Churchpeople (as any liberal will tell you) have a duty to critique both the language and policies of politicians. Currently they would do well to begin with the concept of ‘fairness’. ‘Fairness’ is, after all, a notion that has religious and theological overtones. It is cognate (in some contexts at least) with sedek (righteousness). It is an attribute of God, closely related to his mercy and lovingkindness.
But I am not sure that that is what the politicians have in mind. Indeed, I am not sure what they have in mind at all. Why is it, for example, deemed ‘fair’, as has recently been suggested, to charge those with bigger houses higher Council Tax?
They should obviously be charged more for the use of local services, if they use more services. But in what way is it ‘fair’ to charge more for the same?
Underlying this concept of ‘fairness’ seems to be a hidden agenda: that the redistribution of wealth is a desirable, indeed necessary, function of government. And that its aim should be to narrow the gap between the rich and the poor. It may be that radical egalitarianism is a primary aim of government; but if it is government should say so.
Many, but not all, would agree that such is a laudable aim. But how best to achieve it? To charge the rich more for the same is not ‘fairness’: it is robbery. No one would countenance a sliding scale of charges according to income for the sale of televisions or bed linen.
Why for the sweeping of streets and the emptying of dustbins? To do so surely radically undermines the real dynamic of fairness: a fair price for the job; a fair price for the goods.
Few in our society would deny that we should strive to guarantee essentials to those who cannot afford them.
But first define essentials, and then seek a means to deliver them which does not distort a whole raft of prices and values.