Fairness vs. Justice

When my two older kids were younger, I used to charge them five bucks every time the word fair slipped out of their mouths.

“That’s not fair? Five bucks, please.”

Since five dollars was, at the time, equivalent to a week’s pay for chores for them, and since I actually made them pay me, that word quickly slipped out of both their vocabularies.

The only word in the English language I have less respect for than fair is bored, which means the person saying it has voluntarily turned his brain off.

One summer vacation, my two oldest complained that they were bored. I told them to find something to do. They whined that there wasn’t anything to do. So I showed them how to turn their brains back on.

It took one complete summer vacation, but they learned how to NOT be bored…and if either of them reads this post, I’m sure they’ll regale you with the horror story of what they had to do that summer…and why, to this day, neither of them has ever claimed boredom in front of me again.

Back to fair, though, which is the subject of this essay.

Over in the Rebel Tales community right now, a discussion on publishers’ target audiences popped up, and drifted into writing awards (ack), and into a comment that women don’t get as many awards for writing SF as men do, and that this was probably because the panels are made up of men…and the writer appended the comment with the stated hope that Rebel Tales would “set a standard of fairness in all genres.”

Five bucks, please, for using profanity in my house.

If this were the best of all possible worlds, everyone would receive equal justice.

Meaning: Everyone would reap the rewards for the consequences of his or her own actions.

  • Artists who created good art would be rewarded with recognition, admiration, and wealth, while those who created crap would sink into obscurity;
  • Businessmen who created products people wanted and needed and who dealt honestly with their customers would get rich, while those who created shoddy garbage or who cheated customers would go bankrupt;
  • Dictators who ran their countries by trampling on the rights of citizens would be ripped from power and stripped of their rights, while heads of state who worked to limit laws in order to preserve individual rights would flourish and become icons in history books as well as role models for others;
  • Men and women who fought to preserve the rights of others would be hailed as heroes, while those who fought to maintain a status quo of oppression would be rightly identified as villains and would be hounded and punished; and,
  • People who lived their lives to the best of their ability and to their highest goals and aspirations, while never using force or deception to obtain what they wanted from others would live long, happy lives; while murderers, child molesters, rapists, and thieves would have taken from them what they had taken from others.

Life in this world that we live in is not evenly just, but the concept of justice is born of a clear standard that can be objectively identified and objectively remanded. All men are to be held equal in the eyes of the law. Actions = Consequences.

Justice is an attainable standard, even if it is rarely attained.

Fairness, on the other hand, ignores actions and consequences. It ignores where things come from, how they are created, who created or acted, why they did so, and to what end they worked.

Fairness states not that all men are equal under the eyes of the law…but that all men are equal.

And all men aren’t.

Fairness demands that more women should be in positions of power because there are more women than there are men.

Fairness demands that people who have built businesses with their minds and hands and backs should make no more money than those they employ, because everyone who works at the company is ‘just a person, like everyone else.’

Fairness demands that competence be ignored as a standard because competence is unfair: some people have it, others don’t.

Fairness demands that half of all awards in all fields at all times should be granted to women and half to men—and that those awards should be further subdivided across standards of

  • race,
  • religion,
  • political affiliation,
  • income,
  • area of origin,
  • area of residence,
  • IQ,
  • physical attractiveness, and
  • ownership or non-ownership of pets, with no favoritism shown to those who own cats versus dogs, or vice versa, because…

Fairness has no respect for achievement, no respect for effort, no respect for quality, no respect for intelligence, no respect for ability, no respect for motive.

And this is because FAIRNESS has no respect for the INDIVIDUAL.

Fairness, because it insists that all men are equal, can see humanity only as a vast, faceless lump.

The instant fairness looks past the dogmatic lie that “all men are equal” to see individual people with their individual and unequal skills, motives, morals, integrity, desires, and actions, it dies choking on that lie. So it doesn’t look.

Justice is the desire of the honest individual, who takes action with integrity and accepts the consequences as his earned due.

Fairness is the desire of the unthinking herd, that envies what it has not earned and demands a piece of it just because it’s breathing.

Justice is my standard. I will not accept any other, nor will I compromise.

Fairness earns only my contempt.

So, no. Rebel Tales will NOT set a standard of fairness. We will reward competence and quality. If the only people who demonstrated competence and quality were men, then I would publish only men.

If you want a place in Rebel Tales, earn it by being good enough to belong there.

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About the author: Novelist, writing teacher, on a mission to reprint my out-of-print books and self-publish my new ones.

70 comments… add one
  • Margaret May 23, 2016 @ 0:36

    I really need help, because my debating group is doing justice vs fairness. Is there any way you can help me Holly

    • Holly Lisle Jun 20, 2016 @ 7:48

      Sorry this is so late.

      Justice demands that people be treated in consequence to their actions. People work and are rewarded, or don’t work and are not.

      Fairness demands that all people be treated the same, regardless of their actions. Fairness eternally “levels the playing field” downward to the lowest common denominator. It isn’t fair for only some people to be rich, so spread out their money among masses, and make everyone equally poor. It isn’t fair for some people to have big homes, so move everyone into small homes. It isn’t fair for only some people to have small homes, so move everyone into tents. It isn’t fair for only some people to have tents, so leave everyone in the open air. It isn’t fair for some people to have lots of food and some to have none, so spread out the food among the masses and let everyone starve equally.

      Fairness is the guiding principle of communism, which has failed in every nation where it has been tried, because when you punish the people who work and reward the people who don’t (which is what the actions listed above do), people stop working and wait to be handed their fair share for doing nothing. And everyone starves.

