Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Steve Waldman on institutions

"This usage of “institutions” becomes infuriatingly vague, but that may be why it is so prevalent. We need labels for all the things that we can’t quite pin down, because we know there are things we can’t pin down that are important in their effects.....The way I like to think of “institutions” is this: Institutions are to groups what habits are to individuals." says Steve Randy Waldman In a recent post.
I looked at the above after Ramarao Kanneganti suggested that I look at the idea of 'fairness' which seemed to involve the idea of institutions. Here is a short note on fairness. 
The concept of fairness "Exactly what constitutes fairness will depend on the specific nature of the decision process or institution in question. Consider, for example, a fair trial, a fair contest, a fair grade, a fair price, a fair agreement, a fair election. This variety of contexts entails a corresponding range of criteria of fairness. All of these, however, generally center on equal treatment of people, with departures from equality requiring justification....Aristotle makes the important observation that standards of justice or fairness are different in different regimes. In oligarchical regimes, ruled over by the rich, it is thought fair to treat people differently according to their merits, with amount of property constituting degree of merit. In democratic regimes, in contrast, it is considered fair to treat people alike--and so to distribute political offices through a lottery system--with free birth and citizenship constituting being alike (Book V, Chap. 1) An important lesson of Aristotle's discussion is that there is no universally recognized standard of fair treatment, in terms of either procedures or distribution. Different ways of dealing with people can plausibly be represented as fair, as long as they treat people who are similar in important respects similarly....Much of the attention "fairness" has received in recent years is because of the work of John Rawls and his theory of "justice as fairness." "

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