My usual retort to the phrase, “It’s not fair” is to say, get over it. The ultimate “it’s not fair” is the fact that we find ourselves here in the first place — I have yet to find a person, a philosophy, or a theology that says we have any choice in arriving here as a human being.
However, once in a while, we see something which can universally be seen as an “it’s not fair” situation, not just whining. Last week placed two situations on my desk which perhaps circle this theme.
The first is a situation being exploited by U.S. pulp mills concerning a refund of excise tax for burning black liquor in recovery boilers. Related to a renewable energy tax exemption enacted in 2005, this idea will be a windfall to kraft pulp mills in the United States if allowed to stand. I have heard from many, even employees of the companies currently receiving the benefit, who find it a bit beyond the pale. Publicly, the Canadian pulp mills are screaming and have gone to their own federal government to protest. Looks like a minor international incident is brewing over this. (Late breaking news: it appears Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Montana) and Ranking Member Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) are preparing legislation to rescind the paper industry's qualifications for this credit).
The second situation, which I wrote about in last week’s Nip Impressions
, is the coming standard on social responsibility, ISO 26000, scheduled to be promulgated in 2010. For those of us in what little is left of liassez-faire capitalism, this is an astounding and frightening concept.
Yet, it is actions like the first that begat the second. A sense of fairness in all matters is like the old definition of pornography, I can’t define it, but I know what it is when I see it. As humans of different backgrounds and experiences, we are going to vary, quite widely, in what we think is fair and what is unfair. Yet, there are situations of fairness (or unfairness) on which all but the most cynical can agree. We should stay inside those bounds unless we are determined to have our behaviors dictated by others by fiat.