Saturday, 23 October 2010

The IFS cannot weigh

In a queue for an expensive lung operation, it would be 'unfair' to put a penniless, jobless and incorrigible chain-smoker ahead of a hard-working young mother who had never smoked - although on the IFS calculation the decision would be 'progressive' because it redistributes income from a richer to a poorer one writes Matthew Parris in his Times column.

“Fairness” is not a morally neutral term, but depends on our idea of deserving. What we think people do or don’t deserve depends on our own ethical framework. Such judgement require us to weigh conflicting claims in the scales of justice. Which way the scales tip depends on how much weight you accord to what you place in them. The IFS cannot help us with that, for though it can count, it cannot weigh. How much weight you accord is a moral question, whose answer depends entirely on your own values. And values differ.

Well worth a read.