Wednesday, February 10, 2010

One of the Most Dangerous Words Ever: Fairness

1. "In recent times, virtually any disparity in outcomes is almost automatically blamed on discrimination, despite the incredible range of other reasons for disparities between individuals and groups.


Nature's discrimination completely dwarfs man's discrimination. Geography alone makes equal chances virtually impossible. The geographic advantages of Western Europe over Eastern Europe-- in climate and navigable waterways, among other things-- have led to centuries of differences in income levels that were greater than income differences between blacks and whites in America today."

2. "In the language of the politically correct, achievement is equated with privilege. Such verbal sleight of hand evades the question whether individuals' own priorities and efforts affect outcomes, whether in education or in other endeavors. No need to look at empirical evidence when a clever phrase can take that whole question off the table."

~Thomas Sowell's series "The Fallacy of Fairness," Part I & Part II.


28 Comments:

At 2/10/2010 10:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What bull.

"...virtually any disparity in outcomes is almost automatically blamed on discrimination, despite the incredible range of other reasons for disparities between individuals and groups."

Disparity in outcomes between individuals is to be expected in competitive systems that have fair and competitive games. You should reward for achievement, and to incentivevise performance.

But, to say that this also applies to groups is a bunch of hockey puck. If you see disparity across groups, you should be looking at what else may be going on.

It might not be fairness.

Sowell took the argument that is true for the individual and made it a fallacy when he applied it to a group.

 
At 2/10/2010 10:17 AM, Blogger Xavier Onassis said...

Anonymous posters, as a group, tend to post the greatest levels of B.S. I have the data, if anyone would care to see it.

 
At 2/10/2010 11:06 AM, Anonymous Dennis said...

Out where I live we say that "fair is the third week in August" and just leave it at that. A lot of people just seem to have to whine.

 
At 2/10/2010 11:08 AM, Blogger juandos said...

anon @ 2/10/2010 10:10 AM says: "But, to say that this also applies to groups is a bunch of hockey puck"...

Well XO I do believe you have a point...

Hmmm, I wonder if 'fairness' is the last refuge of a progressive when said progressive runs out of rational arguments to tilt the playing field?

 
At 2/10/2010 11:15 AM, Anonymous Mongo said...

What happens, anonymous, when a GROUP of INDIVIDUALS all behave in the same self-defeating manner and this group is coordinated by a common physical characteristic which used to be, but has nearly vanished as, a reason for bad outcomes?

 
At 2/10/2010 12:50 PM, Anonymous gettingrational said...

To those that are consumed by fairness and race arguments: Is it fair to the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. that the culture of Hip Hop has evolved with its own dubuious achievement metrics?

 
At 2/10/2010 1:18 PM, Anonymous geoih said...

Quote from Anonymous: "If you see disparity across groups, you should be looking at what else may be going on."

Did you read the actual story telling what the disparity was? The school district ran additional voluntary classes in science available to anybody, but only white and asian students were attending them. The conclusion of the school district was that it wasn't fair to blacks or hispanics, so the classes should be cancelled.

I agree with Xavier Onassis about anonymous posters. If you can't bother to identify yourself in a conversation, then who cares what you think.

 
At 2/10/2010 1:52 PM, Anonymous morganovich said...

equal opportunity is a noble goal, but should not be used to hold people back.

equal outcomes is just insane. vonnegut wrote a fantastic short story on the topic entitled "harrison bergeron" in which a near future world has mandated utter equality. the handicapper general ensures that if you are stronger than i am, you have to wear weights, attractive people have bad haircuts and clown makeup, smart people have radios that play loud noises to distract them.

would be funny if it weren't so chilling.

worth a read.

 
At 2/10/2010 6:47 PM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

> Anonymous posters, as a group, tend to post the greatest levels of B.S. I have the data, if anyone would care to see it.

Xavier, there appear to be two main anon posters here. One is a clueless libtard whack, the other is sensible and rational.

Think of it as a fun "guess which one I am?" game.

The above one is, of course, the idiot. His point actually does have merit, but only some, and nowhere near the amount he thinks.

There are factors which may be applicable between groups which are inherently unfair, racial discrimination is one of them. But the quantity of widespread racial discrimination is far more prevalent in
a) blacks, latinos, and asians
b) liberal intellectuals ("soft" racism)
c) rednecks

In that order for the most part.

