3 kids, 1 flute MeFi has a fantastic thread on the book “The Idea of Justice” by Nobel laureate Amartya Sen. Here’s the starting premise: Take three kids and a flute. Anne says the flute should be given to her because she is the only one who knows how to play it. Bob says the flute should be handed to him as he is so poor he has no toys to play with. Carla says the flute is hers because it is the fruit of her own labour. How do we decide between these three legitimate claims?
Much wonderful and witty discussion ensues (my favorite comment is from Alvy Ampersand: “I would break the flute into three equal pieces. And then I would laugh at the tears of the children while I brought the fox and the bag of corn across the river.”).
But there’s one thing that isn’t clear in the premise — whose flute is it now? It says Carla says it’s hers because “it is the fruit of her own labor,” but does that mean she made it for herself, and now owns it? Or does she work in a flute factory, and recognizes it as one that she made (and presumably has already been paid for making)?
If we assume the former, then the whole premise is skewed in Carla’s favor, even though it’s blatantly illogical — why would she go to the trouble of learning to make a flute, gathering the raw materials, then investing time and labor in making a flute when she doesn’t even know how to play flute?
If we assume the latter, then her claim about the fruits of her labors rings kind of hollow, since she’s already been paid. Though if she’d been a slave at a flute-making plantation, that might be different.
(beautiful flute pic via The Music Store @ Powell)