Concepts of 'Fairness'

This has been one of the hardest areas of the Long Finance Meta-Commerce programme to advance. When we began it appeared that 'fairness' was a universal construct. However, it soon became clear that fairness was very culturally embedded and interpreted. A simple example might be the 'Golden Rule'. The Golden Rule, or 'ethic of reciprocity' is a maxim found in many human cultures and religions. The positive version is "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you". The prohibitive version is "Don't do to others what you would not want others to do unto you."

The "Golden Rule" has been attributed to Jesus of Nazareth, who used it to summarize the Torah: "Do to others what you want them to do to you. This is the meaning of the law of Moses and the teaching of the prophets" (Matthew 7:12 NCV, see also Luke 6:31). That said, there are many examples in older texts of similar teachings.

However, these two versions are not the same:

  • One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself (positive or directive form).
  • One should not treat others in ways that one would not like to be treated (negative or prohibitive form).

In the directive form one can "do good unto others". For example, "I'm taking your money to teach you a lesson about security". You can argue this is for the good of someone, but not the way that someone would like to be treated. And that's just for starters...

Anyway, we have tried to advance discussion over the years. Some notable highlights include:

Perhaps the most focused workshop was this, while we explored inequality as part of our Mythologue experiment, and we further explored some of the macro-economic issues in this extensive lecture (PDF). We have also suggested a research project for funding. For more information, please download the research brief.

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