There are different kinds of fairness that have been experimentally verified in sociological research as being existing notions of fairness in multiple cultures.
Smith enumerates several:
- Utility of interaction for both self and others.
- Equality of outcomes (especially when merit cannot be deduced)
- Equality of opportunity (he who risks gets rewarded)
- Equilibrium Market Allocation (to each according to his "contribution to the net surrplus of the group")
- Property rights (no stealing, no coveting)
- Reciprocity (return favors, expect favors returned)
This makes for funny thinking. As far as my noodling has gotten me, this results in fascinating differences in understanding moral issues.
If fairness = equality of outcomes (because business acumen != merit) then unequal, and especially massively unequal distributions of wealth are particularly unfair. Indeed, allowing this kind of distribution would be relatively unconscionable an Evolutionary Stable Strategy.
If fairness=property rights, then not permitting the massively unequal distributions that result from simple economies of scale would be particularly unfair.
Reciprocity could go both ways. EMA is complicated, and further confused by the difference between observed choice theories (I traded $1 for a coffee, so the coffee was clearly worth > $1 to me) and true value theories (platonic) . Utility to both self and others? I'd claim it argues against allowing massive aggregations of wealth, unless you go pretty intense econ...and even then it's disputable. Risk based? Clearly let the dude keep his $.
6 notions of fairness, 2 for redistribution in MANY cases, 2 against redistribution, 2 neutral. As a (relatively) capable libertarian with an acceptance of econ, I tend to lean on opportunity and property rights conceptions of fairness. However, these are not obvious or necessary moral priors. If the conception of fairness that matters to someone (or someones, or a culture) is perhaps around utility for self and others AND equality of outcomes...then they MORALLY ought to argue for redistributionist policy. And there's lots of room in the middle.
Even more than that...I'm inclined to believe that if a person isn't willing to admit that they personally are moved by every one of the conceptions of fairness listed above, they are busy defending a position, not taking the positions seriously (Admittedly, EMA is hard to parse, and I haven't written it very well).