Defeated by the Claw: It just ain’t fair.

She cried on the floor, hands pounding the carpet ineffectually. “I want to get something!”

It was the claw machine’s fault, obviously.

Somehow, with only a dollar, her brother had managed something that I have never achieved:  he’d managed to get a toy from the claw machine in the arcade.

She had been given a dollar as well, but her luck and skill were more comparable to my own.  The dollar was gone, the little stuffed animal was still safely ensconced in the machine, un-clawed.

Photo by Jackson Jost on Unsplash

“It’s not fair!” she screamed.

Of course it was fair.  But it was only one type of fair:  Equality of opportunity.

Both kids had the same amount of money to spend on the claw.  They each got the same number of chances.

It wasn’t the other type of fair – equality of outcome – at all.  One kid had a toy, the other didn’t.  It took eight more dollars to finally snag a toy with that claw.

Politicians try to fool us by swapping which kind of “fair” they’re talking about all the time.

Most people are more okay with unequal outcomes as long as there’s an equal opportunity.

And the tricky part is this:  opportunities are rarely truly equal.

One kid had better reflexes.  Maybe he’d trained more (or less) previously. Maybe one needed glasses, or there was more background noise, or…

…or their parents had to work three or four jobs between them and couldn’t help study.  Or they didn’t have enough food, so they were distracted by hunger at school.  Or their school funding (based off of property taxes) was low, so

You get the idea.

Life just isn’t fair… but if we think about it, and we’re kind, maybe we can make it fairer.

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