Social Injustice

 

Smith_medallion_portraitAccording to Adam Smith, “Little else is required to carry a state to the highest degree of affluence from the lowest barbarism but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice.” Our founding fathers wisely constituted a government designed to provide this modest foundation and little more. Wisely, because government – made up of fallible human beings – is not capable of providing more; and it will fail to provide what it can if it attempts to provide what it cannot.

We know, for example, what justice is: giving to each their due. A free market – that is people buying, selling, and exchanging their own goods and services without coercion and without interference – rewards people for what they produce and thus does a “tolerable” job of providing justice. If government restricts itself to acting against fraud and coercion, and otherwise stays out of the way, justice will be the happy – if only approximate – result.

By contrast, even the deepest thinkers cannot define “social justice” concretely enough to provide a workable procedure for attaining it. Proponents of social justice seek — at a minimum — to compensate the more unfortunate among us for the unfair burdens of chance. But only an omniscient and omnipotent being can hope to weigh each man’s troubles and determine just compensation. And only such a being can divine the penalties that are to be assessed on those more favored. In the end, attempts to implement “social justice” invariably result in injustice, because some are invariably given what is due others. And so we abandon what is possible in trying to achieve the impossible.

Image Credit: “Smith medallion portrait” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

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  1. user_138562 Moderator
    user_138562
    @RandyWeivoda

    Well said, Richard.

    • #1
  2. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @Martel

    Your assessment is entirely correct, of course.

    However, they don’t usually even comprehend what you’re saying.  We focus on individual rights and justice, believing that in so doing we best help society in the aggregate.  They see us as mere functions of races, classes, and interest groups.  Therefore, doing right by the individual is pointless; you’ve got to focus on the collective instead.

    You say that “only an omniscient and omnipotent being can hope to weigh each man’s troubles and determine just compensation,” but any idiot with a couple of classes in Grievance Studies can determine who’s been screwed over by the system and work to “change” that system, especially if you don’t give a flying fig about any particular person.  You don’t need to know what actually happened to Michael Brown or Trayvon Martin, for neither were individuals any more than those who shot them.  Instead, Brown and Martin were symbols of the oppressed, what happened to them not factual events but just another demonstration of the narrative of oppression.

    They can’t define “social justice” because doing so would give their game away.  Under the auspices of social justice no case will ever be between Hank and Fred but instead between black guy and white guy, poor person and corporation, political enemy versus ally.  The specific facts in none of these cases matter, nor will they ever if they won’t help lefties win.

    Can’t reveal that nobody actually matters.

    • #2
  3. Retail Lawyer Member
    Retail Lawyer
    @RetailLawyer

    “Social Justice” is one of those vague terms that means nothing, or whatever the speaker thinks it means.  It means whatever some nitwit thinks is fair without resort to, you know, an actual justice system with rules and stuff, like courts and judges and more stuff.  Try to avoid talking to anyone who uses that term for nothing good will come of it.

    • #3
  4. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @LegoScientist

    I once had a conversation with an MD/PhD student regarding eating lunch at the cafeteria on campus (riveting, I know).  He opined that students should get a discount on meals; and in response to my inevitable ‘why?’ replied, ‘social justice’.  Mind you, his medical school and graduate school are free, and he receives a stipend at tax payer expense.  Apparently, brown bagging it was to much personal responsibility for him.

    • #4
  5. derek Member
    derek
    @user_82953

    Social Justice always has and always will means one thing. You have something I want, I want to take it.

    There is nothing complicated or ill defined in the term at all.

    • #5
  6. Ricochet Contributor
    Ricochet
    @TitusTechera

    Anyone up for a quarrel?

    A qualified defense of social justice: I cannot help people who believe hysteria is the solution or the way to the solution to trouble great or small, but I can do something to promote the respectability of the liberals’ complaints.

    The problem with individual rights, which America has taught to the entire world, is that it does not account for two kinds of things, circumstances beyond human control & associations that are not essentially contractual or based on individualism. These come together in the place where liberals have failed America worst–neighborhoods where black people live lives of quiet & unquiet desperation &, at least in some cases, unstoppable, corrupting violent crimes, which are the work of a small minority of young males. We’re talking about kids which have been born into a kind of hell, or near it. They have no family–they are truly individuals, not like proud Americans, but like people who have little if any real connection to other human beings. The places where they live are awful.

    Of course, a discussion of the root causes of this terrible suffering–terrible because of violent crimes & because it seems never-ending, inescapable–would center on liberal politics.

    But an understanding of what goes on there shows the limits of the old teaching of liberal individualism. It can be stated in many ways–like John Adams saying that the American constitution only works for a deeply religious people. It requires justice beyond individual rights justice.

    • #6
  7. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    derek:Social Justice always has and always will means one thing. You have something I want, I want to take it.

    There is nothing complicated or ill defined in the term at all.

    You broke the code!

    • #7
  8. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Titus Techera:Anyone up for a quarrel?

    We take Visa, MasterCard, or American Express. Did you want the short quarrel? Or the extended version?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQFKtI6gn9Y

    • #8
  9. Ricochet Contributor
    Ricochet
    @TitusTechera

    Arahant:

    derek:Social Justice always has and always will means one thing. You have something I want, I want to take it.

    There is nothing complicated or ill defined in the term at all.

    You broke the code!

    Well, thanks for that remark, Margaret Dumont, I’d like to–prepare the rimshot–recall to you Lincoln’s immortal phrase about slavery: That old snake in the Garden, saying, You work, I’ll eat!

