Fairness vs. Justice

The recent threads about the treatment of the militia occupiers up in Oregon go me thinking about this. Many people have contrasted the government treatment of these guys to the treatment of BLM protesters. The difference feels wrong. ISTM that lot of the calls for going in guns blazing come from this feeling wrongness.

This got me thinking about why it feels wrong. I think on primal level, humans want fairness. If one kid gets to watch TV for an hour, they should all get to. But for stable and free societies fairness alone is not good enough. We need justice. Justice should be fair, but fairness is not always just.

For example, take sentencing guidelines for cocaine. Crack cocaine sentences are significantly higher than powder cocaine sentences. This is known to be based on racism and classism and not on disparate impact of the drugs involved. We have a situation which is unjust and unfair in that two people committing the same crime have vastly different mandatory minimums based untrue premises and prejudice.

There are two ways to make this fair, but only one way to make it just. You could raise the minimum sentencing for powder cocaine to match crack cocaine or lower the lower the minimum for crack to match powder. Both changes would be fair. But only the first would be just.

Similarly, storming the nature refuge in Oregon with tear gas and no concern for safety would seem fair. But, justice would seem to lie with changing the way that the BLM and other racial justice protesters are treated instead.

But justice is hard. Fairness is simple. I got treated poorly, so everyone should be treated just as poorly. It is also easier to see the downside if you are the one in better position. A lot of the push back against progress causes such as racial and religious equality is tinged with this thinking. From Reconstruction to Obama, there was fear that whites would be mistreated by blacks to make up for past offences.

So, all that out of the way, what do you think? Am I crazy? Do we have to look past our desire for fairness to find justice? Is that instinctual drive to make things fair actually holding back progress?

And how is it justice that his father still has not paid his grazing fees and continues to steal from the people of the US. It is not justice when particular groups are above the law which seems to be the case with this family.

Fairness is when the same legal entity–Baltimore Police or Ferguson court system–treats all comers with an even hand. We’re looking at a bunch of people who think they’re standing up for something important, but have no living hostages, dead victims or looted stores. They do have guns. There’s not a lot of precedent for this situation, and it’s not very comparable to any others they’re being compared to. We don’t know what the Malheur Sheriff’s department’s track record on dealing with civil disobedience is (though I think this is the provenance of park rangers).

Justice would be if their plan falls apart, on national television, with no real outside interference.

There are many schools of justice and moral philosophy but I’m going to take your OP at face value.

Here you’re saying the only just option is to increase the punishment of the the advantaged group until it matches the disadvantaged group. You say lowering the punishment on the disadvantaged group is fair, but not just.

Here you say increasing the punishment on the advantaged group is not just. Instead, punishment on disadvantaged groups should be lowered. This is contradictory. Did you shuffle your sentences around in the cocaine example? Am I misreading you?

The position that “everyone should be treated better” isn’t particularly controversial. The idea the Feds should put the hammer down on the militias is born of tribalism, schadenfreude, anger at hypocrisy, and a keyboard warrior mindset. To the extent it’s serious it would probably fall under the crabs in a bucket mentality.

You are wrong about both examples. When BLM does a protest, the government does not come in guns blazing and shoot everyone. If the BLM wanted to occupy a deserted building in the middle of nowhere, they would be treated like the militias are being treated. People are calling for an violent response to the occupation because they hate the occupiers and want to see them dead.
The difference in sentencing between crack and cocaine are because of the crack wars of the 80s and 90s. Crime and murder skyrocketed as dealers fought over turf so residents of those communities demanded their representatives do something. They increased the sentencing for crack dealers because of the damage crack was doing to their neighborhoods.
Crack and cocaine had different effects on communities so the dealers were treated differently. The racist idiots occupying a building in rural Oregon are entirely different than the racist idiots in the BLM protests. Since it is a different situation, different treatment is called for.