What is truly fair?

I am watching Segolene Royal explaining her future plans for France. Yesterday, I watched Nicolas Sarkozy. Watching both, I cannot help that there is a fundamental disagreement between the two of them on what is “fair” (“juste” in French). Both keep announcing that they want to increase fairness, but what one sees as “fair” is implicitly seen as “unfair” by the other, so they will never agree.

The fundamental disagreement is that for Segolene Royal, fairness means that everyone has roughly the same thing, whereas for Nicolas Sarkozy, fairness means that everyone has roughly the same chances. If Joe earns $100 a month and Jane earns $50 a month, Nicolas Sarkozy would increase fairness by helping Jane to earn $50 more a month, whereas Segolene Royal would increase it by making sure that Joe pays twice as much for the same thing (i.e. Joe would pay $2 for an apple that Jane would be able to buy for only $1). Segolene Royal typically achieves her objective by adding more taxes and “redistributing” (work, money, work time, and so on). Nicolas Sarkozy typically achieves his objective by defending the freedom to “vote with your feet” (or, more prosaically, with your money).

As an illustration, Segolene Royal finds it unfair to increase the VAT, because it is a tax that applies equally to everybody, from the smallest revenues to the CEOs of the CAC40. Nicolas Sarkozy finds it unfair that some people pay more than 50% of their revenue as taxes, so he suggests a “tax shield” limiting the tax level at 50% of the total revenue.

Such a fundamental dispute is not going to be resolved easily…

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