Today, I’m pondering the notion of fairness…
Imagine a contractor shows up at your house to give you an estimate on installing a new boiler.
You’ve got a beautiful place and it shows. You started with nothing 20 years ago and worked to the bone to build a nice life for your family and have some nice things. The house just happens to be one of them. And, it’s situated in a part of town you always dreamed of living when you were a kid.
The contractor pokes around a bit, then hands over a proposal. $15,000. Youch!
Sounds out of line, so you thank him and send him on his way.
Later that day, you run into an old friend who lives “down the hill.” You mention your need for a new boiler and are surprised to discover he’s in the market for the exact same boiler. And, the one he’s replacing is the very same one you have. AND, he also just got an estimate from the same contractor…for the exact same amount of time, same equipment, same job.
But, your friend’s estimate was $7,500. Half of yours.
The only difference, he lived in a $250,000 house in an older part of town and you lived in a $2.5 million house in the fancy part of town.
Does this really happen? All the time.
And, it’s likely you’ve been on one, two or maybe even all sides at some point in your life; the modest living consumer, the wealthy consumer or the service provider.
Question is—is this fair?
Is there any justification for charging the person with greater perceived wealth substantially more money for the exact same benefits…just because that person can afford it?
Think about your answer for a moment.
Get clear on it.
Find your conviction.
Now, let’s see what happens when we overlay the same ethical question onto a new fact pattern.
This time, you’re the guy living down the hill, earning a modest living. The contractor is now the government, the estimate you and your wealthy acquaintance received is your tax burden and the benefits are the services provided to both of you by the government.
Does your opinion change?
Put another way…
Do you believe the richies up the hill should pay a more for the exact same benefits received by you? Or, should they have to pay a larger percentage of what they make?
And, if so, is this consistent with your opinion about fairness with respect to the boiler…when you were the richie on the hill?
Because it’s the same issue, just set in a different context.
And, if you believe you shouldn’t pay more for the boiler when you’re the richie, but the richies should pay more taxes when you’re the middle-classer…
Now, let’s take this same fundamental question of fairness and overlay it onto yet another set of facts…
Let’s say you provide a service. Maybe you’re a designer, copywriter, lawyer, publicist or accountant. You have two pitch meetings scheduled for the same day. The first prospect is a solopreneur, doing what she can to make enough to let her family live well in the world. The second is a large public corporation that’s making a boatload of money. Oddly, they both want essentially the same service, requiring the same investment of time, energy and thought. And, the deliverables would be nearly identical in quantity and quality.
Do you charge them both the same fee?
Or, do you charge mega-co more…just because you can?
And, if so…why?
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