When the nail sticks out

rants, raves and randomness

What does it mean to be fair?[edited]

A co-worker has recently left the company to move to a bigger company, a Japanese conglomerate based in Osaka. Asked why she decided to leave, she was blunt : I don’t feel like I was getting what I worked for. Do you know that I closed 80% of the sales but I was getting paid the same amount of money as those who didn’t close any? It’s unfair.

Now this is interesting. Many of the debates online (and off) can be stemmed from people’s varying definition of fairness. Many countries are built on fairness, equality (and liberty) or their best interpretation of them.

What does it meant to be fair?: Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, French for "Liberty, equality, fraternity", is the national motto of France and the Republic of Haiti, and is an example of a tripartite motto.

What does it mean to be fair? Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, French for “Liberty, equality, fraternity”, is the national motto of France and the Republic of Haiti, and is an example of a tripartite motto.

When Noynoy became president, his first act as president is the “No Wang Wang” rule. It’s an attempt to  show everyone that he is different, he is fair.  Because not everyone can be given a privilege to use wang wang (a state of total equality), then the president has to voluntarily stop his own privilege in order to be fair, equal to other non-wang wang using Filipinos.

But what does it mean to be fair?Let’s define some words :




the state, condition, or quality of being fair, or free from bias orinjustice; evenhandedness:

Let’s set an assumption : we all want to live in a fair society. At least, most of us do. If this assumption doesn’t work for you – that is, if you want to live in an unfair society, then, I invite you to stop reading now because it’s going to be a waste of your time.

Still here? Let’s continue.

We want rules to apply to everyone. We want women to be given equal opportunities as men. We want people to be treated the same in the work place.  I want law-abiding tax-paying foreigners to be given equal opportunities as their Japanese counterparts.

It seems then, that they key word here is equality. Equality seems to be the key to fairness.

What is equality?



the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, or opportunities.

Why, then, are people so divided  when we all want the same thing? Why is it so hard to agree and find solutions? When I read people’s opinion on social media -people I believe to be smart and well-informed- I can’t help cringe. Let’s look at the issues that divide people everywhere.

If you believe that equality is the only ingredient of fairness…

….then you are OK with providing welfare and housing for the poor. You were one of those enraged by Bianca Gonzalez’s callous tweet.

What does it meant to be fair? Bianca Gonzales speaks out on Manila's squatter infestation!

What does it meant to be fair? Bianca Gonzales speaks out on Manila’s squatter infestation!. From Getrealphilippines.com

…. You have no problem with the public footing the bill of 500 people’s stay at a resort in Batangas. If you can go to resorts, then so can they!   (Your problem is mainly why they sent them there in the first place : ” to put Roxas Boulevard in order” – manilastandardtoday.com/ 2015/ 01/ 28/ we- rounded- up-homeless -weeping -soliman -admits/)

….You are perfectly OK with people being taxed the same rate in the Philippines. 30% for you, a salaried worker, and Henry Sy.

….You approve of similar punishment/penalty for a person found carrying a roll of cannabis and a person found carrying 10kg of crack cocaine.

… You approve of Obama’s wealth-gap tax fix – that is, taking from the rich and distributing it to the poor

What does it meant to be fair? Tax the rich!

What does it meant to be fair? Tax the rich!

… You think that the amount of bail should be the same for all income brackets.

…. You believe that everyone should be measured the same way.

What does it meant to be fair? Measuring everyone the same way.

What does it meant to be fair? Measuring everyone the same way.

….You don’t believe in parking for the disabled or priority seats on trains.

…. You think that parental leave should be the same for men and women (including those recovering from childbirth)

…. You approve that slackers and hard-workers get the same reward.

…. You believe that anybody needing help should be allowed to receive cash handouts regardless of how much they contributed.

Now, if you disagree with any or all of the above, then I’d like you to think for a minute why.

Did you come up with your own reasons? Is being “unfair” one of them?

If it is, then we agree:   fairness is more than just being equal.

Take my co-worker, for example, who just left the company. She was getting paid the same amount of money as everybody else- yet she thought it was unfair. And she was right because :

a) it wasn’t proportional to her effort.

