A sweet and sour sister pickle

From the bottomless inbox: “I have two sisters. One (Sister Sweet) has one child, and the other (Sister Sour) has three. As you might guess, I like Sister Sweet, and do not care at all for Sister Sour. Further, I like Sister Sweet’s child very much, but do not like at all the three children of Sister Sour. At holidays I wonder how to be fair, and to appear fair, when giving gifts to the four children. On the one hand, I want to give $100 to the one child of Sister Sweet, and give $33 to each of the three other nieces. I would justify this by saying I am giving equally to the families of each of my two sisters. This approach is consistent with my preferences for Sister Sweet and her child. On the other hand, I sometimes feel guilty showing this favoritism, and instead think I should give each of the four children an equal amount, say $50 each. I would justify this second approach by calling it perfectly egalitarian.

“I want everyone involved to think that I am handling this situation in a fair and equitable manner. Does either of these two approaches achieve that? Or is there any approach that can achieve that? I’d really rather follow the first approach, but don’t feel that it is fully justifiable. Is it?”

- Carolyn Hax

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