Fairness is the shadow of the future

I was prompted by an article by the great Kiwi Co-operator, Ramsey Margolis, on how co-ops can tackle inequality to reflect on the deep connections that exist between ideas of co-operation and of equality.

Some might say that the concept of fairness is at odds with the complexity and apparent ungovernable dynamics of modern, open economies – there is little we can do and if there is unfairness, perhaps it will work out in the long run.

Co-operatives start from a different understanding and one that increasingly chimes with new research and evidence on human behaviour and social connectedness. We can make a difference. Fairness is about habits, as much as it is about dreams. It is about everyday life, as much as what someone in government (someone else) should do. In rather more dry, theoretical terms, it is about social norms of co-operation and reciprocity.

The truth must be that we are all more likely to co-operate if we believe others will behave fairly – and we are more likely to believe others will be fair to us, if we have collaborated with them before.

The more we take a long view of time, the more we are able to make a commitment to those around us.

Fairness, therefore, is the shadow of the future.

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