The money she was getting wasn’t proportional to the amount of money she made the company. Proportionality is why it’s unfair that Henry Sy and I are in the same tax bracket. Or the reason why many companies don’t give everyone the same number of paid leaves right away. Proportionality is why a republican and a democrat can’t see eye to eye when talking about welfare. It also plays a factor in  drug enforcement: the penalty/fine is proportional amount of drugs and the type of drugs you had.

From gov.uk :

The penalties depend on which drug and the amount you have, and whether you are also dealing or producing the drug. The most severe penalty can be an unlimited fine and life in prison.

What does it meant to be fair? Aristotle's Equaliity Principle

What does it meant to be fair? Aristotle’s Equaliity Principle. From  < www. tayfunsonmez. net/ wp-content/ uploads/ 2013/ 10/ E308SL13.pdf >

Remember the case in Finland, where the Nokia director was fined 116,000 euros for breaking the speed limit?

Anssi Vanjoki, 44, has been ordered to pay a fine of 116,000 euros ($103,600) after being caught breaking the speed limit on his Harley Davidson motorbike in the capital, Helsinki, in October last year. Police say he was driving at 75 km/h (47 mph) in a 50km/h (31 mph) zone. In Finland, traffic fines are proportionate to the latest available data on an offender’s income. < news.bbc.co.uk/ 2/ hi/ europe/ 1759791.stm >

The logic behind this is that punishments are meted out so they can have an impact on your behavior. Fining a rich person $150 will probably not have much impact on his behavior – you have to strike where it hurts.

b) she felt she deserved more.

It was demotivating to earn the same amount of money as the slackers. I cannot emphasis the word “deserve” more.  It’s not good to reward the undeserving. Or to take and to take from the hardworking.  In Japanese, there is a saying :

Those who don’t work, don’t eat.

If you don’t work, then you don’t deserve to eat, is what it is.

This sounds very harsh from a charity-giving Catholic society. But personally, I think work is a better way to measure your worth, because almost anybody can work.

“Work is the best form of welfare,” Australia ‘s Social Services Minister Ken Andrews said. < www. the guardian. com/ world/ 2014/ jan/ 21/ australias- unsustainable- welfare- system- to- be-overhauled-s ays- minister >

But how do you judge when someone deserves something? Some things to think about :

Case1#: In the private sector, companies have found ways , albeit imperfect, to measure your  performance and see if you deserve a raise / a promotion (or both).  Your attendance and tardiness are monitored. There are targets, SLAs and deadlines to meet. I found that American companies tend to be more output-oriented (judging if you deserve a promotion from your outputs/achievements) whereas Japanese companies are more relationship-based (how well you get well with your seniors) , form-based (the number of hours you work a day) or tenure (the length of service).

Case2#: In order the stop foreigners (Chinese and Koreans, allegedly) from exploiting the system, Jisedai no To, a conservative party proposed stopping dole outs to foreigners in financial trouble. Their basis of who deserves what is based solely on the passport color (which can be deemed unfair)

What does it meant to be fair? Naturalize or get out!

What does it meant to be fair? Naturalize or get out!

Case#3: Miriam proposed that only taxpayers should be allowed to vote.
If you don’t pay taxes, then you don’t deserve to vote! If you want to vote, then you have to earn the right to do so!! If people worked for their right to vote, then chances are they won’t sell it to the first politician who offers them a wristband easily.

What does it meant to be fair?  Miriam: Only taxpayers should be allowed to vote

What does it meant to be fair? Miriam: Only taxpayers should be allowed to vote

Why I believe in  ‘limited’ welfare

Sure, Obama’s goal seems  noble (if not too ambitious) : bridging the gap between the rich and the poor. Many Filipino politicians have promised exactly the same thing during the campaign period.They are fighting for fairness. Unfortunately, their definition of “fairness” is different from mine. And so are their strategies.

Don’t get me wrong – I do believe that the state has to maintain vertical mobility of people. A person born of poor family shouldn’t have to commit crime to go upwards – and the state should help in making sure all entry barriers are extinguished (or limited) by providing healthcare, education, housing etc – to all those who cannot afford them . The welfare system should reduce (if not fix) the gap between the rich and the poor by redistributing wealth .  Personally, this is OK – up to a point. I believe the state has to draw the line somewhere, because

a) it’s unsustainable. We can’t all just take!

