Archive for July 1st, 2011


Undefined words seem to have a strong power in politics, especially if they invoke some principle that engages people’s emotions. “Fair” is one of those undefined terms that have been used over and over again by politicians from various parties. Yet, hardly anyone has ever bothered to define it.

What is “fair”?

Certainly, if you ask ten people you get ten different answers. That might be disappointing but the fact that the word lacks a clear definition is only an intellectual handicap. Politically, it is great advantage.

People with very different views on substantive issues can be unified and mobilized behind a word that papers over their differing, and sometimes even mutually contradictory, ideas. Who, after all, is in favor of unfairness?

These sentences stem from “Economic Facts and Fallacies” by Thomas Sowell. About a year ago, he focused more on this issue in four separate short articles for the Jewish World Review. Both, the book and his articles, are definitely worth reading.


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