Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Pathways to Fairness and Equity: Building Unity through Societal Division

A fresh morning breeze blew down Main Street, lifting a few dry leaves from the road. 

All seemed good in the small town—but it wasn’t so.  Mayor Roberts had scheduled a meeting to address the issue for that very day.  City council members, community leaders, and other interested individuals made their way into City Hall. 

The Honorable Mayor Jenny Roberts began the meeting with the customary oratory.

“Friends and fellow citizens!  Welcome to City Hall.  The Carroll City Council Meeting is now in order.  We are meeting today in order to discuss the most serious issue facing us as a community.

“How do we ensure that every citizen is treated fairly and equally?”

A low murmur ran through the crowd.  People began to share their thoughts with each other on the issue at hand.  Banging her gavel on the podium, Mayor Roberts brought the room back to order.

“Let’s review the situation, the cause of our greatest problems.

“First, our dairy farmers on the edge of town get the freshest milk and butter.  The rest of us, except for a few of their choice neighbors, get only processed dairy products.  We must pay more for our dairy products and suffer through the incessant smell of cow manure.

“Second, the owners of our three construction companies live in large, luxurious homes that were built using the profits made from the construction of our homes, schools, and other buildings.  For many of you, your homes are smaller than theirs and you must pay for regular repairs and maintenance.

“Third, our local restaurant, café, and grocery store owners are able to buy their food at wholesale.  They buy food for their own families at wholesale, and then sell it to us at retail.”

At these remarks, a murmur once again began to build among those in attendance.  With a vigorous pounding of the gavel order was almost restored, until someone yelled out loud.

“What about all those potato farmers?  I was talking to one of them the other day.  His family gets all the potatoes they want, but he charged me $25 for a 50 pound bag.”

Clearing her throat, Mayor Roberts glared at the citizen.

“I was getting to that.  We have potato farmers and other farmers who get their own vegetables and grains straight from their fields.  We either have to buy it directly from them or from the grocery stores after its been processed and gone up in price.

“Fifth, our cadre of doctors and nurses in our community and at our small hospital charge us and our insurance companies to provide us medical care.  Based on the cars they drive, they must charge more than enough.  Plus, we haven’t been able to ascertain how much, if anything, they pay for their own medical care.”

Looks of concern, agitation, and anger flitted across all the faces in the room.  Everything seemed out of balance.  All of them in attendance were aware of these problems.  They brought it to the attention of Mayor Roberts and the City Council on a regular basis.  While they enjoyed hearing about others sharing in their suffering, they had gathered on this day to hear a solution.

“What will we do about it,” someone shouted.

With a profound look on her face, Mayor Roberts stated, “After careful deliberation we have conceived of a mechanism for measuring fairness and equality.  The plan includes methods for restoring balance between all of us.  Councilmember Reid will address us first.”

Councilmember Scott Reid slid his chair back from the table.  His gray hair and dark suit projected an image of respectability and trustworthiness.

“Ladies and gentleman,” he boomed into the microphone.  “The first step in our process will be to set up a method whereby we may measure fairness and equality.  We will divide the citizens of our city up into easily identifiable demographic groups.  The initial list of groups will include the following: agriculturists (farmers and ranchers), large business owners, small business owners, professional healthcare providers, government employees, and laborers.  Additional groups will be added as it becomes necessary or desirable.”

A chair slammed to the floor in the back of the room as a gentleman jumped to his feet.

“What about those of us who aren’t working?  Will we get our own designation as well?  You have to compare me to everyone else to make sure we get what is fair.”

“Calm down.  Calm down,” yelled Councilmember Reid.  “Let me pencil that in right here…unemployed.  See how easy that was to add a group.”

Shuffling his papers, Councilmember Reid moved on in his presentation.

“Once everyone is divided up into easily identifiable groups, we will proceed to measure their income, their wealth, and their property.  This will allow us to determine who has more and who has less.  Based on these measurements we will divide everyone up into a separate grouping based on class, or economic well-being.

“At a minimum we will have the following divisions based on class: poor, lower middle class, middle class, upper middle class, and upper class.

“It is likely that we will find that certain of our easily identifiable groups will largely fall into the same class divisions.  In order to perpetuate the use of these easily identifiable groups we will celebrate the existence of those groups that seem naturally to fall into a class division that is struggling.  This will remind us of our inequalities and the need make corrections.”

Finished, Councilmember Reid returned to his seat.  Mayor Roberts quickly turned the time over to Councilmember Jarius Roberts, her son.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” squeaked Councilmember Roberts, “my mother, I mean Mayor Roberts, has asked me to explain to you the next step in our plan to foster fairness and equality.  With the division made and measurements of wealth completed we will make a thorough comparison between the various groups.  As we identify inequities we will adjust policies to correct them.

“For example, it is likely that we will require that dairy farmers be required to turn their entire daily milk harvest over to the processor.  They will not be allowed to keep any for themselves.  Instead they will have to buy all of their dairy products from the store just like the rest of us.

“In order to conduct measurements and enforce fairness and equity policies, we will increase the size of the assessor’s and constable’s offices by 20%.  Additional increases in staffing will be added as necessary.”

Mayor Roberts stood to give her closing remarks.

“Fellow citizens, let us press forward in our honorable goal to establish fairness and equality in our small town.  As we label our citizens and measure their wealth we will better be able to unify our community.  By pulling some down and lifting others up we hope to find common ground that will meet the needs of everyone!”

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