The Idea of an Essay, Volume 4

102 The Idea of an Essay: Volume 4 Is It Fair to be Fair? Gregg Mendel The Iraqi government executed Saddam Hussein on December 30th, 2006. It was a day many people had looked forward to. Saddam Hussein had killed thousands of civilians with gas attacks and tortured hundreds of citizens and journalist. When it came time for him to be executed, no one felt sorry for Hussein. His execution was the epitome of justice; he got what he deserved. But justice is not always this clean cut. Imagine a poor man living in Afghanistan, desperately trying to feed his starving family. He has tried everything. Almost everything. Stealing food is the one option left, so he tries to take some bread from a local vendor. He is caught, and by law, the merchant saws off the poor man’s right arm on the spot. I would argue that this is equally as just as Saddam Hussein’s execution. How could this be? It is because of the simple (yet surprising) fact that justice is not the same as fairness. Fairness is attempting to make everyone equal and giving the less fortunate the upper hand. Justice is the opposite; giving what is deserved, no matter how unfair it might seem. It is never based on feelings. Fairness and justice are never the same. Even though justice is never the same as fairness, that doesn’t mean an outcome can’t be both just and fair. This coincidence of justice and fairness overlapping is illustrated excellently by the odd story of silicon and germanium. Renowned science author SamKean relates in his bookThe Disappearing Spoon about the battle between these two elements, and the sad fate of germanium. Back in 1945, Bell labs in New Jersey invented the first semiconductor. This was a colossal step for science, opening the door for numerous electrical devices, such as the computer and calculator. Semiconductors had one major problem though. These mechanisms could only work in a tube completely emptied of all air, called a vacuum. This made semiconductors somewhat impractical and a bother to work with. Most scientists agreed that lugging a giant, cumbersome, breakable, glass tube around with their computer was no easy feat (Kean 41). Then in 1947, two scientists, Bardeen and Brattain, utilized