What is fair?

Para Português, favor clicar neste link.

So, this is one topic I have been struggling with lately. What is the definition of fair, and how do we categorize things being either fair or unfair?

Every time I start thinking about this, I  remember a Law class I had in college, in which my professor defined Equality as:

Tratar igualmente os iguais e desigualmente os desiguais na medida em que eles se desigualam

Which in my free translation would be “to treat those who are equals equally, and to treat differently those who are different, on the measure of their inequality”. Sounds great, doesn’t it? So I guess we have a definition, but what about applying such rule? How do we determine what will be our criteria to judge fairness?

I could propose for example that a fair wage would be the amount of money that one earns, given the amount of work that he does. So, according to my definition above, if two individuals work the same amount of hours a day, they should earn the same amount of money, and if they work different hours, then they should earn a different amount of money.

But doctors earn more per hour than a waiter in a cafeteria, even if they work for the same amount of time. Then someone could argue: The work is different, the doctor saves lives. You don`t save lives working in a cafeteria.

Ok, so hours is not a good measure for fairness on wage. I guess how many years you worked to fill that position could be a better approach. But you don`t have to study to be a football player, and they earn a lot of money. Then someone would tell me -> No, you don`t understand, they are being payed for their talent. Ok, so talent is something I should consider on the equation too.

Let`s take musicians. The internet is filled with videos of amazingly talented musicians, that will never get to pursue their career, because what they earn with their talent is not enough, even though they do have a lot of talent. Then people argue-> I guess they just weren’t lucky. LUCK? Has it come to that? All of our discussion on fair wage has resumed itself on Luck? Where is the fairness on that?

And some people will just say-> Hey, the person shouldn’t have chosen to pursue a career in music, because the risk is too high. Choose something more stable, go to college, work in a big Office for a Big Company. Surprise, surprise-> Crisis exist and big companies fail too.

A lot of people lost their jobs during the recession, and some of them just thought “this isn’t fair!”. I have a family to support, and etc…so according to these people, it is not fair for them to loose their jobs, because they have something to spend that money on, which just happens to be their own family. A guy who lost his job and could no longer afford a Beach House could use the same argument. “But, family is more important than a Beach House”. I agree, it is more important. Nevertheless, should the fact that one has a family an the other one doesn’t determine which of them should loose their jobs? Is that fair?

There are not right answers here, I could go to Economics, and I would find contradictions for the concept of what is fair and what isn’t. I mean, Capitalism and Socialism are both Economic models. I could go to Religion, to Social Sciences, to anybody on the streets and ask them: What is fair? And they would give me an answer, and as I start asking questions about situations implied by their definitions, they would contradict themselves.

I strongly advise you to comment on this post, I would like to see if you can come up with a definition for something we constantly fight for, but have no idea what it is.