The notion that institutionalized racism is holding anyone back unfairly is just flat out retarded. We've had a two black Secretaries of State, and now a black president. It's time to stop playing the race card.

If there's not some exceptionally damned visible racism going on, it shouldn't be assumed in anything except intellectual liberal policies (and no one pointing the finger ever figures out that those are "racist", because they masquerade as otherwise).

If you fail as an individual, you have to either chalk it up as "the universe is out to get YOU" (and this does happen -- someone has to be on the far end of the universe's "Hey, F*** YOU!" receiving curve -- or you're screwing up somehow. And usually it's the latter, just from the nature of the statistics. If you can't show how your actions were not reasonably precipitating your failures (i.e., "What did you THINK would happen when you bought a gun and held up that liquor store?", then it's your actions causing the failures... not racism -- The unprecedented percentage of black men in jail for crimes isn't The Man Keeping Them Beat Down, it's the choice to commit crimes in the first place which is at fault.

 
At 2/10/2010 6:49 PM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

> Hmmm, I wonder if 'fairness' is the last refuge of a progressive when said progressive runs out of rational arguments to tilt the playing field?

So what you're saying is it's the first refuge, since they don't usually start with any rational arguments at all?

 
At 2/10/2010 10:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Notice how none of the responders ever addressed the difference between individual and group disparities.

Obviously, they are not trained in science or even economics where statistical methodologies would question the heroic claim that individual randomness explains the differences between groups, liquor store analogies notwithstanding.

Proud to be anonymous, particularly when you are dealing with persons who attack the anonymous label and not the argument.

Yeah, retard is an appropriate label if you cannot address the argument. Deficient is another.

 
At 2/10/2010 11:49 PM, Blogger Plans to Prosper said...

Anonymous, I think you missed the point. You're right to say "If you see disparity across groups, you should be looking at what else may be going on." But, as far as I can tell, that was Sowell's point. There are plenty of reasons besides discrimination for differences in group outcomes. Geographic differences between Western and Eastern Europe are just one example. We shouldn't assume discrimination simply on inequal outcomes, but rather, we should be looking at what else may be going on.

 
At 2/11/2010 7:40 AM, Blogger juandos said...

"So what you're saying is it's the first refuge, since they don't usually start with any rational arguments at all?"...

Very good OBH!

Sharp lad!

 
At 2/11/2010 10:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

@Planned to Prosper, I agree with you that national prosperity (Eastern Western Europe) can explain.

But, the issue of fairness that Sowell is addressing is within one country, the United States.

I also want to address the importance of fairness, or at least, the importance of the appearance of fairness.

A lot of current psychological and marketing research revolves around the importance of fairness. It is often demonstrated through what is called the "dictator game": one person is given, say, $10, and told he can keep whatever amount of that $10 so long as another person accepts from him an offer for some part of it. It turns out, people reject an offer of $3 or lower, to spite the dictator. Easy enough to understand. But, what is more interesting are experiments conducted after the game failed: people continue NOT to work together because they believed they were treated unfairly--all sorts of opportunities for mutual gain are lost in subsequent interaction.

Sowell is totally clueless on this subject. He should look up some NBER papers on this subject.

Just ask yourself: if you believed you were treated unfairly, how did you interact with that person the next time.

enough said.

 
At 2/11/2010 10:53 AM, Blogger Xavier Onassis said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 2/11/2010 10:56 AM, Blogger Xavier Onassis said...

"Just ask yourself: if you believed you were treated unfairly, how did you interact with that person the next time.
enough said."

Thanks, anon, for oversimplifying a very complex issue. The research that you described is referred to a great deal in Game Theory and Strategy studies, but can not and should not be the last word on the topic (So, no...not "Enough Said"). The experiments you refer to were conducted in a sterile and controlled setting where participants' ethnicities/cultural norms, social mores, education levels, gender and family roles, etc. were controlled for. You take this experiment to be relevant because it occurs within groups that share the same physical space. (e.g. "within one country, the US"). It excludes the impact on an individual or groups of individuals based on their cultural and/or social views about education, work ethic, gender roles, status within the family, etc. These are elements that impact socio economic outcomes. To say that an individual's or group's views on these things are completely isolated from their social and cultural conditioning (relative to those of another individual or group embracing different cultural/social mores within the same geographic location)is, at best, intellectually dishonest. The US is not some monolithic place where we all have the same ideas about investing in our education and skills, about whether we should take time off of work to have children, about how much effort is appropriate to put into one's job/career.

