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Comment author: brazil84 23 April 2014 08:53:46AM 0 points [-]

What if the brakes now work, but not necessarily quite as well as they did before? If an auto mechanic tells you your car is totaled, how do you know he's correct?

That depends on the details of the problem. In a sense the same is true for lawyers. I agree that there are quantitative differences about exactly how likely you are to get a good estimate with what amount of certainty between these examples but I don't think it's large enough to make a qualitative difference in the analysis.

Those are interesting questions, but unfortunately you have basically ignored two of the three questions I asked you. As mentioned above,these were real questions aimed at getting a better grip on where we agree. It's difficult enough to discuss these kinds of things without having the other person dance around the issues. I don't engage with people who do this . . . .goodbye.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 24 April 2014 01:49:51AM 0 points [-]

Those are interesting questions, but unfortunately you have basically ignored two of the three questions I asked you.

I figured the answers to those were easy to extrapolate from what I wrote, in any case here they are.

Do you agree that in litigation there is a much more of a problem of extraneous factors making it difficult to assess the lawyer than extraneous factors in auto repair making it difficult to assess the mechanic?

I agree that this is more of a problem for lawyers, although I'm not sure how much more.

Do you agree there are also problems with doctors spending energy on signalling, (although perhaps not as bad as with lawyers), for example, caring about where a doctor went to medical school; prestigious internships; and spending money on impressive facilities?

It is, but I've never heard anyone say that there is no point going to anything besides the top tier medical schools.

Comment author: ChristianKl 23 April 2014 01:07:46PM 0 points [-]

Not lynching rich bankers means choosing to cooperate. Having a social landscape that's peaceful and without much violence isn't something to take for granted.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 24 April 2014 01:32:48AM 1 point [-]

How would you apply that to Lumifer's second example?

An unattractive girl watches an extremely cute girl get all the guys she wants and twirl them around her little finger. "That's not fair!" she says.

Comment author: Lumifer 23 April 2014 12:53:30AM 0 points [-]

Oh, but the developer will provide jobs, and serve as an attractor for other businesses, and generally lift the area economically, and pay taxes into state coffers, and there will be gallivanting unicorns under the rainbows, and the people will look at the project and say "This is good".

If you believe what the state will tell you.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 23 April 2014 03:13:16AM 0 points [-]

So whether that example fits with the first set depends on whether the state's claim that the project is good is true, and thus whether this example it is perceived as fitting with them depends on whether the perceiver believes the claim. Similarly, the Lamborghini example fits if one accepts the Marxist theory about the origin of income inequality.

Now we come to your example of the two girls. It's hard to make it an example of "fraud or abuse of power" (although it might be possible with enough SJ-style rhetoric about how beauty is an oppressive social construct). Notice that it is similar to the Lamborghini example otherwise, in particular it seems like the kind of thing that fits in the category whose archetypical member is the Lamborghini example.

So we can now reconstruct a history of the meaning of "unfair". Originally, i.e., about a century ago, it meant basically "fraud, cheating, or abuse of power". As Marxism became popular it expanded to include income inequalities, which fit that definition according to Marxist theory. Later as differences of income became one of the archetypical examples of "unfairness" and as the theory underlying its inclusion became less well-known, more things such as the two girls example came to be included in the category. See the history of verbs meaning "to be" in Romance Languages for another (less mind-killing) example of how semantic drift can produce these kinds of Frankencategories.

Comment author: Lumifer 23 April 2014 12:41:39AM 0 points [-]

There is a subtle, but important difference. Many people (here and elsewhere) would consider the exercise of eminent domain powers by the state to be ethical and correct application of state powers for the betterment of society -- a few suffer but for the greater good.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 23 April 2014 12:45:46AM 0 points [-]

Yes, and if the example had involved a road or other public works project, as opposed to immediately selling the land to a developer, your objection would have been appropriate.

Comment author: Lumifer 22 April 2014 04:23:10PM 9 points [-]

What sorts of things do you see in common among these situations?

Your list seems a bit... biased.

Let's throw in a couple more situations:

  • A homeless guy watches a millionaire drive by in a Lamborghini. "That's not fair!" he says.
  • An unattractive girl watches an extremely cute girl get all the guys she wants and twirl them around her little finger. "That's not fair!" she says.
  • A house owner learns that his house will be taken away from him under an eminent domain claim by the state which wants a developer to build a casino on the land. "That's not fair!" he says.
  • A union contractor is undercut on price by a non-union contractor. "That's not fair!" he says.
Comment author: Eugine_Nier 23 April 2014 12:19:10AM 0 points [-]

Nickpick: Your third example:

A house owner learns that his house will be taken away from him under an eminent domain claim by the state which wants a developer to build a casino on the land. "That's not fair!" he says.

