I have long been of the opinion that anyone with the last name Adams is a genius. It started with the late [great] Douglas Adams, but, nowadays, I am likely to be talking about Scott Adams [author of Dilbert cartoons]. He seems to have a constant stream of interesting ideas. Some are rather off the wall; others just make sense. An example of the latter is his assertion: “Fairness is a concept that was invented so kids and idiots could participate in debates.” …
Unfairness in the world makes me sad. It can also make me angry. There are numerous, hard-core political issues going on [on both sides of the Atlantic], where the unfairness really irks me. But, I have a policy of not speaking out on such matters here, so I would like to reflect on some more localized inequities. Although it might be argued that fairness is a fiction, I feel that many things that appear unfair are also inhumane. I guess it is the inhumanities in the world that I feel I want to address.
In many countries I have encountered people who are upset by benefit payments made to unemployed people. They tend to take the view that their taxes are being used to help scroungers. The irony is that the same people most likely voted for the governments who cause [or, at least, do not rectify] the problems that result in such benefits being needed. Most commonly, there is some kind of “benefits trap”. In the UK, it is common for someone to worse off taking a job than receiving benefits. This is simply illogical. One reason it comes about is that many employers of unskilled or low-skill workers only offer limited-hours jobs, but contractually restrain the employees from getting other work, as they need them to be flexible. The incentive for having a lot of part time people is fiscal – employers pay less tax on part-time employees.
In the US, it is slightly more complex. Many people would like to work full-time, but cannot afford the healthcare plans. They are better off working less and letting the state pay.
These situations are all caused by governments not seeing the bigger picture, with frequent “bandaid” solutions to problems that really need a rethink. In a first world country, we should be doing better.
I recently heard a specific story, which was very upsetting and so easily fixed if there was the political will:
This young woman had always had a somewhat chaotic lifestyle. It was not really anybody’s fault. Just the way things worked out. She had two young children, by different fathers, neither of whom were around. She did her best to raise the children by herself. This was OK, until one day, when she died. Under most circumstances, the children would have been taken into care by the state and probably be assigned to foster parents. Many good souls take on this role and they are quite rightly rewarded by suitable financial aid. However, in this case, the children’s grandmother stepped up and gave them a home. She was in her 70s and it was hard work, but she felt that it was her duty. She was also not rich, so there was a lot of financial strain. As she was a blood relative of the children, she was not eligible for the state payments that “normal” foster parents get. How can that be fair?
Well, I seem to have got that off my chest …