A few days ago I heard some people telling a story of a dental nurse that her dentist had looked up the address of her patient before deciding how much to charge her. The patient lived in a good part of town, and so the bill for the removal of her wisdom tooth was bumped up - without her knowledge, of course.
That's not fair! was my initial reaction.
But then, I suppose, the dentist would argue that she can charge whatever she likes, and, further, that by doing this sort of thing, she would not have to charge so much to her less well-heeled patients.
If the dentist charges the same to everyone, then this is a bit unfair on the poorer patients. On the other hand, if she charges the wealthier more, then this would be a bit unfair on the wealthier patients.
So, in practice, both things seem to be generally acceptable. And, on the whole, it all seems to be more a question of balance. Provided that the wealthier are not charged too much more than poorer folk because of their financial position, they do not create too much of a fuss about it.
But for any given differential between the two, a fuss, at some level, is usually made.
And the only point that I am trying to make in this article is that there is no real solution to the problem. There is no right and morally correct thing to do. It is all a question of balance.
And so there will always be a tussle between the two camps.
But 'tussle' is surely too tame a word for what is, in fact, much more like a war!
And it will probably remain so for a considerable length of time to come because there is no solution. There is no right and morally correct thing to do. There is nowhere to be found where to draw a line which will be acceptable to everyone.
It is all a question of balance, with some people leaning one way and with other people leaning the other way.
But the balance between the two sides can be very much affected by the motives that appear to be behind the policies being applied.
For example, the dentist can be portrayed as a Samaritan, helping the poor by taking some more from the rich. But, on the other hand, she can be seen as something of a Scrooge who is simply trying to squeeze as much money as possible out of each of her clients.
Should a woman who can carry one brick in her wheelbarrow be paid the same as a man who can carry two?
By and large - though there is no strict division along gender lines –me as a woman I will answer Yes to this question, and probably my husband as a man will answer No. But, just as in the previous case concerning the dentist, there is no place where to draw the line that is acceptable to everyone.