get older, the word becomes more
of a whine. In the mouth of a teenager—trust me on this—“it’s
not fair” means, more often than not, “You won’t let me do something I want!” In recent years, though, something odd has
happened. Adults have started using the word in much
the same way that teenagers do. More than in any previous generation, people
today retain their teenage sense of self-centeredness. They use “it’s not fair” as a catch-all
complaint, as an assertion of wounded entitlement. Look at a Google graph of the use of the word
“fairness.” From around 1965 it looks like the proverbial
hockey stick—flat and then it suddenly shoots up. We’ve developed a “fairness” obsession. But what do we mean when we use that word? Do we mean “justice”? Do we mean “equality”? Do we mean “need”? Or do we mean something else? Suppose you and Jane buy a cake together. You pay $6, and Jane pays $4. What would be the “fair” way to split
it up? You could do it on the basis of proportionality—in
other words, you get 60 percent of the cake and Jane gets 40 percent. Or you could do it on the basis of strict
egalitarianism—half each, regardless of who paid what. Or you could do it on the basis of wealth. Jane has much less money than you for non-essentials
like cake, so maybe she should get the larger share. A case can be made for each approach. But the beauty of the word “fair” is that
it doesn’t require you to come down clearly in favor of any of them. It gives you the cover of ambiguity. So, for example, when a politician says, “We
want the rich to pay their fair share,” he doesn’t usually mean that he wants the
rich to pay taxes at the same rate as everyone else. He means that he wants them to pay extra. The word “fair” lets him present higher
rates of taxation as a form of justice. But only if we don’t think about it too
hard. That’s the beauty of it. “Fair” doesn’t ultimately mean “proportionate”
or “impartial” or “equal.” You can use it to mean almost any positive
thing you like. “I want fairness” generally means “Look
at me—I’m a nice person.” Demanding fairness lets you tell the world
how decent you are without your actually having to contribute a penny. It’s a kind of vanity: “Mirror, Mirror,
on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?” Let’s get real. The only just way to distribute the cake is
to see how much people are prepared to pay for their slice. Sure, that could leave a banker with a bigger
slice than a baker. Sure, we might not like that distribution. We might feel that the baker is doing something
more valuable than the banker. He is making delicious pastries, while the
money man doesn’t seem to be making anything—except money for himself. But how can we judge someone else’s economic
worth? You might want bakers to be paid more than
bankers. I might want teachers to be paid more than
movie stars. Since we all have our own preferences, the
only way to measure the economic value of a service is to see how much others are prepared
to pay for it. That’s what the market does: it aggregates
our preferences. It doesn’t ask us, in the abstract, what
we think someone else deserves. It tests, in reality, how many hours of our
own labor we are prepared to put in in exchange for a product or a service. Under every other economic system, our relations
are mediated by accidents of birth and social caste; financial rewards are determined by
favoritism. The free market alone gives everyone the same
rights. My money is as good as yours. You can’t get fairer than that. I’m Daniel Hannan, president of the Initiative
for Free Trade and author of Inventing Freedom, for Prager University.

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100 thoughts on “What Is “Fair”?”

  1. SOLUTION: pay movie stars, bankers and pro athletes LESS and teachers and bakers MORE. Only the FREE MARKET can accomplish this!!

    Stop going to pro sports events and movies. Also, stop buying the items these people are paid millions to promote (nike, buick, etc). Soon, the economics will force their pay to decrease to 'normal' levels.

  2. Always nice to see PragerU gatekeeping a word for their own advantage! What if a population of a country decided fairly that the rich needed to pay more in taxes, that would be fair right? Though luck mate.

  3. Is it really fair that the top 1% of America gets to own 40% of the money? While the bottom 80% only gets 7%? That's right, 80% of people in America only gets 7% of that money. the other 19% owns 53% of the money. Is that seriously fair?

  4. I firmly believe the question shouldn't be about whether the free market system works, because it clearly does. The question should be about whether or not the machine is working properly… whether it be through manipulation or inevitability. In a place like the US, the fairness question comes about so often because of the birth lottery and brand name phenomena.

