During a recent Fox News Channel debate about the Obama administration's tax policies, Democrat Bob Beckel raised the issue of "fairness."
He pointed out that a child born to a poor woman in the Bronx enters the world with far worse prospects than a child born to an affluent couple in Connecticut.
No one can deny that. The relevant question, however, is: How does allowing politicians to take more money in taxes from successful people, to squander in ways that will improve their own reelection prospects, make anything more "fair" for others?
Even if additional tax revenue all went to poor single mothers -- which it will not -- the multiple problems of children raised by poor single mothers would not be cured by throwing money at them. Indeed, the skyrocketing of unwed motherhood began when government welfare programs began throwing money at teenage girls who got pregnant.
Children born and raised without fathers are a major problem to society and to themselves. There is nothing "fair" about increasing the number of such children.
A more fundamental problem with the "fairness" issue raised by Beckel and many others is the slippery vagueness of the word "fair."
To ask whether life is fair -- either here and now, or at any time or place around the world, over the past several thousand years -- is to ask a question whose answer is obvious. Life has seldom been within shouting distance of fair, in the sense of even approximately equal prospects of success.
Countries whose politicians have been able to squander ever larger amounts of a nation's resources have not only failed to make the world more fair, the concentration of more resources and power in these politicians' hands has led to results that were often counterproductive at best, and bloodily catastrophic at worst.
More fundamentally, the question whether life is fair is very different from the question whether a given society's rules are fair. Society's rules can be fair in the sense of using the same standards of rewards and punishments for everyone. But that barely scratches the surface of making prospects or outcomes the same.
People raised in different homes, neighborhoods and cultures are going to behave differently -- and those differences have consequences. The multiculturalist dogma may say that all cultures are equal, or equally deserving of respect, but treating cultures as sacrosanct freezes people into the circumstances into which they happened to be born, much like a caste system.