  • rurutu Jan 15, 2014 @ 18:09

    i liked it but where is FAIRNESS VS JUSTICE?

  • Ty Feb 6, 2013 @ 17:08

    I loved the article. We have been having class discussion about this in one of my college courses and it would be great to have you come speak. πŸ™‚ I am going to present this in class and have other students read it. Thank you

    • Holly Feb 6, 2013 @ 17:11

      You’re welcome. You’re welcome to print off a copy to take with you if you want. There’s a print button on the page.


  • Bety Dec 5, 2010 @ 14:57

    I really love this article. I think it really demonstrates how those who achieve should be those who have the combination of ability and drive to deserve that achievement.

  • Moira Oct 6, 2010 @ 2:29

    That’s not a definition of fair I’ve ever heard anyone else use. Not even close. How bizarre.

  • Kilgore Trout Sep 8, 2010 @ 7:51

    I’ll still take fairness. It just sounds nicer!

  • Jennifer from Phoenix Aug 21, 2010 @ 20:43


    I guess I’m part of the loyal opposition here.
    My sister suffered primary cerebral vasculitis 12 years ago, which left her permanently disabled. Her once brilliant (IQ 141) mind is no longer capable of speech, reading or caring for her own personal needs. She is able to walk and feed herself, and understands much of what she is told, but her frontal lobe was severely damaged and she often cannot react appropriately. In her frustration, she is occasionally violent. She requires 24-hour care, which costs roughly $4000/ month, and is paid for through Federal and state tax money. Her medications probably cost $500/month.
    She will probably live out something less than her normal life span, since she cannot tell us when she is in pain, but she will probably live for 20 more years or so.
    Her health insurance, like most plans, never covered long-term care. Without spreading the burden–and I gladly pay my taxes–our entire family would have been bankrupted by her care. As it is, we just spent about $19,000 (yes, nineteen thousand) for some serious dental care, as that is not covered by any public plan.

    Stuff happens, Holly–unpreventable stuff happens.

  • Miz G Aug 16, 2010 @ 11:45

    What a wonderful post! Love the debate and your ability to participate. Pray that all is improving with you. Two quotes:
    1. From me to “the 6 kids”: :Life’s not fair, frogs eat flies and it’s not fair to the flies; and snakes eat frogs and it’s not fair to the frogs!”

    2: From my Mom: “Obviously they don’t understand who I think I am!”

  • Lee Aug 14, 2010 @ 21:15

    On the subject of boredom, being bored for me was always a kind of downtime while I figured out what I wanted to do amongst a bunch of choices of what I wanted to do *right now* lol

  • Lee Aug 14, 2010 @ 21:10


    But true.

    Oh so true.

  • Claudette Aug 14, 2010 @ 16:54


    Reading all of this did my heart good. My folks grew up during the depression. My brother and I learned very early what Fairness really meant and what was Juste. Fairness was each of us getting a gift on the other’s birthday (albeit a small one.) Juste was standing up and taking the blame for something we knew we were responsible for so that no other would be accused. It forced honesty–for ourselves and our dealings with others.

    We didn’t have time to be bored. We always had responsibilites for chores. In our off time, my mother had one rule–find something to do that is healthy and teaches you something. We were regularly schooled in nature studies, history–both community and country, practical skills, etc. Our folks never worried about our problem-solving skills. They’d taught us well how to take a problem apart and find solutions.

    We knew that we earned our way, whether for dollars or accolades. Work ethic was drilled into us from toddler-hood. We learned debate at the dining table along with journalism. My blue-collar family did more during an average day for learning, testing, earning, and living than many I knew. Some of it came from necessity, some from looking toward the future.

    I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this discussion and it’s points of debate. It’s time people began questioning the system they’ve come to depend on, accept, and despise. Kudos, all, for a lovely time of debate.


  • Texanne Aug 12, 2010 @ 13:31

    Holly, every time you open your mouth I’m reminded of why I like and respect you so much.

    I’ll skip the fair vs just argument because I agree with you 100%.
    Focusing on the village–wow! Summer’s almost over, but the two younger kids are homeschooled, which doesn’t take up nearly as much time as public school does to accomplish the same goals.

    This means that the kids can benefit from a project like this. If you ever decide to write this as a course or make a workbook of it, e-mail me immediately!

    I was never bored. Somehow, the neighborhood kids were always up for putting on a play or for organized warfare, bike, foot, or skate races, and so forth. If I one of my siblings complained of being bored, we were all set to cleaning out the cupboards, weeding the garden, raking leaves, washing the car. When we lived at the farm, bored kids got to pick cotton, repair fences, deal with livestock, work in a subsistence garden, or most icky: help with the canning.

    Excellent post, and good to see you able to post and respond!

  • NancyJ Aug 12, 2010 @ 0:17


    Once again I must agree with you.

    My last job was teaching Adult Basic Education (essentially grades 4-6) in a prison for women. We had more than one discussion of “fair” vs. “just.” Each time, it ended with them voting for “justice” over “fairness.”

    I watched those who grasped the concept of justice grow and mature into responsible human beings–shedding their “give me” approach to life. If they had understood the difference earlier, many of them would not have been in prison.

  • Wiley C. Aug 11, 2010 @ 5:01

    You sound like my mom, with the bored thing. Except I’d much rather have created a fictional town than what she found for us to do. (You know what always needs cleaning? Yeah. Horse stalls.)