Is similar to one of fubarobfusco's examples:

Someone uses a position of power to take something that isn't theirs; especially when the victim can't do anything about it. A boy's visiting grandmother gives him $50 to buy a video game for his birthday; but as soon as the grandmother has left, the boy's mother takes the money away and uses it to buy liquor for herself.

Comment author: brazil84 22 April 2014 09:16:53AM 0 points [-]

And with a lawyer you can tell what the outcome of the trial was.

Even putting aside the fact that the vast majority of litigation is resolved before trial, there is also the fact that excellent lawyers lose cases all the time due to a lot of extraneous factors. By analogy, if the auto mechanic charged you $500 to change your brakes, and after he was done with the car the brakes still didn't work, you could be pretty confident that you have a lousy auto mechanic.

Do you agree that in litigation there is a much more of a problem of extraneous factors making it difficult to assess the lawyer than extraneous factors in auto repair making it difficult to assess the mechanic?

Do you agree that with plumbers and auto mechanics it is a lot easier to assess how good they are compared to lawyers since if they do their job properly, the problem they are working on will normally be solved and if they do not do their job properly, the problem will normally not be solved?

Do you agree there are also problems with doctors spending energy on signalling, (although perhaps not as bad as with lawyers), for example, caring about where a doctor went to medical school; prestigious internships; and spending money on impressive facilities?

These are real questions, not rhetorical questions; they are aimed to get a better grip on where we agree. Please actually answer them as opposed to just answering the argument you imagine is behind them.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 23 April 2014 12:08:52AM 1 point [-]

By analogy, if the auto mechanic charged you $500 to change your brakes, and after he was done with the car the brakes still didn't work,

What if the brakes now work, but not necessarily quite as well as they did before? If an auto mechanic tells you your car is totaled, how do you know he's correct?

Do you agree that with plumbers and auto mechanics it is a lot easier to assess how good they are compared to lawyers since if they do their job properly, the problem they are working on will normally be solved and if they do not do their job properly, the problem will normally not be solved?

That depends on the details of the problem. In a sense the same is true for lawyers. I agree that there are quantitative differences about exactly how likely you are to get a good estimate with what amount of certainty between these examples but I don't think it's large enough to make a qualitative difference in the analysis.

Comment author: CCC 22 April 2014 10:30:52AM 2 points [-]

And with a lawyer you can tell what the outcome of the trial was.

If someone is found guilty in a trial, is that a sign of a poor lawyer, or is that a sign that he was, in actual fact, guilty as charged, independent of the ability of his legal team?

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 22 April 2014 11:57:22PM 0 points [-]

I mean it's not like a good legal team has ever allowed a guilty man to get away with it. Also, presumably the person knows whether he is guilty.

Comment author: Lumifer 22 April 2014 06:25:15PM 5 points [-]

I find it strange that the same phrase is used to refer to such different things.

However looking at reality, the phrase is used in all these ways, isn't it?

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 22 April 2014 11:42:54PM 6 points [-]

As Bart Wilson mentions here, a century ago the word "fairness" referred exclusively to the first cluster. However, due to various political developments during the past century it has drifted and now refers to a confused mix of both.

Comment author: ChristianKl 22 April 2014 12:42:50PM 1 point [-]

It's a cultural norm. If someone constantly defects in prisoner dilemma he's violating the norm of fairness and deverses to be punished for doing so.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 22 April 2014 11:29:45PM 3 points [-]

Except that in a lot of accusations of "unfairness" there is no obvious prisoner-dilemma-defection going on.

Comment author: 2ZctE 22 April 2014 01:20:56AM 11 points [-]

I get confused when people use language that talks about things like "fairness", or whether people are "deserving" of one thing or another. What does that even mean? And who or what is to say? Is it some kind of carryover from religious memetic influence? An intuition that a cosmic judge decides what people are "supposed" to get? A confused concept people invoke to try to get what they want? My inclination is to just eliminate the whole concept from my vocabulary. Is there a sensible interpretation that makes these words meaningful to atheist/agnostic consequentialists, one that eludes me right now?

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 22 April 2014 07:42:53AM *  3 points [-]

The word "fairness" has been subject to a lot of semantic drift during the past century. Here is a blog post by Bart Wilson, describing the older definition, which frankly I think makes a lot more sense.

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