About Fairness

One of my blog buddies, Barney, recently wrote an excellent blog about a couple of readers he lost because the opinions he stated on his blogs were deemed unfair or perhaps even offensive. He made an interesting comment, that “fairness in opinion is passionless.” Indeed so. Further, it is impossible to please everyone and a writer of blogs who is intent to get people thinking about pressing issues shouldn’t even worry about offending some. It is inevitable.

But more to the point, how is one to be fair when he or she feels strongly about an issue and is convinced that a conclusion that is sure to offend someone is the only one that can reasonably be reached at the moment? For example, let’s take the matter of climate change about which the weight of evidence has come down heavily in favor of the claim that continued use of fossil fuels will further damage the earth on which we depend. On this issue, the denial of that claim is almost entirely on the side of the Republicans and an honest opinion would have to find fault with that party on this issue — as long as 74% of the Republicans in Congress continue to deny publicly that there is a problem. What constitutes “fairness” in this case?

This month’s Sierra magazine, for example, has a brief article by Paul Rauber noting that those who are “fossil-fuel-friendly” in this country have launched a campaign against clean energy. We know by now how the game is played, and we know from their voting records that those “f f f” folks support conservative Republicans in political offices — almost exclusively. As Rauber says in his article, “Leading the movement to repeal [renewable energy standards in 29 states] are the libertarian Heartland Institute . . . and the American Legislative Exchange Council, which crafts ‘model legislation’ for conservative politicians to introduce in their home states. ALEC’s major donors include Peabody Energy, the world’s biggest private coal company; Exxon Mobil, and ultra conservative dirty-energy industrialists Charles and David Koch.. . . ALEC’s fill-in-the-blanks vehicle to roll back clean energy is the Electricity Freedom Act, written by staffer Todd Wynn. It casts renewable energy standards as a regressive tax…”

As Rauber goes on to point out, this claim is false, since states such as Colorado, for example, have shown that that state’s renewable energy standards will save its “customers $100 million over 25 years.” In a word, we have lies and half-truths being promulgated to push an agenda that favors the short-term thinking of wealthy individuals and corporations that simply refuse to admit there is a problem and are not only willing but eager to promote policies that will ensure higher profits at a cost to the planet and the health and well-being of future generations. How is one to be fair in a case such as this?

Barney imagines his lost reader, whom he calls “Mindy,” worrying that since corruption is rife on both sides of the political aisle (which is certainly true), one should not come down on one side in this — or any other issue– without also pointing out the foibles of the other side. But what if there is no “other side” in a case such as this? And it does seem to be the case that the political right is almost entirely of a mind to deny climate change and focus exclusively on profits and keeping their well-paying jobs, while those on the left are more aware and seem willing to work toward a solution.

In a word, the Republicans have shown themselves opposed to measures to encourage the use of alternative energy which seems a no-brainer from the point of view of saving the planet, while the Democrats on this issue, at any rate, seem to be in support of measures to phase out our dependence on fossil fuels and pursue alternatives that promise hope for the future of the planet on which we all live. The exception is those few Republican politicians who live in states where a great many jobs are involved in the manufacture of solar panels and wind turbines. But on the whole, it’s not possible to be entirely fair at all times, and in some cases it shouldn’t even be attempted.


13 thoughts on “About Fairness

  1. Thank you for the reference to my piece. I appreciate that.

    You make an excellent point, one that I only implied. In many cases, there is no “fair” case to be made, and fairness doesn’t enter into the equation. Climate change, as you note, is a good example. “Political Correctness” is an offshoot of fairness, and is another example. Our efforts to not offend anyone, to try to see all sides, has merely resulted in the lowering of the quality of debate, the quality of our thinking process, and certainly the loss of our long-term vision.

    Great piece.

  2. One one point you’re glaringly wrong. Republicans do not oppose legislation that encourages people to switch to alternative energy. They oppose, as every American who gives even a little shit about the poor should, legislation that makes it effectively mandatory to do so and which, overall raises prices.

    In almost every case where someone can claim that “green” energy saves people money in a specific locality it’s because there’s some form of government hand-out, either to those people or to the companies involved, that has to be paid for by somebody in the long run.

    • The same could be said about the tax subsidies that support the immensely powerful gas and oil industries. They are paid for out of our taxes and they don’t save us a penny.

      • Actually, overall, they save us each a fair chunk of change AND are less percentage-wise than those subsidies keeping alternative energy form afloat. If you don’t believe me, look at fuel costs in Europe and other places.

        Please though, don’t get me wrong. I’m in favor of moving away from coal and oil, though not gas. I just realize that the technology isn’t there yet and that those pushing to move now are harming the most vulnerable in our society are forcing the rest of us to support them with our wealth, moving us into more vulnerable positions.

      • It seems to me to be a mistake to reduce the question to the cost in dollars and cents — or Euros. The costs of pursuing fossil fuel alternatives should be measured by the damage we are doing to the planet.


      • Both, actually.

        Class warfare aside, the “wealthy” do support the poor for the most part, though indirectly. Jobs and affordable products are the form of that support.

        Raise the costs, especially on publicly traded firms, and you harm the poor.

        This isn’t going to change until society changes to the point where the poor realize that they can’t have all the goodies that they wealthy can have and learn that those goodies are just “trickle down consumerism.”

  3. “a writer of blogs who is intent to get people thinking about pressing issues shouldn’t even worry about offending some. It is inevitable.”

    it takes a strong backbone and belief in one’s self not to take public criticism to heart. a friend received a scathing comment recently, and i was baffled why that person lashed out the way he/she did. i suspect he/she lashes out at many, though some people sometimes don’t realize the power that a negative retort can have. my friend all but threw in the towel.

    i saute those of you who openly take a stand! even when i stood up for the mangroves, i wondered if i should mind my own business, as i am a guest in this country… but then if there’s a compulsion to state, ‘what’s wrong with this picture?’ based on sound knowledge, then it should probably be said.

    thanks for stepping up to the plate daily! i respect and admire you.


    • Thanks, Z. I am lucky that most of the comments on my blogs have been positive. And when there is disagreement it has usually been civil!


  4. Hugh, good post. As you are aware from our discussions, I left the GOP to become an Independent voter for three reasons, two of which are germane here. One is the GOP’s stance on global warming and the fact the rest of the world is way ahead of this group. The other is a high propensity to make things up, especially with their stenographer news agency Fox News. People have said the other side uses its facts loosely as well, but using a statistical term, it is not a normal distribution of make believe to my way of thinking. Hence, the GOP ledger deserves more scrutiny. The fossil fuel industry has a vested interest in certain decisions, so at best, has subjective data that they feed the GOP. Three quick examples: 1) there is no such thing as Clean Coal. To their credit it is cleaner, but it is not clean. 2) Fracking is not safe and is the worst thing we could possibly do, so I would not agree with the TV commercial saying how safe it is. 3) The altermative energy field is not fledgling. There are 75,000 jobs in wind energy in 39 states and counting. There could be 500,000 by 2030. That is why Buffett has invested so much in wind turbine manufacturing. Solar energy has dropped from $9 a watt to $3 a watt and is dropping still. Semprius in Durham, NC makes the world’s best photovoltaic solar panel with a 40% improvement over the previous version. It still needs subsidy, but not as much and it will get more scalable. That is why Siemens is their major investor. But, there are many who follow the FFF and ignore what is happening. Sorry for the long comment, but I have passion on this and to your point, it is fair to call the GOP and FFF on the carpet on these issues. :>) BTG

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