    I have to disagree on “fair” though. (Respectfully, of course.) Fair doesn’t mean equal. It means unbiased or impartial. To deal with something or someone in an even-handed way.

    To take one of your examples, it’s fair to pay your employees less than you pay yourself. It doesn’t make them lesser people, it’s because they don’t shoulder the same risks you do in starting your own business. They don’t make the same investment. It wouldn’t be fair to pay your partner less. (Unless they also invested less.)

    As it pertains to Rebel Tales, no one can accuse you of bias and be taken seriously because you judge work on its merit. That makes you fair. (Sorry.)

    • Lynn M Aug 16, 2010 @ 18:26

      I have to agree with Wiley C. here. I think, for me, it’s a matter of semantics. When the word “fair” is used to imply entitlement, then I fully sport the assertion that Holly presents in this essay.

      However, the way I personally use the word “fair” is to mean treating people in an unbiased or impartial way. Being fair is to give or expect equal consequences for equal behaviours. And to that end, there is unfairness in this world.

      It is not fair – or just – for a woman doing a job equally as demanding in every way and equally as well to earn less than a man in the same situation. It is not fair – or just – for a handful of CEOs of a big corporation to pay themselves multi-million dollar bonuses – on top of the hefty salaries they already make – while enacting massive layoffs or denying employees cost-of-living raises. It’s not fair – or just – that hundreds of thousands of hardworking, honest, trusting people lost their jobs and/or their life savings because too many in the banking and investment industries were greedy for more.

      It is not fair that a child born to an impoverished family to be denied healthcare because his/her parents can’t/won’t afford health insurance. It is not fair for a child to receive an inferior education because his/her parents live in an impoverished neighborhood where the tax dollars are not there for good schools. None of this has anything to do with justice, IMO – a child makes no choices on which any kind of consequences can be based, yet he or she must suffer for the situation in which he or she was born into. And no matter what word you choose to use to describe the situation, it simply not fair.

      And it might not be “fair” to the rest of us to help remedy that situation, but it is the right thing to do. Every time I feel that it is “unfair” for me to have to give more because I have more, I ask myself if I’d rather trade places and the answer is always no.

      • Danzier Aug 19, 2010 @ 0:10

        It may not be unfair for you to give more. In fact, I think that’s great.

        However, it would be bad and wrong on so many levels if someone else grabbed your paycheck and took a chunk out of it to help those with less because you have more. That robs you of your say in the matter.

        Letting people help isn’t the same as forcing, coercing, or lying to people to get them to help. When those who have *give* to those who don’t, it’s great and often inspires those who didn’t to become better. But when some third party makes it a justifiable charge/expense, those charged get mad and those paid say, “Why bother doing more? This works for me.”

        Little kids don’t like it when their mom breaks up a fight by taking away the object of the fight, or doling out only so many cookies. I’m convinced that moms do this to teach us that “fair” hurts. And the scary question is, if we as adults are looking for that mom-like even-handedness, who gets to be the mom? If mom gets to eat all the broken cookies, who keeps her from shaking the jar and getting them all? *dramatic music* πŸ™‚ jmho fwiw

  • JWD Aug 10, 2010 @ 20:24


    *Single manly tear

  • Donna June Aug 10, 2010 @ 11:07

    Fair, according to the dictionary, means “free from bias, dishonesty, or injustice” or, in legal terms “free from self-interest, deception, injustice, or favortism.” The poor word is getting a bad rap I think because people USE it incorrectly to convey a sense of entitlement to something. In fact, some things are not fair or just, such as in Katherine’s example above, and perhaps CAN be changed or adjusted (as in her example) to be so, if the powers that be allow. However, just as in writing you have to get past the “judges” (i.e. editors and publishers and their “sell to the net” mentality these days), sometimes things are not “fair”, but they just are. And you deal with the cultural rules as they exist. But you also work to change them, as Holly is doing with her “Rebel Tales”.

    In all honesty, if a book someone has labored over for months is put up against a book someone wrote on an iPhone in their spare time on the bus, I am not going to judge it based on how it was created or how much time was taken doing so or what tool was used or how it was delivered (eBook, paper, whatever). As a reader, I am going to judge it on how it reads. PERIOD. To me, saying that you spent x time on something while that person only spent y so we should disregard their work is the definition of entitlement. “I worked harder, therefore I deserve more.” Eh? And entitlement is what has changed “fair” from the above definition to something completely unrecognizable.

    I guess what we are talking about here is the whole “culture of entitlement” vs “culture of merit” issue. And that gets into whether there such things as basic human rights. And if so, what are they? Which gets into politics, and we probably don’t want to go there. Well, we might WANT to, but I have this book to work on …

    • Holly Lisle Aug 10, 2010 @ 12:19

      You’re right. If “fair” were actually used as it’s defined in the dictionary, it would by a synonym for “just”.

      However, it isn’t.

      As for basic human rights, they’re simple, so let’s go there. Every individual human being is born with the right to his own life, without question or compromise. He has every right to defend his life against coercion or attack, and every right to work to better his own existence.

      At the point, however, where he uses force, coercion, or deception on others to get what he wants, he loses his own rights. This is why tyrants have no right to rule, and why any attempts to remove them from power are just; tyrants do not recognize the rights of their own people, and so forfeit their own.

      I’m going to borrow an example my husband gave the other day explaining just this point to our twelve-year-old son, because it’s a good example.

      If a husband is beating the shit out of his wife inside his own home, the police or any concerned bystander who honors the rights of others has the right to tear down his door and drag him off to jail, no matter his protests of his home being his castle or his claim that because she is his wife, he has the right to teach her a lesson.