    Birth lottery effect: Determines where you are born (NYC or Detroit? Good school districts or bad? Good job market or bad?) and initial socioeconomic resources. This is the biggie, as the correlation between that and success is staggering.

    Brand name effect: Kid #1 busts his ass and works two jobs to get through school with a top notch GPA, Kid #2 had his parents pay full tuition and never even worked during those 4 years. Both finish with similar GPA's, achievements, and have the same major. Kid #1 went to a state school and Kid #2 went to Harvard. Kid #2 gets carte blanche access to recruitment channels at top firms as a result, and Kid #1 is forced to start his career cold calling because he wasn't at a target school (and crushing debt as a bonus).

    PragerU is right in the sense that when people complain about fairness they need to be more specific and less ambiguous about what they actually mean. The answer shouldn't rely on arbitrary estimates of how much the rich should be paying… the answer should depend on which actions can be undertaken to mitigate the two toxic effects. How do we make it so that kids in the US have access to similar quality PUBLIC education, and how to we make it so that antiquated reliance on ivy league institutions and their questionable quality advantages over lesser known schools is reduced? Our school and university systems need to be more standardized across the country, doing this would erase so many of the directly observable feedback loops that makes others feel left out. Perception is reality and so long as the internet allows us to peek into the lives of others, people will be noticing those differences in privilege and will grow angrier until something is done to dampen that perception.

  5. Anyone can open a bakery but anyone can't open a bank. Your argument is flawed as banking is almost a cartel business and only a handful are allowed to have a charter. Capitalism applies to a bakery but when banks failed they are bailed out by govt. Public money wipes private debt. Is that FAIR?

  6. 4:23 – "It tests, in reality, how many hours of our own labor we're prepared to put in in exchange for a product or a service."

    Sounds like PragerU is flat-out supporting the Labor Theory of Value here.

  7. This whole video is based on the assumption that capitalism puts everyone on an even playing field but that is grossly false. The wealth of your parents virtually determines what wealth class you will be in

  8. Free markets sound good in theory but in reality they markets aren't actually free, they are full of monopolies due to mergers and acquisitions, exclusive rights, failed intellectual property policy and other forms of failed/lobbied government policy that was introduced giving corporations more market power

  9. The amount of money you earn can determine your lifestyle. The money you earn is proportional to the value you provide. And the worth of your value is determined by what people will pay for it… And you provide value by having skills… You can work in ANY industry and earn millions of dollars if that is your goal or be financially free. If you're the best Baker in the country, then become good at selling your cakes nationwide. If you're a good janitor and you do a great job but you work minimum wage, then learn the skills necessary to get your own clients, run a business and do it! The problem today is people want 'things' but they Don't want to put forth the required effort. "So you so shall you reap" this is a natural law.

  10. Asking definitions and metrics of casually uttered words is important. Typically people talk passed eachother otherwise, and conflict as the conversation runs off the road into the ditch. It is prevalent even among the intellectually honest and those acting in good faith.

  11. Value is about scarcity and utility. Even tho diamond is next to useless, its far more valuable than water, an essential for life itself, because it is exponentially more scarce.

  12. The thing is the rich pay the same percentage as we do and they have more money. So what does that mean? They technically pay more money, so they are paying their fair share.

  13. What if a banker's work, hypothetically of course, benefits rich ppl on the expanse of the poor?
    How does the system of aggregate choices reflect that?

  14. I hate it when people say " life isn't fair " in response to someone complaining that something isn't fair. Life is perfectly fair. Things happen to everyone without regard to race, gender, age, social standing, etc… Life is fair, people often aren't.

  15. "When you base an economic system around taking money from rich people and giving it to poor people, you end up with fewer rich people and more poor people."
    – Daniel Hannan

  16. Is any wonder Google, and U Tube attack Prager U… Let me encourage you to do as I do…. support Prager U with your money….it's absolutely the 'fair' thing to do…

  17. I wonder if Google will come out with a chart showing exactly who it is that is screaming about fairness more today than they were in the 60's.

  18. This is the high quality informative type of video that PragerU got famous for. Thank you. I would love to see more like this.

