Fairness Is Not Justice: Three Simple Reasons to Reject Fairness


Justice not FairnessOnce upon a time, our laws were based on justice: “With liberty and justice for all.”  Now, it seems there is a sense of “fairness” encroaching upon our liberty and overtaking justice for all.  Many folks equate one term with the other, thinking that fairness and justice are equally compelling concepts of liberty, but they are not. Here are three important reasons to seek justice in our laws, not fairness.

First, fairness is not a fixed concept. Justice is. Fairness rises and falls with the political fortunes of special interests. Instead of being one fixed, eternal truth to which all attain, fairness is a roaming gnome of special rights given to certain classes of individuals.

Fairness grabs rights for Hispanics (but not Asians?).  Fairness snatches rights for Muslims (but not Hindus?)—for gays and lesbians (but not the celibate or the polygamists?).  Fairness is not fixed in anything eternal.  Think of it in terms of a family.

One child has a birthday party and gets gifts from mom and dad. Another child in the family screams “That’s not fair!” Well, in a sense it is not fair for two equal siblings to be treated differently.  Yet, when the matter is considered from a broader perspective—that of justice—it becomes plain that the parents are perfectly just to give gifts to their children when and how they desire.  No injustice has occurred, even though one child believes his fairness has been violated. Justice fixes truth in institutions and in eternal reality. Fairness fluctuates with the feelings and infatuations of child-like adults. It is not fixed.

Second, fairness is not blind; justice is. As stated above, fairness singles out sub-classes of humanity for particular justice not fairness attention.  By definition, it is not blind. It sees color. It sees sexual preference. It sees—and envies—what others possess.  Fairness cannot maintain unity because it sees too much; it offers preferences too conveniently.

When the United States Supreme Court building was completed in 1935, it featured a prominent engraving to justice across its façade: “Equal Justice Under Law.”  And so, America has historically been a place which sought to call all people equally to the one eternal standard of Justice. Fairness was nowhere etched in Supreme Court stones (and for good reason). Justice is blind; fairness is not.

Finally, Fairness is just not just. I know this sounds circular, but the point must not be missed. Justice is real; it is rooted in an eternal God whose ways are right.  Just as moral law comes from the moral lawgiver, so, too, justice ultimately abides in the one who Himself is just.  Justice is an eternal, divine order to which we all should attain.

Fairness, on the other hand, is a very petulant human standard which we must all exceed. We must be willing to forego our own peevish demands of personal affluence and, instead, call our fellow Americans to uphold justice.

Justice is discovered from within reality.  Fairness is imposed by force on humanity.  Fairness must be imposed by might, not by what is right. It is a political power play, not an eternal truth display.  So, please, let us return to equal justice for all under the law. Exchanging justice for fairness is more foolish than a child offering to trade his family for a shiny, new penny. It’s a sad exchange.

3 thoughts on “Fairness Is Not Justice: Three Simple Reasons to Reject Fairness

  1. Pingback: God and Money | Gregory C. Cochran

  2. I found your article while searching for something that supported the distinctions you made between fairness and justice. I already accepted your premise, but was looking for a justification for using the terms justice and fairness in the same juxtaposition. I don’t think you made a case for that and leave yourself open to a argument over semantics instead of the substantive issue.

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  3. Rudy,
    Sorry the article didn’t help you. I thought it was substantial that justice is rooted in the eternal reality of a just God, rather than imposed on reality by a sub-class of humans. I was also trying to say that justice is a fixed standard which operates irrespective of color, sex, or socio-economic background, whereas fairness starts here and only exploits these differences. I do regret that the article wasn’t helpful to you. I appreciate your comments very much, and I will attempt to write more clearly on this and other subjects. Blessings to you.

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