      The person acting against the husband is engaged in the just act of preserving the rights of the wife over those of the man who forfeited his own rights by the use of force against her.

      Any nation that upholds the rights of its own people has the right to remove a tyrant from power, and for the same reasons. Tyrants have no more rights than those they recognize and honor in the least of their subjects.

      Your right to your own life, to the liberty to enjoy it, and to the pursuit of your own happiness and betterment, are your only entitlement. How you use your life is up to you.

      But Medicare, Medicaid, universal health care, racial or gender hiring quotas, promotion for any reason other than merit, and everything else that gets piled into the garbage bin of “fair” is exactly that. Garbage. Each of these USE BIAS OR COERCION to trample the rights of some people in favor of others.

      • Lionel Davoust Aug 10, 2010 @ 12:41

        I fail to see how universal health care is not about enforcing the basic human rights of the individual, that is, his right to live. If he does not have the means to pay for his treatment and is in danger of dying, I do not understand how would not be just (not “fair”, just) that an evolved society takes a step to make sure this person is being cared for. That is not “fairness”, that is basic human rights, protecting life, isn’t it?

        • Holly Lisle Aug 10, 2010 @ 13:10

          Stating that universal health care is a basic human right ignores two things:

          • The right of the individual to self-determination
          • The responsibility of the individual to self-determination

          Rights come with a price. You have the right to your own life, and you do not have the right to coerce others to get what you want.

          You have the responsibility to live your life in such fashion that you do not force others to pay for your existence.

          If you refuse to take responsibility for your own existence, you cannot claim the right to someone else’s. What they choose to give you, they may give of their own free will, but you have no right to coerce them, or to demand that they be coerced.

          Back when I was an RN, I worked in a local community hospital, owned by the county and supported by taxpayers who voluntarily voted a portion of their taxes to go to the hospital to cover things like indigent care, and who voluntarily paid those taxes knowing how the money would be used.

          We cared for people in critical situations who could not pay, knowing that they would not pay, and that those who worked had volunteered a portion of their own effort and productivity to care for these people.

          Meanwhile, those people who worked to support themselves and who could pay their own way paid for health care, just like they paid for everything else. They acted as responsible, self-determining human beings do.

          Communities around the country voted as they were able, and some hospitals were well-funded, while others were not. The system was voluntary, though, and it was just.

          Community hospitals have just about ceased to exist because corporations have discovered there’s a lot of money to be made in medicine (though not for much longer).

          Corporate hospitals, however, are run on a for-profit basis. While this has led to some pretty spiffy advances in medical care and the availability of MRI/MRA machines, vastly improved surgical suites, vastly improved ERs, and other good things, it has also eliminated the voluntary charity of taxpayers toward those who cannot pay.

          It has not eliminated grants and endowments from the wealthy—and those who are rich frequently fund care for the poor. They get a tax write-off for it, and the poor benefit, so both sides win.

          Universal health care, however, states that everyone must pay for everyone—not that each person must carry his own weight, but that those who are responsible must carry themselves AS WELL AS those who are irresponsible. Those who are irresponsible need do nothing but hold out their hands.

          The individual is coerced by federal force into giving up his own rights (in the form of his right to improve his own life) in favor of improving the lives of those who do not choose to care for themselves.

          Individual endowments from the rich (with well-deserved tax breaks) are enough to cover the poor who need emergency care. Nothing is enough to cover a system wherein people are punished for working and rewarded for not working—because in that system, only fools will work.

          And the people who are responsible, self-determined human beings are not the fools in the bunch.

          • Lionel Davoust Aug 10, 2010 @ 13:26

            I will of course beg to disagree, as I live in a country that has enjoyed universal health care for quite a long time. (We have the problem of fools preferring to work over here, but believe me, that has nothing to do with universal health care.)

            I understand the basics of your argument, but I think it misses an important point: disease and accident can not aways be forseen; you cannot always earn what your health requires because you might, once again, encounter unforeseen problems.

            I agree that, to sum things up very quickly, people have to live responsibly. However, responsibility works only to some extent. But take the example, for instance, of a single mother struggling with jobs because of industries leaving town, run over by a car fleeing afterwards or, worse, finding herself with cancer. Where, here, do you factor in the personal responsibility? Disease can be random. Industries putting you out of your job are random. Where is the foolness here?

            I agree that all acts have consequences and that you must take responsibility for those. I also believe that, when s*** hits the fan, an evolved society needs to take care of you, because there are things you just can’t plan for not take the blame for.

          • Holly Lisle Aug 10, 2010 @ 13:32

            Lionel, I’m guessing you’re from Great Britain. You haven’t stated, but I’ll guess.

            In a just system, your run-over mother would have been taken care of by the community hospital free of charge out of voluntary bond taxes voted for directly from the community that would be paying them, and tax-benefitted donations from the hospital’s wealthy patrons (and probably the community hospital’s own business insurance).

            In our community hospital, we never turned any emergency away for the patient’s inability to pay—not because we were forced to see everyone, but because it was the right thing to do.

            Even in a corporate system, if medical corporations were given good tax breaks for caring for the indigent without charge, it would still work out nicely. Corporations love tax breaks, and will jump through their own asses to get them.

            And the last I heard, the definition of Great Britain’s “enjoyment” of universal health care was weeks or months of waiting for even the most basic of services, a nightmarish tax base to support a broken and overburdened system, and people who have money leaving the country for treatment in other countries rather than subject themselves to the health care system they’re basically paying for alone.

