Very often I hear the phrase 'harsh but fair' used to describe something that is unduly severe, but ultimately just. I don't think that it even makes sense, though - and although I've tried to discuss it on a number of occasions, have never met anyone that seems to agree with me.
closed as off-topic by FumbleFingers, tchrist♦, user66974, Ronan, choster Jul 7 '14 at 22:35
This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:
- "Questions that can be answered using commonly-available references are off-topic. A list of these references can be found here: List of general references" – FumbleFingers, tchrist, Community, Ronan, choster
A punishment may be harsh, but if it's meted out equally to all who merit it, it would be considered fair (impartially administered or unbiased). If you have trouble seeing how this could be, maybe you're not seeing one sense of the word 'fair'.