Blog #100 – Competition: What’s Socially Desirable and What Isn’t. ,
In the discussion here , the phrase “winners and losers,” as it is understood in day-to-day exchange by Donald Trump. There are other definitions that are not insidious. Not every competition that has winners and losers is bad.
Sports are the classic example of what can be desirable and healthy competition. It is of the essence of such competition that the competitors go by understood and fair rules, and that they start out as equals, and even as friends, recognizing the outcome as just, and it their earned achievement that is celebrated that is celebrated, not the loss of the losers. That achievement is the greater if the winner’s achievement is narrowly followed by the achievement of the loser – a 10 to 2 victory in a true sport is less noteworthy than a 10-9 victory. Above all, victory in a fair competition should not be used to justify a grossly unequal reward, certainly in the public sector, where winner take all is not a desirable result for a narrow victory. Both the rules of the competition and the reward for success should be democratically determined and agreed. The precise drawing of lines between desirable and undesirable competition and between fair and unfair treatment of winners and losers may be hard to spell out in advance and vary by context, but at the extremes social injustice is usually easily discernible. When, as in so many economic relationships, the winner wins through the exploitation and domination of the loser, winning is nothing to celebrate.
Perhaps one might define the undesirable social uses of “winners and losers” by four criteria:
1. Clearly if in the competition, the winner has started out from a position superior to that of the loser, if the win is the result of violation of the “all men are created equal” rule there is a problem. The examination must then investigate the circumstances that permitted the winner to win; was it by using some unjust advantage that the winner won. If a slight woman loses a weightlifting contest to a heavily-built man, or if the scion or a rich family is able to outbid an-up and-coming but poor architect to win an auction of piece of real estate, then the competition the contest and the winning is undesirable.
2. Has the achievement of the “winners” reduced the achievement of the “losers?” In a one-mile race, if the winner achieves his/her speed in one minute, and others require more than that ,the time the losers achieved is not reduced by the time the winner achieved they are not the slower for the winners speed. The one achievement is not at the expense of the other. In Donald Trump’s world, every real estate transaction in which he engages and “wins” means that someone else has lost, and the lost is the mirror consequence of the win.
3. Is the reward to the winner such that it will deprive the loser of a benefit that it is socially desirable that he or she have? Is the reward a socially desirable good that is in scarce supply, so the winner necessarily deprives the loser of something it is desirable the loser have? A medal for winning a race does not deprive the loser of anything the loser needs or ought to have. However, if the winner gains great wealth or necessary accessibility from winning and the loser is deprived of an adequate income or accessibility because of it, it is competition with an undesirable prize. If there is a housing shortage and inexpensive apartment on a desirable location is torn down and a luxury tower built by a developer that won the competition bidding for the lot on which they are built the competition is undesirable.
4. Has the winner won by unfairly capturing something to which the lower has equal or better claim? Is it the result of a taking by force, or by exploitation in which the winner makes a profit by the exploitation of the labor of the loser? The definition of “unfair” or “equal” claim may then be debated, but if it is a greed taking advantage of a housing shortage to charge a rent unaffordable to the tenant, then the landlord winning the contest for the value of lease is undesirable.
This blog is one of the set:
Blog 98 – The Political Implications of ‘Winning’ and ‘Losing’,
Blog 99 – Social Competition without ‘Winners’ and ‘Losers
Blog 100 – Competition: What’s Socially Desirable and What Isn’t.