            Unless things have changed radically in the last few months, that is.

          • Lionel Davoust Aug 10, 2010 @ 18:26

            Heh, thanks, I’m flattered you might think I’m from GB, because that means my English passes as one from a natural’s. I’m from France actually.

            I will certainly not say our system is perfect – it has stupid loopholes all over the place that let you abuse it and it’s, frankly, very, very broke – but at lest it’s free of the problems Great Britain has: everyone has access to excellent basic care over the board and you do not have to pay for private clinics even for costly treatments like for cancer (unless you want the luxuries of single rooms and such, or you are looking for cosmetic surgery, which is not basic health care).

            Now that has does not come cheap, and that is a very real and pressing problem.

            More on the topic itself, I am fundamentally pessimistic over human nature and I prefer not to rely on volunteers to get things done, but your mileage, of course, may vary. πŸ™‚

          • Holly Lisle Aug 21, 2010 @ 11:39


            I will certainly not say our system is perfect – it has stupid loopholes all over the place that let you abuse it and it’s, frankly, very, very broke

            If the system is broke, who is paying for everyone who uses it? Exactly, specifically, I mean. Because if people are still receiving care, someone, somewhere IS paying. Who is it, and what effect is it having on them?

            And why do you defend the indefensible—the stupid loopholes that permit abuse? Those are the sign of something broken, something that needs to be fixed. The objective is not to look at the corruption and the abuses and sigh “Oh, well.” The objective is to eliminate them. To create a system that WORKS.

            – but at lest it’s free of the problems Great Britain has: everyone has access to excellent basic care over the board and you do not have to pay for private clinics even for costly treatments like for cancer (unless you want the luxuries of single rooms and such, or you are looking for cosmetic surgery, which is not basic health care).

            You don’t have to pay. But nothing happens in a vacuum, and unless all your doctors and nurses are volunteering (in which case, THEY are paying), and unless the suppliers of meds and supplies are giving them to your hospitals for free (in which case THEY are paying), SOMEone is paying. So again, WHO? And HOW?

            Now that has does not come cheap, and that is a very real and pressing problem.

            Yes, it is. The trick is to figure out for whom it has become a problem, since the people using the services are not taking responsibility for the services they use.

            More on the topic itself, I am fundamentally pessimistic over human nature and I prefer not to rely on volunteers to get things done, but your mileage, of course, may vary. πŸ™‚

            If the system creates a requirement for volunteers, and people fail to volunteer, (valuing, as they rightly should, their time and the quality of their lives and the worth of their own effort), then the system will begin to demand MANDATORY volunteers. The other word for that is slaves.

            I, on the other hand, am optimistic about human ability fueled by human thought. We have walked on the Moon, we have eradicated polio, we COULD HAVE eradicated malaria from every poor and distressed nation in the world had not the anti-human-life crowd banned DDT, we have built glorious cities and fed billions with science and technology.

            If we use human thought and human ingenuity and remove the clumsy, corrupt hand of government completely from the problem, then clever solutions like those that are already beginning to arise will flourish.

            What clever solutions?

            Walk-in doctor clinics in Wal-Mart stores with amazingly low prices, and big-discount-for-uninsured prescription medications at Walgreen’s for a $20/year “join-our-club” membership fee, to name two.

            There are ways to solve this problem that do NOT demands stripping the rights from a nation.

            And by the way, your English is excellent.

      • Donna June Aug 10, 2010 @ 12:52

        Sad that many countries/cultures do not uphold those truths of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

        Probably both you and I have better things to do than discuss these issues, but I would love to hear what you think of corporations being given the same rights as human beings, or rather as “super humans”, which seems to be the direction we are heading (and which Lois McMaster Bujold illustrates so well in her new book “CryoBurn”).

        Sometime. When you have time!

        • Holly Lisle Aug 10, 2010 @ 13:21

          Right at the moment, our own country is failing miserably to uphold individual human rights, destroying them left and right in its loudly proclaimed search for fairness. From the little I’ve read, I think New Zealand may still have some clue about the rights of the individual; I’m not sure any other country does.

          As for corporations, I support their right to make a profit. I do not support their right to evade responsibility for intentional corporate misdoings.

          Knowing that your tires are killing people, and choosing to deal with the lawsuits rather than to recall the tires because the lawsuits are cheaper (a la Firestone) is an intentional misdeed. Every person involved who knew about the problem and who chose to act on it in that manner should be in jail awaiting trial for first-degree murder.

          Having a oil-drilling platform burst on you deep under the sea, by the way, is not an intentional corporate misdeed.

          Personally, considering the crap BP (British Petroleum) has taken for that, I think rather than endlessly apologize and bend over backward and try to fix things, at the point where the US government decided it would be cool to coerce them into paying for things they had no need to pay for, they should have fired all their US employees, shut down all their US stations, capped off all their US wells, and walked away to go someplace where people appreciate the amount of effort it takes to get oil out of the ground and turn it into usable energy.

          It would have wreaked havoc on the US economy, but BP would have been well within its rights.

  • Julian Adorney Aug 10, 2010 @ 5:14

    Amazing entry! I agree 100%, ‘fairness’ is the cry of people too lazy/stupid to earn what they want, and expect a handout instead of honest pay for honest work.

  • Katherine Aug 10, 2010 @ 0:53

    An orchestra in Europe honestly and sincerely believed that only men were able to play the French horn well enough to earn a seat in that orchestra. All the judges believed themselves to be scrupulously fair, but somehow only men passed the auditions.

    Then they put up a screen, and held the auditions blind. The French horn section became 50% female in a matter of months.

