Ludwig von Mises Institute

Fairness

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Fairness is the treating of people justly. There are many different conceptions of fairness. Proportional fairness means that people get benefits in proportion to their contributions. In a market economy, the measure of one's contributions is what consumers and other beneficiaries are willing to give in return for it; however, what incentivizes a person to make a contribution can also be unselfish motives.[citation needed]

Equality means that everyone gets the same amount. Procedural fairness means that honest, open and impartial rules are used to determine who gets what. Of course, procedural fairness does not necessarily produce good results; a rule could say that everyone must go to the death chamber, and as long as the rules were applied consistently to everyone, it would be deemed procedurally fair.[citation needed] Henry David Thoreau wrote, concerning those judges who saw fit to uphold slavery as long as it were authorized by the U.S. Constitution, "Such judges as these are merely the inspectors of a pick-lock and murderer's tools, to tell him whether they are in working order or not, and there they think that their responsibility ends."[1]

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