 
At 2/11/2010 3:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, XO, I am truly suprised that you actually do any reading at all, other than to attack the word anonymous.

Finally, you are able to recognize the issue.

Good for you.

And, I suppose you would have to attack the foundation of social psych experiments and marketing experiments to support your views.

But, for me, the market works: my clients make money using this stuff.

Please, oh please, make sure that your clients, if you have any, don't use this research.

Social darwinism in this respect is a good thing: you will fail by not accepting these experiments.

And, you deserve it.

 
At 2/11/2010 3:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Xavier Onasis, or whatever you call yourself:

You hypocritically attacked my use of anonymous and your unthinking acolytes chimed in.

Well, here is how you described your identity:

"Xavier Onassis is the nom de blog for a cranky, old, white guy spewing often ill-informed opinions about whatever the Hell he wants, just because he can."

So, instead of using anonymous, you create a name,Xavier Onassis, and attack others for using anonymous.

What a joke.

 
At 2/11/2010 4:26 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"Just ask yourself: if you believed you were treated unfairly, how did you interact with that person the next time"...

Geez! What a whiner!

'jiu jitsu, google it...

Yet another whiner: ""Xavier Onassis is the nom de blog for a cranky, old, white guy spewing often ill-informed opinions about whatever the Hell he wants, just because he can.""...

How do you know XO is white or a guy?

Isn't this a case of the kettle calling the pot black?

 
At 2/11/2010 4:59 PM, Blogger Xavier Onassis said...

"How do you know XO is white or a guy?"

@ juandos - Thanks for posting the interesting link. Woof Woof :)

 
At 2/11/2010 5:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Juandos, Here is your friend Xavier's blogger profile indicating it is a nom de blog.

http://www.blogger.com/profile/01345787343828318445

It's not your fault that you that you didn't know.

But, now you do.

 
At 2/11/2010 5:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, and Juandos, in his profile Xavier describes himself as a cranky white guy.

He has a racial identity problem, and is proud of it.

 
At 2/11/2010 5:21 PM, Anonymous Lyle said...

I do think that if an anonymous interaction was unfair you would not want to interact with that person in the future. A lot of business interactions are essentially anonymous, particularly in a large city, where the repair man is picked from a phone book for example. Yes in a small town there are differences because reputation matters more there, and unfair activities get noised about much more.
While not perfect behavioral economics is a far better theory than homo economicus calculatus. (The idea that humans always purely figure out the net present value of any decision and use that as the sole criteria that animates the rational market theory).

 
At 2/12/2010 6:24 AM, Blogger Xavier Onassis said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 2/12/2010 8:14 AM, Blogger Xavier Onassis said...

Hey Anon,

I hope your "scientific" research is more thorough than your research on blogger/poster profiles. There are actually (at least) 2 different posters with the name Xavier Onassis, I being one of them. MY profile is linked below (or you can simply click on my name at the top of the post).

Maybe if you spent as much time thinking out your "ideas" as you do worrying about how to personally attack a poster, your contributions would be more enlightening.


http://www.blogger.com/profile/06225298585847036428

 
At 2/12/2010 11:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Xavier,

For a guy who attacks someone for using anonymous as a posting, it is ironic to read your response:

"Maybe if you spent as much time thinking out your "ideas" as you do worrying about how to personally attack a poster, your contributions would be more enlightening."

 
At 2/12/2010 12:53 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"Oh, and Juandos, in his profile Xavier describes himself as a cranky white guy"...

Well that's the point anon one could put ANYTHING there but that doesn't necessarily make it factual...

 
At 2/14/2010 4:11 PM, Blogger Dessert Survivor said...

Is fairness a social construct? Does a person's view of fairness depend on the culture in which he or she was raised? If culture changes, does the view of fairness change? There is some evidence that fairness is a social construct, and if it is, why should we worry about what is fair? Isn't the question here similar the question that if wants are arbitrary, why should we worry about how well the economic system satisfies them?

 

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