Principle of Fairness: Relation of Consent to Justness (Part 1 of 2)

Since the dawn of the first civilizations, and likely before, there was the question of how to most effectively govern. Whereas a migrating people can place distance between them and those they disagree with the nature of sedentary societies places us in the position of addressing problems and addressing them in the fairest possible manner. There have been no less than 50 globally recognized forms of governing bodies, each has attempted to address this problem, from Adhocracy to Timocracy the goal has been to provide the most efficient form of government. To provide the most appreciated environment with the least amount of resources and to cause the lowest possible levels of dissent amongst the citizens. Few things end a governing body quicker than a nation of unhappy citizens. The goal of this paper is to discuss one important problem, known as the Principle of Fairness, this is a problem of when actions or situations are just and likewise when all parties have officially recognized and agreed to the actions or situations. Likewise while discussing this issue it will establish some Locke’s and Nozick’s principles and show how they can be used in much broader ways than previously proposed.

The first important venture is to establish what exactly the Principle of Fairness is: If a group of persons (any number above 1) are engaged in a mutually beneficial, cooperative venture, which requires restrictions of their liberties , then all those who have submitted to the restrictions are entitled to the following benefits so as to make the agreement fair:

· All in the agreement must receive the benefits.

· All parties must be made better off by the entire deal.

· If the above two do not detail your interaction with the deal then the agreement has nothing to do with you.

· Finally you cannot be forced (or coerced in any manner) into the deal. IE. All parties must consent.

Some important conundrums need to be immediately addressed before moving on. Preconceived notions of right and wrong may need to be placed aside to freely examine this topic. It is possible to create a situation where slavery would fit into the above stipulations, which places those supporting it in a tough spot. I a set of guidelines can be treated in a manner where they become unjust then those guidelines require further detail and examination before they can be properly used in a civilization.

For example if a farmer has copious supplies of food while nearby citizens are on the brink of starvation the farmer could provide the citizens with a deal that they will sign on as slaves and work at the whims of the farmer. In return they will be fed when necessary so as to not die. In this example all parties agree fairly, each is better off by the deal, and there is no force or coercion involved in the deal. So in this way slavery can be a fair agreement in at the very least one case.

Secondly we must address the situation of justness, or justice, as these are topics that become highly subjective. For the sake of uniformity I will use the definition of justice in holdings defined by Nozick. It has three stages (or principles): Firstly is the principle of acquisition, for acquisition to be just it essentially must be gained from nature and be something nobody else has ever owned before. Likewise if using personal skills to convert a piece of nature you are establishing that it is yours, for example carpentry turns wood (a natural resource) into a structure (a personal good) this is a concept championed by Locke and is known as the "Theory of Property". Second is the principle of transfer which is just iff (if and only if) it is done voluntarily. This principle and all others used in this paper will assume a state of properly functioning cognition. Thirdly is the principle of rectification which requires the prompt repair of previous unjust acquisitions or transfers. Such as giving a merchant the money they undercharged you after a transaction.

Now that we’ve established a definition of justice, which while designed for transactions of goods, does well in all situations involving just interactions we can move on to the four most prominent definitions of consent.

· They honestly assert to everybody that they want to be in the deal.


· Consent is when you accept the benefits in full knowledge of the deal.


· By Enjoying the benefits they consent to the negatives.


· They would rather be in the deal than not and they accept the benefits in full knowledge of the deal (In Layman’s; Only pay for the services you agree with).

The issue of honesty is one that is brought up both by Rawls in the "Theory of Justice" and by Nozick in "Anarchy, State, and Utopia." For Rawls it was covered by the hypothetical Original Position, in essence this places those establishing an agreement in a position of full cognitive range but removes their personal selfishness that leads to unequal distribution of essential resource (IE. Primary Goods). This paper will assume a similar position to show that even at a near best case scenario these systems may come up short.

There is a level of omniscience that is required for a being to earnestly assert a decision without unknowingly placing themselves in a position that they would not retrospectively have entered. It is not unusual for a person to enter into an agreement without realizing the full extent of their involvement in the deal. Be it from overlooking fine print in a contract or more reasonably being easily distracted.