    Sometimes, concern for fairness can help achieve a just result.

    • Holly Lisle Aug 10, 2010 @ 12:01

      No. Sometimes concern for justice can receive a just result. All human beings should have equal opportunity. That’s justice.

      Claiming that all human beings should get equal results regardless of their ability, contribution, or effort (if, say, the section were made 50% female even though the women didn’t play as well as the men) would be fairness (as the term is used today).

      And out of curiosity, who decided to put up the screen? Because whoever that was was someone concerned with actual justice.

  • Shawna Aug 10, 2010 @ 0:33


    As a side note, I’ve heard “I’m bored” once in the last five or so years… mine have known since they were tiny that in this house, those words were synonymous with “I need a chore to do, the less fun, the better”.

    I’m not sure it has ever even occurred to them to try “that’s not fair!”

  • Will Aug 9, 2010 @ 17:56

    I started reading this entry with a feeling of “What the hell, Holly?”. And yet, the more I read, the more I started smiling and nodding my head.
    I have to agree. I do not want Fairness. Fairness takes the hours I spend pouring over my written work and throws it dead even with someone who wrote it on their Iphone while waiting for a bus.
    Justice without compromise will work fine.
    And if I don’t make the cut, I need to work harder.
    Great post.

  • Astropolis Aug 9, 2010 @ 16:54

    I completely agree with you. In fact this is what I said in “Star Knight”, one of those novel ideas that seemed like a good idea at the time, but never quite worked out. Craig is a starship captain, Andy is the chief engineer, and they are debating what to do about a stowaway called Regina, who has been framed for drug dealing.

    Craig nodded. “She said she had a brother called Rex, but he died. Ok, let’s guess she lied about that. So she needs a transplant from him, and she’s prepared to double cross me, steal shuttles and attack starship captains to get it? Selfish, but understandable.”
    The first officer said, “Craig, you’re being too hard on her. Someone that selfish would never make it as a paramedic.”
    “Exactly,” said Andy. “She’s not the recipient. She’s the donor.”
    Craig’s entire face dropped. “Oh my God. It all makes sense. She’d never do anything like this for herself. But chucking away her career and smashing up a few spaceships to save someone else’s life, even putting me out of action so her brother could live- She’s one hell of a girl.”
    “Exactly what you need,” said Andy.
    Craig gave him a look reminiscent of a blaster on setting seven. “So why the hell didn’t she tell us?”
    “Captain, is obvious,” said Max, “she think if she say transplant you look up her records. Her records say she dealer. You tell Gundilly, they no let her in. Finish.”
    Craig rapped on his desk for silence. “Gentlemen. I’ve often said that there’s a difference between law and justice. Law demands that we return Regina Catesby to Earth. Justice requires that I find some way of getting her to the clinic in New Amritsar, even at the cost of my own career in Goddards. I cannot ask you to put your own futures-”
    “Stuff that, Captain. I’m in,” said Andy.
    Keith added, “You have my co-operation, Captain.”
    “Max also. They fire me, I go open clinic in Tel Aviv, make twice as much listening to yiddisher mamas who got more money than diseases.”
    “Thank you, gentlemen.” He looked at each in turn, exchanging grins. “Cinders is going to the ball.”

    (Yes, Craig and Regina do get married, once he’s got her off in court on the small matter of stealing and writing off half a billion credits worth of spaceships.)

  • Sapphire Aug 9, 2010 @ 14:30

    Ahhh. Sanity.

  • Margaret Aug 9, 2010 @ 14:10

    Wonderful post, Holly.

    I did the same thing with the “bored” word. They started saying they were bored, and I gave them math and english homework. Soon they learned that there were all sorts of interesting things they could choose to do. The sad thing is not that your kids (and mine) didn’t miraculously figure this out without intervention, but that there are so many kids who are never given the push to realize that boredom is a choice not something external.

    On fairness, your analysis is beautifully stated, and I agree with every word based on the definitions you provided. In my household, fairness was more like justice in your description, and my answer was that life is not fair (or just), but you can choose, through your actions, to make your little piece of it as just as you can manage. Roll with the punches, because they will happen, but when faced with a choice for justice or for getting what you want and D**M the consequences, choose justice. I know it’s pure, unsubstantiated optimism, but I always thought if one person acted justly all the time, maybe two people would be inspired to do the same, and so forth until the world does become a little more just, a little more a situation where personal responsibility means social conscience, etc. instead of our current system where social conscience is applied imperfectly from above because it rarely happens on the individual level.

  • Megs Aug 9, 2010 @ 12:49

    This is a position I’m glad SOMEBODY stated. In our house, if someone claims that something I’m doing isn’t fair, I just laugh and tell them, “Of course, it is. I’d do it to everyone else!” Fair and just are two different things with two different places that never belong in the same context. I’m okay with fair in the context of provide-each-child-with-the-same-size-piece-of-pie, but beyond division of food and labor, there really isn’t a whole lot of use for being “fair.”

  • Holly Lisle Aug 9, 2010 @ 11:43

    Since neither of my two once-bored children seems inclined to comment—I taught them how to worldbuild.

    My way.

    I created a worldbuilding workbook for them.

    They had to create a village, had to create every process that would make it self-sustaining, had to figure out who had to live there and what sorts of work they had to do to keep everyone alive, and had to be able to explain in detail how any process I questioned them about worked. They had to work on their village every weekday, and they had to have it done to my satisfaction by the end of summer vacation.

