Inequality can still be fair

I know Mahul through CrazyEngineers (CE), and was in touch with him recently with regards to changing the link to my blog (was getting a fair amount of 404s!). During this time, I chanced upon one interesting post he had written on Inequality and Fairness.

In fact, to a certain degree, I agree with Ayn Rand’s theory of objectivism, and agree with the concept of the  free market in principle. I am the firmest believer that people should not be given anything for free, because it acts as a deterrent to motivation to work hard, which, at the end of the day, is what creates value in a society. In principle, everyone should have an equal opportunity to succeed in a free market, and whatever product holds the greatest value should be the one to succeed.

Here’s an excerpt from the post, I (go on, read the rest of his post in the link I provided, then come back and read this counter post!).

In real life, there are no ideals. There are no whites and blacks … there are 50 shades of grey :-)

People do not get equal opportunities, because those opportunities are the fruits of their predecessors. Mr. Anil Ambani is living in such an abode, because of the efforts of his father (who came from very humble beginnings). How he managed to get there is a different story … but lets not write-off those efforts which ensured that his children get better opportunities than the common man.

The beggar on the street is getting no opportunities not only because of his circumstances, but also because of his lineage.

In a real free market however, this is hardly the case. Because the humble 5 rupee lemon soda, though holds more value, is significantly less likely to succeed.

The humble 5 rupee lemon soda does not come with an international FDA approval. Pepsi, Coca-Cola and other pesticides do :-)

Sometimes, it’s the overheads which have to be set off. It might be true that the concentrate costs INR 1 to produce, however if you add the advertising, marketing, inventory and distribution costs on top of it … not to mention the corporate salaries … then INR 10 does not seem that high. What’s more important that people are willing to purchase it at that price point.

As a service/commodity provider, I would always go for value based pricing! Which is what a true real free market would behave like. However, we are in no real free market … there is a regulatory body and the price is capped at the Maximum Retail Price (MRP).

Life is not fair, people are not equal.

Your efforts will pay dividends for your descendants … and other people will say that they are lucky and life is not fair :-).

2 thoughts on “Inequality can still be fair”

  1. This reply is kind of late I suppose, but still my two pence.

    1. The basic question here is, is it correct that people get to enjoy a lot of wealth (and opportunity, for that matter) without having to make the slightest effort for it? Some nations have an inheritance tax, and some prudent people, like Bill Gates, understand that it does not do a lot of good.
    A lot is usually said about doling out cash to poor people, just like that. The idea is that since they have not earned it, it will kill the desire to do better. Not much is said about the other end of the spectrum, where you inherit a lot of wealth by doing nothing. True, your ancestors toiled hard for it, but that hardly makes you eligible, isn’t it? Otherwise, we should as well go back to the era of dictators and kings.

    2. As far as the other question goes, I will give you an example. I work for a pretty major MNC, with a product lineup that I suppose has a greater market penetration than all its competition put together. In our huge Bangalore campus, with six buildings, gym, car park, cafeterias, fountains and what-not’s, most places are laid out with medium sized pebbles. Every day, I find two people (could be more) at some corner of the campus, removing the pebbles, dusting the place underneath, dusting the pebbles and laying them back on. I hardly care if there are any pebbles. When you buy any product that my company sells (luckily, our customers are limited to enterprises), you will have financed that pebble dusting!

    Economics says that’s perfectly normal. My common sense, however, finds that a bit hard to digest.

    1. Mahul, in some ways Monarchy had its merits … I still believe that one benevolent ruler is better than a corrupt democracy. Lets leave aside this point, because it has the potential to blow into a full fledged series of posts!!

      Inequality is BECAUSE of lineage. That’s my point. The reason why someone is smart and someone else is not as smart is because of genes … the genes which were passed down to you by your parents … who received them from their parents and so on. So the question you are asking in effect can also be applied to intelligence or any other attribute (even wealth) which is a factor of inheritance (yes, think OOP). Some parent class is better than some other parent class … be glad that the class you are inheriting from was one of the better ones … and be grateful to your parents (OOP concept again!).

      As a Cisco customer, I couldn’t care less about the fact that they have pebbles in their offices and have staff to keep dusting them. I don’t mind footing their bills because their products are awesome and just do their job. I am happy to finance pebble dusting if that ensures my networks run, my information is secured and my organization does not have any network issues. At the end of the day, it’s Cisco’s prerogative on how it wants to decorate its offices.

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