For example, if there was a group of friends at a bar that decided they wanted to drink pitchers of beer for the rest of the night and that it would be best if all of them one after one another paid for a pitcher. This way for the cost of one pitcher (per person) they would get a return of five pitchers. On the surface this is a pretty fair trade. However in this agreement one of the people did not realize that they would have to pay for a pitcher. Perhaps they misunderstood or perhaps the decision for each person to pay was an implied cost of entering into the deal. By this definition of consent they have entered into the deal and have thus agreed to the position of purchasing a pitcher when it becomes their turn however equally so they appear to be a victim of circumstance.

Further still it could simply be a case of cultural differences. During a trip to Japan I decided that it would be nice of me to clean up the dining area after we ate. To a casual onlooker the response looked like I had beaten their first born. This was a simple case of cultural differences, whereas in the west it is implied that such a deed is a courteous act, in the east it can come off as insulting for the guest to clean the owners home.

This form of consent only functions properly in a position where absolutely nothing is implied, because humans are lacking omniscience all parts of the agreement must be laid out bluntly. Likewise this definition is victim of carelessness, accidental omissions can greatly affect the final decision of party members.

This problem is addressed by the second definition in which consent is only achieved when the member has not only asserted that they accept the deal but likewise they have accepted it with full knowledge of the deal. The goal here is to eliminate the necessity of an impossible trait (namely omniscience) by creating an agreement where all unmentioned information is superfluous to whether or not the member will agree to the decision.

Returning once more to the pub we look at the same situation but this time following the second definitions take on consent. This time it was made absolutely certain that everyone knew they would have to make a financial investment into the deal. They would buy in a clockwise order and continue until the end of the night. Everyone gives a very obvious form of consent such as verbal or written and the participation begins. What happens however when they reach the end of the night and one person has purchased less than anyone else? Or perhaps they go in such a manner that one person never buys one. In either case one member (at the very least) always comes out better than the rest of the group, they have all the gains of the investment, with less or none of the negatives.

This particular problem is merely a nuisance in these small numbers however the litigation required when dealing with millions of people could be nearly impossible. Indeed the most common form of this agreement, known as a loophole, is the cause of more than a billion dollars annually of lost income for the US government. Whenever a rule set does not work on the micro level and cannot function on the macro (or vice versa) it requires reworking.

Once again this problem is addressed by the third definition of consent. If a member enjoys the benefits they are consenting to the negatives, by consenting to the negatives one must assume that those negatives will befall them. So now the parties are honestly joining in the agreement, they are doing so with full knowledge of the deal, and finally they are doing so with full consent of the negatives of the deal. On first glance this appears to be a pretty solid deal. However just as the previous form of consent was weak depending on the size of the party, this particular formation is weak when examining it over a period of extended time.

Again at the pub we have a group that has agreed upon buying pitchers for the group, each has accepted that it will be a financial investment, and whenever someone doesn’t pay equally to the rest they start off the series of buys the next time the group returns. However the deal is made so that each is contractually bound to return to this setup every night for the next 5 years. There is absolutely no coercion and all members enter into the agreement with full understanding of the positives and negatives they will be receiving as a result of the deal. However a year or two into the deal one of the members has a change of heart. Let’s say that the member has recently become a parent and must be home (and sober) to properly take care of their child at night. At the point of original agreement they could very well have had no idea that they would be becoming a parent, they did not knowingly consent to a situation that they would soon have to break.

Indeed it is not at all uncommon for people to regret a decision after a certain amount of time under the ramifications of that agreement. Intuitively the new parent is more a victim of circumstance than an unjust or unfair dealer in the agreement. As before, a system that does not function properly in a reasonably present situation, such as the one outlined above, is not a system that should be adhered to. It should be examined and refined to more completely cover all possible outcomes and to produce the least amount of situations where someone is placed unknowingly into an unjust, unfair, or otherwise punishable position.

  To be continued and finished tomorrow. I just noticed that it was going on pretty long. I have to reach 4k words with this essay, it is currently 19 words below 2k. So this is going to be quite difficult without either having an epiphany or BSng…the latter of which I am not a big fan of doing.

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