    I honestly figured it would be fun for them, because it’s what I do to entertain myself (and readers). And since both of them wanted to be filmmakers, I figured it would give them a leg up on skills you need in order to develop good stories, good sets, in-depth researching, and so on.

    Instead, you’d have thought I was Torquemada and had brought out the boiling oil and the thumbscrews.

    • Megs Aug 9, 2010 @ 12:51

      :sighs: Why couldn’t you have been in my house when Mom taught ME about being bored? She cured us kids of being bored by saying, “Oh, I’ve got PLENTY for you to do! I’m so glad you decided to help! How about starting with the kitchen, then you can help me vacuum, and then…”

      Yeah. Instant cure.

      • Rabia Aug 10, 2010 @ 13:17

        Heh. My kids beg to help with housework. Hope they’re still fond of it when they are tall enough to load and unload the dishwasher every day. *evil grin*

    • Rabia Aug 9, 2010 @ 13:38

      You know, that exercise sounds perfect to *me* right now. Wish I had a summer vacation like the school-age kids do. *grin*

    • PolarBear Aug 9, 2010 @ 14:54

      I love it. At least you didn’t make them hate housework.

      • Holly Lisle Aug 10, 2010 @ 13:44

        My objective wasn’t to punish them for being bored. It was to teach them by example how not to be.

        They helped with the housework because they lived in the house and it was part of their responsibility as human beings to support their own weight, acknowledging that at the time they had limited skills and couldn’t pay rent or buy the food.

  • Lisac5 Aug 9, 2010 @ 11:29

    Fair = Lazy

    If you get second place it is because you deserve second place because your work IS second place.

    My children also learned at a very early age (seven-ish) that “bored” along with “can’t” were no-no words and I promised them if I heard those words I would find them something they “could” do that was not “boring” and it would NOT be something they liked. For a couple of months there were no weeds to be found in my yard and our bathrooms sparkled!! LOL!!

    We as a society have become too politically correct are are quick to pass the blame to someone else. Life is not fair, suck it up and make it work for you.

  • Lionel Davoust Aug 9, 2010 @ 8:27

    Awesome entry, Holly, one which fully reflects what I believe is the right attitude in the world – and especially the artistic one.

    That’s probably too long an answer for a comment but, being a foreigner and curious by nature, one day I would very much like to read more about your opinion about the use of the word “fairness” in the context of American law. πŸ™‚

    • Holly Lisle Aug 9, 2010 @ 11:36

      My opinion of the word fairness in the use of American law is identical to my opinion of its use when it comes out of the mouth of anyone. I am contemptuous, angry, and disgusted.

      • Lionel Davoust Aug 10, 2010 @ 3:04

        Thank you Holly, that is interesting to read because as far as I know the concept of fairness is typical of how the American system works. I am always interested in the differences of how law is enforced in different cultures.

        (I am no lawyer so I apologize for the unintended simplifications, but for information over here in France we have no concept of fairness in court, just the laws – which can of course be mitigated by a judge depending on the circumstances, but his decision does not have to be “fair”.)

        • Holly Lisle Aug 10, 2010 @ 12:42

          I am completely at odds with the way my country’s system of justice is currently working—right now, it is based not on constitutional justice (how it was designed to work)—but on a doctrine of fairness that destroys the rights it claims to preserve.

          Though I don’t have the power to change what I see going wrong here, I do have the power to uphold my own values in those areas of my life that I control.

          • Lionel Davoust Aug 10, 2010 @ 12:49

            Thank you for your answer. And I will definitely say amen to your last paragraph. πŸ˜‰

  • Holly (a different one) Aug 9, 2010 @ 3:02

    Moonwise – you are not the only child whose parent uses them as an example.

    My eldest, at age three, walked into the room, slammed herself down on the sofa and announced she was boring. After howling until tears were running down my checks, I explained that she probably meant “bored” because boring she was not. I have never heard that word out of her mouth since, certainly not after finding that I could give her plenty to be occupied. Your mother was much more creative than I. (shall we leave out the “much more creative?”)

  • Danzier Aug 9, 2010 @ 2:40

    As a parent dealing with a “bored” kid, I’d like to know about the summer too, although the context clues might be enough for me to inflict my own summer miser–ehrm, fun, on her.

    Holly, I’m going to print this post (if you don’t mind) and tape it to my fridge. πŸ˜€

  • djmills Aug 9, 2010 @ 1:35

    I always thought “fairness” was a term used by those who chose not to invest time and energy and sacrifice to succeed, but wanted the same results of those who did invest time, energy and sacrificed other activities. In other words, rewarded for bad behaviour.

    However, you explanation is much better and I thank you for it. And I love your kids more from each example you relate. πŸ™‚

  • Sarah Aug 8, 2010 @ 23:12

    Once again you’ve hit the nail on the head, Holly.

  • Tori Aug 8, 2010 @ 21:55

    I hope this doesn’t sound weird to you Holly…but…I wish you had been my mother. Seriously. Although my mother has her good points she never really cared about teaching me how to live on my own, how to be my own person or how to think for myself. Instead she is the woman that claims the things that you despise, that she should have money without having to work for it, that others should respect her without earning it…and so on. Because of this post I now understand why I don’t respect her. And probably never will. The only thing my mother taught me was to not be like her. And you know what? She did that very well!

    Thank you for this post Holly. It has certainly made me think about my life and why it has turned out the way it has. It has nothing to do with fairness…but I do hope it was because of justice.

    Oh, and I’m all for wanting to know what your kids did that summer!

    Thank you for being honest Holly. We care abut you so much because of it.

