Within the chapter of Against Fairness, Mr. Asma explained that preferring something or someone to another is a more instinctual and more human thing to do. But this comes in conflict with the utilitarian idea of “To do as one would be done by, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself” and the egalitarian idea of “all humans should be treated as equals.” The latter two have already become golden principles on which our society is founded on, but I’m willing to challenge them.
Equal outcome is neither desired nor possible. No one wants the smaller piece of cake but that doesn’t mean they’d vote for equal outcome. Say if I A likes B’s wife, according to the equal outcome principle, A should be able to sleep with her. Because B could, right? Then why couldn’t A, if they are so equal. Another example, John doe wants to be a pilot but he’s blind, does he get to be a pilot since he’s supposed to get equal treatments as everyone else? Now we can see the ridiculousness in equal outcome principle. Besides, if everyone get’s the same things no matter what they do, they would just stop trying. Like the people commune China tried out a few decades back, people had no motivations to work hard since they all ate from the same bowl and ate the same stuff.
What “fairness” really means is equal opportunity. It’s relieving to know that our efforts will pay off and we are responsible for our results. A had the same opportunity of nailing B’s wife back in the days when she didn’t get married but A failed due to his own problems, now A has no one to blame. Well what if B was born much more gorgeous than A? I’d still say they had equal opportunity because when God rolled the dice it was random, A and B had the equal opportunity of being gorgeous. You might argue that B had better looking parents therefore passed on to B better genes…but dating back to the emergence of live creatures, both A and B came from a single cell archaea. Genetic mutations are random, in this sense, A and B still got equal opportunites in nailing the girl. Mostly when we talk about social justice, we are referring to equal opportunity.
Social justice and favoritism can actually coexist. In fact, they already do in the modern society. Favoritism isn’t abuse of power; it is preference within a reasonable range. A man can love his son all he likes and not love some stranger child, because he is the owner of his love, he has the right to dispose it freely. Taking this right away from the man in the name of “fairness” is an unfair action itself. It’s a fundamental right to act according to our will. A man can give his son all the love he has because that love is his. But he cannot strangle others, take the life of others because he doesn’t possess their lives, they’re not his to take. Ownership is the boundary between favoritism and abuse of power. Private property can be passed down to the next generation and won’t be judged as being unfair, but it’s illegal for a government official to appoint his relatives without proper procedures.
Two related phrases are often used in china to describe the difference, “ren qing wei” and “zou guan xi”。 If you help out a close friend or relative, you can be refered as someone with “ren qing wei”。 If you go through an illegal (unjustifiable) process to obtain something using your relations, it’s called “zou guan xi”。 The former is favoritism and the latter has more to do with abuse of power.
Favoritism and equality aren’t always in conflict. It depends on which kind of equality we’re looking at.