What does it meant to be fair? Republican. Because not everyone can be on welfare.

What does it meant to be fair? Republican. Because not everyone can be on welfare.

Many countries are now reforming (or planning to reform) their welfare system because it’s “unsustainable”.  Remember the old adage,

You reap what you sow.

I think this isn’t just about morality – it’s common sense. The welfare system basically supports reaping by people who didn’t sow.Some Chinese and Koreans (allegedly) exploited the Japanese welfare system to claim money for themselves or families back home. Without tackling whether this is right or wrong, if true and done on a massive scale, this can lead to bankruptcy.

Welfare on the Rise: The growth of welfare spending is unsustainable and will drive the United States into bankruptcy if allowed to continue unreformed. Welfare spending is projected to cost taxpayers $10.3 trillion over the next 10 years. <  www. heritage .org/research/ factsheets/ the-unsustainable -welfare -state -reform -is-necessary >

b) It discourages hard-work.

Critics of the welfare system says it creates dependency. Why would anyone on welfare have any motivation to work, when he can get cash handouts or housing for nothing?

During the 1980s the welfare system was subjected to many critical attacks, most notably in sociologist Charles Murray’s book Losing Ground: American Social Policy, 1950–1980 (1984). Murray argued that welfare hurt the poor by making them less well off and discouraging them from working. The system effectively trapped single-parent families in a cycle of welfare dependency, creating more, rather than less, poverty. Murray proposed abolishing federal welfare and replacing it with short-term local programs. Though many criticized Murray’s data and conclusions, most agreed that welfare produced disincentives to work. <  www. encyclopedia. com/ topic/ Welfare.aspx >

This was Bianca’s point. And mine. It makes people on welfare NOT want to work.

It also discourages hard-working people from working. Why should they, if the government will take from them and give it to the poor?

What does it meant to be fair? Obama as Robin-you from the Hood.

What does it meant to be fair? Obama as Robin Hood

What does it meant to be fair? Tax the rich.

What does it meant to be fair? Tax the rich.

Jonathan Haidt, author of The Righteous Mind, quotes a conservative who said he voted republican because he didn’t want his tax dollars going to:

a non-producing, welfare collecting, single mother, crack baby producing future Democrat.

”  (p 210)

Here is a good abridged comment from the CNBC article about Obama’s tax fix:

I’m just going to finally say it:[]

These type of tax credits (or I should say free money) are not fair or logical. []

I had to work harder to get my job, as opposed to just working at Taco Bell.

This is even neglecting a full analysis, as many of these minimum wage earners with kids will also get section 8 housing or housing assistance until they buy a house, so it encourages them not to. At which point we now have 18 years of free housing with the three kids. $800 per month at bare minimum and that is pushing it. So this three kid family, now including this additional $151,200, has just surpassed my total income. $723,450 living an easy life. If they simply take $1,200 per year and put it into their 401k, (yes even Starbucks has it) the government gives another $1,200. The average person works 35 years. That is another $42,000. This is $765,450. They are in affect surpassing my after tax income at $70,000 If they simply have kids out of wedlock, and work without graduating college.

If no one here sees this as a moral issue, they need to grow up. But more importantly is the logic issue: Why would anyone want to get a good job? We need to be honest here. Democrats have problems admitting that Romney’s 47% comment is actually close to true. And if we do more to encourage people not to work…and do stupid things…Well…That is what they will do.

Personally, I believe that people should be able to reap what they sow- no more, no less.If they don’t work, then they don’t eat. And if they don’t like what they they are reaping, well, it’s not the end of the world!

What does it meant to be fair? If you don't like what you are reaping, you had better change what you have been sowing.

What does it meant to be fair? If you don’t like what you are reaping, you had better change what you have been sowing.

A state has to make sure that it creates conditions for people being able to get what they worked for (This isn’t the same to handing out unlimited dole outs forever). Failure to do so is tantamount to failing the nation : by encouraging free loaders and discouraging the hard-workers. It also sends a bad message and teaches the wrong values to its people.

