We’ve been told, again and again, that life is unfair. But what if we’re wrong simply to resign ourselves to this situation? What if we have the power—and more, the duty—to change society for the better?
We do. And our very nature inclines us to do so. That’s the provocative argument Peter Corning makes in The Fair Society. Drawing on the evidence from our evolutionary history and the emergent science of human nature, Corning shows that we have an innate sense of fairness. While these impulses can easily be subverted by greed and demagoguery, they can also be harnessed for good. Corning brings together the latest findings from the behavioral and biological sciences to help us understand how to move beyond the Madoffs and Enrons in our midst in order to lay the foundation for a new social contract—a Biosocial Contract built on a deep understanding of human nature and a commitment to fairness. He then proposes a sweeping set of economic and political reforms based on three principles of fairness—equality, equity, and reciprocity—that together could transform our society and our world.
At this crisis point for capitalism, Corning reveals that the proper response to bank bailouts and financial chicanery isn’t to get mad—it’s to get fair.
Corning attempts to provide a theory that will support a move beyond the tired battles between left and right in our national debates over public economic policies. He believes that both socialism and unregulated capitalism have failed to produce fair societies. Then he suggests what a fair society would involve. First everyone would be guaranteed what is needed to provide for basic human needs--not only nutrition, water, physical health, thermoregulation, but also reproduction and the nuturance of offspring--some 14 basic needs in all. This would satisfy the demand for equality which unregulated capitalism ignores. Everything the society can produce beyond these basic needs should be distributed according to merit, that is according to accomplishment as determined by ability, effort, etc. This would satisfy the requirement for equity which socialism ignores. Finally, everyone would be required to contribute as much to society as he or she is able. This would meet a requirement for reciprocity.Corning believes such a society can be brought about piecemeal in America and the western world if the seventy percent of the populace for whom basic fairness is a major value join with each other in a political and social struggle against the thirty percent for whom fairness to everyone matters little or not at all.The book is not a blueprint for action. It attempts to explain what social science has learned about human nature in recent decades and what kind of society would be in accord with what we have learned. I found the argument to be reasonable, mostly convincing, and very worthwhile to those of us who are increasingly discouraged about the unjustifiable economic immorality of America and those nations that attempt to emulate us.read more
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