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Fairness when it comes to intelligence or economic background

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Gwen
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It seems that Objectivism does not consider differences in intelligence or economic background (consequently having more resources to education and good nutrition such that the person can develop more fully) as unfairness to the less intelligent or the poor. A person who is more intelligent will be able to achieve more than a person who is less so and potentially earn more respect/money. Shouldn't people be only judged or rewarded for the things they have control over? Since the intelligence or the economic background of a person is not something they choose, and yet these affect the potential of what an individual achieves, isn't it unfair? Even if a less intelligent or less educated person works harder than a person of higher intelligence or education, the former would not achieve as much as the latter, would not earn as much and would have a lower quality of life. How is this fair? If this issue has been addressed elsewhere (in this forum or otherwise) please direct me to the relevant resources.

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Even if a less intelligent or less educated person works harder than a person of higher intelligence or education, the former would not achieve as much as the latter, would not earn as much and would have a lower quality of life..

So quality of life is strictly based on earnings?

There aren't miserable rich people and happy poor people?

If everyone had the exact same amount of money, the exact same home, the exact same car, ate the exact same food and were surgically altered so that no person was better looking than another person (because good looks are unfair too) then every human being would live a joyfull life?

If you were not allowed to choose who you date but were assigned the person you must have sex with and cohabitate with (because romance is based on many different kinds of inequalitites) you would be happy, correct?

If you produced an amazing work of art that expressed all your joy for life and it was taken from you because it isn't fair that your life's experiences were based on inequalities and therefore unfair to those that hadn't produced such a work you would still be happy, even then, correct? In fact, despite your life's work being stripped from you and destroyed you would be even happier than before knowing your talent was no longer oppressing those less fortunate by its mere existence... yes?

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There is no evidence of a corollary between intelligence and success/respect/happiness, that I know of.

I'm less certain about lucky circumstances of birth, but I'd suspect the same.

What I find interesting here is the egalitarian premise, applied in the political arena.

Progressives essentially place all success at the door of luck: rich parents, high intelligence, etc.

What is anathema to them is the idea that certain individuals can and will out-strip their fellow men and women, by motivation, ability and creative thought and energy.

"That's not fair! We are born equal, and must stay that way, by force if necessary."

People who strive independently for any gain are a living reproach and indictment of their collectivist impotence.

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It seems that Objectivism does not consider differences in intelligence or economic background (consequently having more resources to education and good nutrition such that the person can develop more fully) as unfairness to the less intelligent or the poor. A person who is more intelligent will be able to achieve more than a person who is less so and potentially earn more respect/money. Shouldn't people be only judged or rewarded for the things they have control over? Since the intelligence or the economic background of a person is not something they choose, and yet these affect the potential of what an individual achieves, isn't it unfair?

Consider the relationship between the more intelligent person and the less intelligent person in a free market economy. Is the less intelligent person harmed by the presence of the smarter guy? Not at all; in fact, he only benefits from the smart guy being there, inventing, producing, trading, etc. If human interactions are restricted to voluntary trades of value for value, then more smart people, which equals more 'inequality' from the dumber guy's perspective, makes him better off, not worse. This whole view of inequality of talents as harmful to the less talented flies in the face of reality. People aren't owed anything by virtue of the fact that they were born a certain way, and other people around them being born with more talent, intelligence, etc is good for them, not bad.

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Gwen, your question reminds me of a passage in A Game of Thrones. I don't remember the page number, but the story goes something like this: John Snow is the hard-working, good natured son of a high lord. Snow recently took a position in a military orginization, where he must practice sparring against other young recruits. He constantly beats them, and begins to think they are lazy, and that he is better than them on a personal level (in other words, not just a better swordsman). One of the old geezers takes Snow aside and explains to him that the other recruits didn't have the benefit of personal trainers and tutors. They had to work, probably had never held a sword, or even enough money to buy a sword, until now. John gets a newfound understanding of the things that allowed him to get where he was; it doesn't diminish his accomplishments, but it does allow him a little more patience with the less fortunate folks. He turns his attention away from ridiculing them and focuses on making them better.

John Snow is being groomed to take over the leadership of this organization. That means he'll have power, a little more prestige, and access to better food and equipment. Is this fair? In a "nature isn't fair" sense, you're right, it isn't. But nobody can change the fact that nature isn't fair - I'm willing to hear your ideas, Gwen, if you think you can change it. Until somebody figures that out, it doesn't make much sense to ruminate over it. Now, is John Snow's situation fair in any other sense? I think so. Consider that Snow is the only new recruit with leadership abilities and proven fighting skills. Is the commander of this military organization supposed to select one of the less fortunate chaps because of a sense of "fairness?" What about all of the lives that would be put in danger if the commander chose the wrong guy for the job?

So how does this relate to Objectivism? After studying the philosophy I've developed a soft spot for people who've been dealt a crappy hand but refuse to quit fighting. I also came to understand that "fairness" is not a synonym for "equality." Fairness is better compared to justice - giving people what they deserve. Equality only enters into the picture because we should apply principles of justice the same way for everybody (that's fairness). Justice dictates that we reward people for their value, not their circumstances.

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It seems that Objectivism does not consider differences in intelligence or economic background (consequently having more resources to education and good nutrition such that the person can develop more fully) as unfairness to the less intelligent or the poor. A person who is more intelligent will be able to achieve more than a person who is less so and potentially earn more respect/money. Shouldn't people be only judged or rewarded for the things they have control over? Since the intelligence or the economic background of a person is not something they choose, and yet these affect the potential of what an individual achieves, isn't it unfair? Even if a less intelligent or less educated person works harder than a person of higher intelligence or education, the former would not achieve as much as the latter, would not earn as much and would have a lower quality of life. How is this fair? If this issue has been addressed elsewhere (in this forum or otherwise) please direct me to the relevant resources.

Once you're an adult, you have control over both of these things (education and choice of job). If you didn't graduate from high school, you have the option to get a GED. If you think it'll be beneficial to get an AA/bachelor's degree, you have that option too. And no matter what your current job is, or how talented you are, there will always be room for improvement.. and typically, when you start showing that you've become a better worker (by taking on new responsibilities, learning/applying new skills, getting work done early, etc) then you'll get a raise. Keep it up and you'll get another.

Many gov't jobs offer certain incentives for people to go back to school (by paying for your books & tuition). There's other places (hospitals, certain companies, the military) that practically pay for everything because they really want their employees to learn more! Sure, it will definitely be a long and hard road if you're working full time and can only take one class a semester.. but you ultimately decide what you want and how you're going to get it.

Edited by Michele Degges
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There is no evidence of a corollary between intelligence and success/respect/happiness, that I know of.

There actually is, but unfortunately it makes the problem more difficult. Financial success correlates with IQ's between 110 and 130(So slightly above average) So to be totally "fair" on this count it would be necessary to redistribute wealth to the the really intelligent people as well as the slower among us. The same correlations can be found with prestige, career success, and happiness though these, the last especially, are difficult to measure in any meaningful way.

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Think Peikoff covered this pretty good in his podcast on whether natural disasters/etc where "just" or not, stating how justice can only be applied to human relations and a measurement of actions (whether a decition was fair or not fair, etc) - things that are outside of human control, such as our parents, to some degree our looks, to some degree intelligence, the presence or absence of a penis, nationality, etc are not correlations of human action in any relevant way and to debate whether it is "fair" or not is pointless and inflates the concept of justice.

At least thats my understanding of it, but I might have misunderstood some elements so if someone would elaborate on that it would be much appreciated :)

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