Sure, if you want to build the poor folks houses, then you foot the bill. We, the hardworking ones, want our money spent more wisely – something that will benefit US too. Not supporting “ a non-producing, welfare collecting, single mother, crack baby producing future –insert political affiliation here–.” I am not saying that we must ignore the poor completely – but I would go for less luxurious, more sustainable programs. Read: Chateau Royal no more. Programs should aim to help them be able to help themselves.Equip them with skills. Make them earn their own house, their own food, their right to vote. That’s how we start the culture of merit- of getting what you worked for, of what you *really* deserve. Maybe give welfare on a limited duration, and make sure those who take also contribute? Make them pay back what was given?! Anything instead of just giving and giving and giving that creates dependency and demotivates people from working!

What Filipinos need to understand is that there is no shame in working. Yes, even if your goal is to own material things, working for it is always better than just taking it!

As Britney Spears’ song goes :

What does it meant to be fair? You better work bitch!

What does it meant to be fair? You better work bitch!

So, what does it mean to be fair?

Each one has a different take on what it means to be fair. Some concentrate on equality. Some, on proportionality. Some, on what people deserve. As a consequence, people pursue fairness in different ways. And this is why people cannot agree on solutions, although the ultimate goal is to be fair.

I cannot speak for Bianca, but when I am being lambasted for my seemingly “anti-poor sentiments”, I hope people understand where I am coming from. For me, fairness is not all about equality. Or charity.

What does it meant to be fair? Equality and justice

What does it meant to be fair? Equality and justice

It’s about rewarding and punishing those who deserve it in the manner that is fitting and proportional. It’s about getting what you deserve, of what you worked for. Not being handed everything to you on a plate. It’s a combination of the three : equality, proportionality and merit.

What does it meant to be fair?  My triangle of fairness

What does it meant to be fair? My triangle of fairness

And yes, it is more sustainable than charity!

Don’t spread my wealth! Spread my work ethic!

What does it meant to be fair?Don't spread my wealth. Spread my work ethic.

What does it meant to be fair?Don’t spread my wealth. Spread my work ethic.

9 comments on “What does it mean to be fair?[edited]

  1. Danny Pogi
    January 29, 2015

    Very well thought of…. Sadly, equality in our society specially here in PH is clouded by its adherent to catholic norms or christian norms, Im a catholic my self but I always weighs whom to help or who is worthy of compassion. Nice one mare!! 😀

    • ikalwewe
      January 29, 2015

      Wow ambilis ha. Salamat sa pagbasa at pagcomment, pare. Korek ka diyan . Sa palagay ko dapat walang excuses. Dap Dito kahit may down syndrome binibigyan nila ng work. Medyo hardcore, pero hindi charity lang diba. Ang best charity e yun tulungan ang iba na matulungan sarili nila. Peace 🙂

  2. Bernz
    January 29, 2015

    Well thought out. I like the triangle of merit- now that is fair 🙂 Bonus on the last photo with the signs/slogans.

    • ikalwewe
      January 29, 2015

      Thanks for reading, Bernz. We all want what’s best for the Philippines, but I am really against cash handouts or free housing. Very uncharitable, but I think the harder way (earning it yourself) is better. As republican bumper stickers go, ‘Fairness’ isn’t giving my money to lazy people.’ We cant all be on welfare! It’s unsustainable and unfair. Cheers!

  3. roz
    January 29, 2015

    Galing Trishka!:)

  4. Joe America
    February 4, 2015

    Wonderful read. I have to smile at how I would discern the Philippine triangle. It would have two wee little sides for equality and merit and a huge long one for proportionality. Everything is power and favor; productivity is not a big concern, and the poor have no boxes to stand on while the rich stand on high rises.

    • ikalwewe
      February 11, 2015

      Thanks Here in the Philippines (yes, I am here!) people translate merit as to who has the most connection : the padrino factor, the blood relations, the cronies. There’s so much politics with connection even for someone vacationing like me, I’ve decided to cut my vacation short and go somewhere no one knows me. What more for people who live here?! A lot of people here are on JO (job order), and they know their jobs can last only as long as their padrinos are in the position. It’s demotivating! Why work hard when you can be fired anytime ?

  5. IM Sirius
    April 17, 2015

    When people talk about equality they’re often talking about different things. I think when the average person talks about equality, they’re talking about equal opportunity. Marxists/leftists/collectivists are usually talking about equality of outcome.

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