"Why does my brother have lots of boys to play with on our street and there are not as many girls?" my daughter asked. "It's not fair."
I provided the classic reply, "Life's not fair, honey."
What am I supposed to do? Buy the house for sale next door and sell it to a family with a girl at a below-market price?
Seriously, not everything can or should be controlled to ensure "fairness."
This simple, real-life example made me rethink the extent to which we should work toward so-called fairness. Viewing incidents as fair or unfair is a matter of judgment. To determine fairness, we must draw comparisons: How many boys on the street; how many girls?
We begin to worry about others having more than we have, and about how to take from those who have more to even it up. This focus on fair outcomes prevents us from seeing opportunity. If I am busy comparing what you have against what I have, then I cannot see what we might be able to make together. The focus is on a zero-sum game -- taking from one person to give to another rather than making something together. It's a view based on scarcity rather than opportunity.
This past weekend, my 10-year-old daughter went swimming with one friend and to a cookout with another. Neither girl lived on our street. While she was gone, my 8-year-old son asked: "Why does she get to go out with friends? That's not fair."
My response, "Life's not fair, call the boys next door."
Funny story with a serious message -- if we worry about always being fair, we will miss opportunities.
Nick Clegg, Britain's Liberal Democratic candidate for prime minister, is running on the slogan, "Change that works for you: building a fairer Britain."
Normally, a race between the Labor Party and the Conservative Party, the British general election has been upended by Clegg's rapidly rising popularity.
Clegg surged in the polls after the first televised debate on April 15.
"So don't let them tell you that the only choice is between two old parties who have been playing pass the parcel with your government for 65 years now," Clegg said in his closing statement. "I genuinely believe we can have a better, fairer country if we do things differently. Give real change a chance, trust your instincts, support fairness, choose something different that will give you and your family a better, fairer life."