Fairness

A reputable casino succeeds by, among other things, offering scrupulously honest games of chance, the payout odds of which are unfair.

The games are honest in that the dice are not “loaded,” the wheel is not “fixed.”

The odds are unfair in that the expected value of the game to the two parties (the house and the player) are not equal.

– Bob Lince

The above quote gives a neat example of a distinction I hadn’t considered with any rigor. One can be the most honest business person in the world without it being necessary for anyone you interact with to have their happiness increased. Nothing feels immoral about this individual as honesty is the chief virtue of commerce, yet something feels off. It is intuitive that people in the same circumstances and context ought to have similar access to the same outcomes and two people engaging in a game together feels like symmetric context. How does morality encode the distinction between the player and the house?

Fair seems linked to proportion so only one of Fiske’s frameworks support it. This is transactional, bourgeois morality. I’m not sure that the morality of the military and the nobility, of duties and obligations, carries a sense of fairness. There it may be more a matter of treating your subordinates equally for similar performance. The two might be roughly comparable if we consider them the same pattern only concerned with economic capital and social capital, respectively. Fairness on the commune is pretty tricky and is hard to distinguish from a simple ‘no shirking’ rule.

Ultimately, fairness in outcome is difficult and hard to measure when we want to take into account different contributions of input. So, if we lived in the world where we could set up our measurements on the input and automatically get fairness of outcome then we’d be very happy. However, the example given suggests that is not always possible and we’re forced to conclude again that the world is broken and/or evil with respect to our desired ideal.