14 October 2015

"Against Fairness" by Stephen Asma

In an unusual position, Asma argues that we are not benefited by our strong pursuit of "fairness" (which is, in part at least, evidenced by the lack of clear definition of what is universally "fair"). Instead, he discusses the well know recognition of "tribes" (person who share similar attributes) in social science and suggests that embracing our tribal nature, and thus our natural inclination to favoritism, we can then leverage that connectedness in a way that "fairness" can only dream of. For example, consider that a community that embraces favoritism will help its struggling community members because they are part of the same "tribe" even if it might not be "fair" to do so.

Note: "Tribe" is a social science term used to describe bonds, usually tight-knit bonds formed through common experience or attributes. Some examples of "tribes" include person who grew up together (often considered family regardless of relation or lack thereof), a small group of coworkers and old neighbors.

Interesting tidbit: I have struggled writing an essay for years on the topic of fairness. After reading this book, I have finally retired those drafts. Asma made the argument much better than I.

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