There are several synonyms for Fair – just; equitable;
impartial; unbiased; straightforward; objective. Fair means showing no evidence of favoritism, self-interest, or indulging our own likes and dislikes, which can be difficult to achieve.

Fairness and equality aren’t the same thing. While equality of opportunity is a cornerstone of fairness, it rarely exists. Living in America provides opportunities denied to many in the world. Creating equality of opportunity is about raising opportunity for those with little or none. Rotary service is largely about raising opportunities for those at the bottom, through projects like polio eradication, literacy, or clean water.

Equal opportunity doesn’t lead to equal outcomes. In Olympic events, the competitors all begin with an equal opportunity to win. Inequality of outcome is a function of talent and effort. We love sports because it showcases talent and effort and offers a chance to prove one’s self – fairly.

Equalizing outcomes to offset unequal opportunities doesn’t create fairness because it ignores effort and talent. It denies an earned reward and saps initiative. Thomas Jefferson again, “We must dream of an aristocracy of achievement arising out of a democracy of opportunity.” He described a meritocracy, perhaps the fairest system yet devised. Contrast the fairness of a meritocracy with the Marxist creed: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” The unfairness of this creed doomed communism.

Our perception of fairness can become skewed when we think in relative terms. In the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard,
Jesus tells of the man who hired people to work in his vineyard. Although the workers’ time varied, all were paid the same wage. Those who had worked all day complained that those who had worked only an hour or two received the same wage. The early workers were fine with their wage in absolute terms. But relative to the later workers, it seemed unfair. One lesson of this parable is – if we choose to define fairness in relative terms, we will rarely find it.

Being fair to all concerned won’t eliminate all hardships, but it should distribute hardships according to the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If what you’re doing to them was being done to you, how would you react? People are much more willing to bear hardships when they believe it’s at least fair to all concerned.