  • Dawn Aug 8, 2010 @ 21:37

    I’ve never seen fair, though my parents claim they treated us all the same. Um… no, and no. But that’s okay. I accept that fair is silly government polices to reward lazy people when it’s supposed to be helping people who need the help but that’s another story isn’t it?

    Oh, and I can’t remember the last time I was bored. Heh.

  • Deb Salisbury Aug 8, 2010 @ 19:17

    I hadn’t been able to articulate it, but “fair” has bothered me for a long time. I couldn’t find a better term, though.

    Justice: Everyone reaps the rewards for the consequences of his or her own actions.

    Yes, that’s exactly what I’ve been searching for. Thank you!

  • Kari Wolfe Aug 8, 2010 @ 18:24

    Amen to that, Holly. Seriously. Amen.

    • PolarBear Aug 10, 2010 @ 15:38

      From Holly’s description, what she made them do dovetailed with their interests, so, for your kids, you’d want to modify the assignment so it aligns with your kids’ interests and talents.

      • Kari Wolfe Aug 13, 2010 @ 1:29

        Thanks, PB πŸ™‚ I try to do something along those lines with my daughter–but really she’s too young to quite get it yet. It’s the espousing of the philosophy that I most agree with here :). When my daught gets older, it’ll be interesting..

  • Moonwise Aug 8, 2010 @ 16:52

    AWESOME entry. AWESOME! Totally perfect explanation.

    And you do realize that almost every time you mention me and Mark we’re not in the best light right? We’re coming off as horrible kids, real whiny brats.

    And I’d rather NOT remember that summer, thank you very much. Although I still have all the paperwork on the town we were forced to create…

    • Holly Lisle Aug 8, 2010 @ 20:09

      You two were kids. Like every other kid on the planet, you were still learning to use your brains, and it was my job to teach you how to do that, so that you would grow up to be thinking, reasoning, questioning human beings capable of surviving without me. In other words, it was my job to put myself out of a job.

      It is to both your and Mark’s credit that you DID build the village, and you were both capable of demonstrating how it worked and why.

      And every time you bitch about that summer, I just laugh. I see its results in your lives every day.

      • Moonwise Aug 8, 2010 @ 21:30

        Yeah, it just SUCKS that you only use us as examples when we’ve done something wrong. What about the great critiques we gave films and tv far ahead of our age, about the fact that we were NEVER not reading something, most likely in the middle of several somethings, about the fact that we strived to create in just about every form available to us.

        I just think it’s funny we’re never in the good examples, only the ones that have traumatized someone in the family (or law enforcement) in some way (major or minor).


        • Holly Lisle Aug 9, 2010 @ 11:31

          The stories I tell about myself are the ones where I screwed up, too. People do their best learning by making mistakes. Those too afraid to make mistakes never learn anything.

          I’m just demonstrating that the two of you were as dedicated to learning as I am. πŸ˜€

    • PolarBear Aug 8, 2010 @ 20:57

      You’ve never come off as anything remotely resembling horrible kids in these posts — at least not to my eyes.

      I’d love to know what you had to do that summer. I detest hearing people (some of them grown adults) whine about being bored. I cannot fathom how it is possible to be bored unless it’s of one’s own doing, so if ya’ don’t wanna’ be bored, do something. At least, that’s what I want to scream at someone.

      As for fairness vs. justice? Bravo! Well said.

      • Moonwise Aug 8, 2010 @ 21:27

        PolarBear- I’m really glad that we don’t come off horribly, lol. We weren’t ALL bad, honest.

        By me a couple of beers, tell me everything will be alright and I might be tricked into talking about that summer πŸ˜‰ I will tell you, however, that by the end of it both Mark and I had killed each other (as the founders of the town) and written each other’s epitaphs.

        I swear to all that is treasured in life I *STILL* don’t say I am bored or that something is unfair. And I cringe when other people say it, like my husband’s kids. I have come “thisclose” to pulling out MY mother’s manual on dealing with “bored” kids or kids whining, but then my husband steps in. They are his kids after all.

      • Rabia Aug 9, 2010 @ 9:56

        What PolarBear said.

        So far, none of my kids have come up to me and complained about being bored (they’re 5, 4 and 2, so that might have something to do with it—heaven help me, but they’re”camping” in their room right now!). I’d love to know about that village for future reference, though.

        One of my parental goals is to teach the kids to occupy themselves in creative, productive ways. I am not in the habit of constantly entertaining them or surrounding them with toys and electronic equipment. They have a mandatory Quiet Time for an hour and a half every day. They’ve learned to deal with solitude. *grin* The oldest reads, the middle one makes up fantastic stories with her Legos and dolls, the youngest… well, he naps or sings. πŸ˜€

        Great post about fairness. Now I know what to do when my oldest complains about things not being fair.

        Back to school for me. Learning about classification today. We love science!

        • PolarBear Aug 9, 2010 @ 14:51

          Rabia, it sounds like you’re nipping boredom in the bud before it becomes a problem.

          Holly — I love the “dedicated to learning” explanation! I have a relative who has been “dedicated to learning” (yeah, that’s the answer!) for several years now. That relative has been a slow learner but seems to be starting to catch on to some things recently.

      • Nancy Aug 9, 2010 @ 17:00

        Amen, PolarBear, I agree. Holly’s kids always sound rather extraordinary really! And having had to listen to my daughter whine about being bored all summer, I’d give my eye teeth to know what Holly made the kids do. And I also wonder if I could implement a shorter version of it over Christmas break… mwahahahaha!


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