  19. 4:10 So wait a minute… if everyone were to pirate every movie ever made, movie stars would earn less than convicts working their sentences?

  20. Put any modern or common word into google and it will show a spike there is nothing special about the word “fair”

  21. yeah it's like those people's saying on social media that it isn't fair that a youtuber or celebrity makes millions while coal workers work for pennies or whatever , it's just how the free market works, more demand, then you get paid more, that's it

  22. So many garbage videos on this site. Stop sending me ads you pathetic buffoons. I hope there is a civil war, I will kill as many conservatives as I can see, here in Alaska there is no shortage of bible thumping freaks that deserve death.

  23. no, we definately mean "tax the rich more than other people" when we say "make the rich pay their fair share"
    that's kinda the point

  24. Better not complain when Chinese companies and their rising high quality products win the favor with the general public and American companies are no longer able to compete. Lol!

  25. Just down loaded prager u app. Trying to follow people I like on other platforms. YouTube censorship is out of control.

  26. "It's not fair" is such a lazy and obnoxious statement. It's something that means nothing, but still sounds like something. It's what you say when you can't really make your case and can only get your way through virtue signalling.

  27. OMG! You presented the female as having less money than the male!!! So you hate women I guess. Lol! Thank you for a great presentation. Fair and balanced.

  28. ANOTHER VAGUE PROPAGANDA MESSAGE FROM PRAGERU. The presenter asks the viewer to assume too many things to support his argument and doesn't even discuss the fact that multinational corporations supposedly headquartered in the US largely pay little to no taxes due to all the changes in tax code over the past 40 years and do everything solely for the benefit of shareholders. Despite the fact that they might create jobs, by and large the jobs do not support the employee the same as they did 40 years ago and health coverage, pensions, benefits, etc. have all done the same as their tax burden (gone down). In short, corporations do not pay for the infrastructure they benefit from (taxes pay for these, duh!, YES) nor do they treat their employees with the same care as historically creates the overall good health of society. THIS IS TOO BROAD A SUBJECT TO RELY ON ANY ONE STATISTIC OR NARROW MINDED PROPAGANDA MACHINE THAT IS DRIVEN BY BIG BUSINESS WITH ONLY THEIR SELF INTEREST IN MIND!

  29. Not gonna lie, despite being a Prager U hater this video did make me reflect on a lot of things. Though what he said can also work the other way. If an employer and an employee pay for a cake, the employer is almost always gonna have more money so he gets the bigger slice. However, someone might say that he should be giving more money to his employees because the amount of money they're getting is not fair compared to the amount of work they're doing. The problem is that the word "fair" has a very open meaning. There are people who will say that it's not fair for an employer to be paying so much in taxes and there are people who will say that it's not fair for that employer not to be paying his employees enough money. I personally stand for the 99% instead of the 1% because while CEOs earn around 380 times more than the average American they don't work that many times as much. Personally, I believe that millionaires and only a few billionaires shouldn't vanish because communism would ruin the country but then again, capitalism is destroying it at the same time. The 3 richest Americans earn as much as the 50% poorer half of Americans and under a study, they actually pay way less in taxes (when compared to their income) than the other 99% of Americans. This is largely because the very richest Americans make their money off of untaxable sources (it's hard to explain) so their income taxes actually get cut. People call progressive taxes unfair on the rich but what most people don't know is that the taxing system in the US is unprogressive and the richest pay less than the other Americans so it's not even remotely close to being fair in that sense. Of course, some people may say that it's fair because they're still technically paying more but I don't believe so. I'm a Sanders supporter and I feel like the model for the US to follow is Norway but many people might say that maybe that's too equal and stuff so it really depends on your mental ideology

  30. Everyone on here needs to stop being so judgemental. All these comments.."Leftest are..yadad".

    I'm sure the lot of you have been wrong in your past PLENTY of times.

    How about instead of sitting here complaining go try to teach people through love and patience.

    That's how someone helped me understand when I used to be a leftist.

  31. The unfairness today is a direct result of the wealthy and powerful having their thumb on the scale with politicians picking winners in the ‘free market’.

    Fairness demands not equal outcomes, but an end to cronyism that is rampant nowadays

  32. “For the sake of fairness all females have to register in the military and be drafted in case of a war” -a feminist without name

  33. “There’s a case to be made for each idea of fairness”

    ….

    “The only way to decide this fairly is to see how much others are willing to pay for it”

    Ok boomer

  34. Fair doesn’t mean what you says it means. It means in accordance to rules and standards, and has nothing to do with equality which is the focus of this video. A bunch of people get the definition of a word wrong, and you found a way to justify a free market that would create major income inequality is what it comes down to.

  35. ahh yess, right wing propaganda at its finest in an effort to keep the poor, poor. And keep the rich and powerful unchallenged.

  36. I worked with an immigrant filipino woman who worked like a trojan (on the easiest work due to "restrictions") and she would watch all the white people-not her own, and if they didn't work up to her standards would rat on them to the supervisors. Her complaint- yup you guessed it- it's not fair!

  37. You have to level the playing field to some degree, some people are naturally gifted and don't have to put in the same effort that others have too. If people were paid by their efforts rather than their gifts the world would be a much fairer place.

    It's a balance.

  38. Cakes are not healthcare or housing. There is no comparison. Cakes are a luxury; healthcare and housing are a necessity. Why does this analogy keep popping up?

  39. Yet more corporate propaganda that sounds reasonable on the surface but fails to take into account inconvenient facts. It acts as though everyone starts on a level playing field, when in reality many rich people inherited their wealth, and thus have a significant head start over everyone else. It pretends that the ultra wealthy don’t use their wealth in order to manipulate the markets in their favor at the expense of their competitors, workers, and customers, but they do. That’s just a fact.

    It also fails to take into account the real cost of income inequality. Some people work extremely hard just living paycheck to paycheck, while others have so much money they could never work again and still have plenty of money left over for their children, and their children’s children. Given these facts, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to demand those who have benefited the most from society give back the most to society when it comes to taxes. Especially since many of them exploit loopholes to avoid paying any taxes at all.

    To extend your cake analogy, here’s what income inequality really looks like in the real world. Let’s say that 100 people are given a large cake that has been divided into 100 pieces. Now imagine the first person took 50 slices for themselves. Seems a bit excessive, and, dare I say it, unfair, right? Or unjust if you prefer. But if you dare to suggest that this person should only get 49 pieces, or 48, or, heaven forbid, 40, you get a bunch of people screaming that you’re a “leftist”, “libtard”, or “socialist”. After all, why engage with someone’s arguments when you can just call them names?

    I’m not going to pretend I know the exact answer to this admittedly complicated issue. But the fact is that income inequality is a problem that needs to be addressed. Misleading propaganda like this that pretends it isn’t a problem pisses me off, and I find it rather disappointing that so many people in the comments section seem to be blindly believing it.

  40. 2:38 it's fair because they can pay more. Its ridiculous to say the rich paying more in taxes then minimum wage employees is unfair. losing a small percentage of a million dollars is not equal to a small percentage of only a thousand dollars.

    I would trust this channel more if it weren't sponsored by hydraulic fracking billionaires.

    4:52 also Is weird to basically say that calling something fair is bad and then call Capitalism

  41. PragerU is not an academic institution. It is strictly a conservative Youtube video channel and news website. The following disclaimer is located at the bottom of the website: PRAGER UNIVERSITY IS NOT AN ACCREDITED ACADEMIC INSTITUTION AND DOES NOT OFFER CERTIFICATIONS OR DIPLOMAS. BUT IT IS A PLACE WHERE YOU ARE FREE TO LEARN.🤣😂🤣😂

  42. Overall, we rate PragerU Questionable based on extreme right wing bias, promotion of propaganda, the use of poor sources who have failed fact checks and the publication of misleading information regarding immigration and climate change.

  43. You know, the far left complains about things not being fair…but you know what's really not fair, a baby not having a chance to live because the mother doesn't want him or her.

  44. In Israel, especially among the younger set, the most popular way of saying "it's not fair" isn't "zeh lo tov" or "zeh lo tzodek" or "zeh lo hogen" or anything like that – it's "zeh lo fair"!

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