    • #9
  10. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @Martel

    Titus Techera:The problem with individual rights, which America has taught to the entire world, is that it does not account for two kinds of things, circumstances beyond human control & associations that are not essentially contractual or based on individualism. These come together in the place where liberals have failed America worst–neighborhoods where black people live lives of quiet & unquiet desperation &, at least in some cases, unstoppable, corrupting violent crimes, which are the work of a small minority of young males. We’re talking about kids which have been born into a kind of hell, or near it. They have no family–they are truly individuals, not like proud Americans, but like people who have little if any real connection to other human beings. The places where they live are awful.

    Individual rights account for those problems, it just sees the solutions differently.  First, what the government (and just the government) owes them is to protect their individual liberties.  What we as moral humans owe them may be a hell of a lot more.  The government tried to take over the role of families and churches, the less effective families and churches became.  It supplanted the only potential solution without solving anything.

    Moreover, unfortunately we’ve also got to accept that there will always be crappy parents, always be laziness, some of the “root causes” can be uprooted.  It’s not fair, we do what we can, but we can’t do it all.

    • #10
  11. Ricochet Contributor
    Ricochet
    @TitusTechera

    Martel:Individual rights account for those problems, it just sees the solutions differently. First, what the government (and just the government) owes them is to protect their individual liberties. What we as moral humans owe them may be a hell of a lot more. The government tried to take over the role of families and churches, the less effective families and churches became. It supplanted the only potential solution without solving anything.

    In short, individual rights can do nothing but get out of the way of associations not based on individual rights–like churches & families. Consider that.

    I agree, of course, that welfare done by the gov’t does not lead to anyone faring well, except maybe some gov’t workers…

    Moreover, unfortunately we’ve also got to accept that there will always be crappy parents, always be laziness, some of the “root causes” can be uprooted. It’s not fair, we do what we can, but we can’t do it all.

    Yeah, but in a democracy that’s a problem. Especially now, the challenge for people who talk about the old liberal understanding of justice–work with dignity makes for freedom–is to persuade people that there is an alternative to welfare. Show me who has made that argument persuasively. Remember that justice is in the strict sense the concern of the political art or science–the center of political life–arguments about justice that do not persuade anyone are defective: The political art or science is practical!

    • #11
  12. user_278007 Inactive
    user_278007
    @RichardFulmer

    Titus,
    Check out Marvin Olasky’s book, The Tragedy of American Compassion.  Americans have always helped those in need.  It’s just that before government took over it was done far more effectively.  There is a difference between working to make people more comfortable in and with their poverty and ignorance and working to get them out of it.

    • #12
  13. Ricochet Contributor
    Ricochet
    @TitusTechera

    Richard Fulmer:Titus, Check out Marvin Olasky’s book, The Tragedy of American Compassion. Americans have always given help to those in need. It’s just that, before government took over, it was done far more effectively. There is a difference between working to make people more comfortable in and with their poverty and ignorance and working to get them out of it.

    I will–thanks for the recommendation–I think it’s been recommended to me before. I agree about this, well, about the fundamental arguments–I’m no expert. But again, the political art or science is practical–among free people, persuasion is required. A teaching about justice that persuades people that they have an alternative to welfare is needed.

    I fear stories about a long time ago will persuade almost no one. That does not mean they are not true or worth thinking about–but it means we have to keep looking for a way to address the matter: How to persuade people that there is an alternative to welfare.

    That is social justice in the plain meaning of the terms, as it would appear to the common understanding of mankind, I believe, were it not for the ugly activism which we cannot seem to overcome… &, as nearly everyone on Ricochet, I assume, would agree, that involves a lot of people & very little gov’t. Perhaps some models of action or organization, at least locally, could be learned from studying this history–what do you think?

    • #13
  14. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @Martel

    Titus Techera:Yeah, but in a democracy that’s a problem. Especially now, the challenge for people who talk about the old liberal understanding of justice–work with dignity makes for freedom–is to persuade people that there is an alternative to welfare. Show me who has made that argument persuasively. Remember that justice is in the strict sense the concern of the political art or science–the center of political life–arguments about justice that do not persuade anyone are defective: The political art or science is practical!

    It’s extremely difficult to persuade somebody who’s already getting welfare, which is why Democrats are so eager to get so many people on food stamps and the like as soon as possible.

    Persuasion is possible (albeit difficult) for those who live near and with these folks, though.  However, in some cases the best response to “I can’t survive without benefits” is to strip them of benefits.  After they survive (and maybe even thrive) they’ll maybe get it.

    Regarding the “defectiveness” of certain arguments, if nobody is convinced obviously it’s defective, but Aristotle (the king of rhetoric) assured us some people simply can’t be persuaded.

    • #14
  15. user_278007 Inactive
    user_278007
    @RichardFulmer

    Titus,
    Yes, absolutely.  Companies, philanthropists, and individual volunteers working together could demonstrate the power of private initiative and real compassion by turning around a government-created basket case.  Detroit, anyone?

    • #15
  16. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @Martel

    Richard Fulmer:Titus, Yes, absolutely. Companies, philanthropists, and individual volunteers working together could demonstrate the power of private initiative and real compassion by turning around a government-created basket case. Detroit, anyone?

    Exactly.  Maybe not in the short term, but in the medium and long terms this would do far more for conservatism than just donating to candidates.

    If after doing the right thing we know how to take credit for it.  (We’re pretty bad at that.)

    • #16
  17. user_86050 Inactive
    user_86050
    @KCMulville

    But the point is that our society and economy are built on competition, and that a key function of society (not government, society as a whole) is to get young people prepared. That is, society has a duty to give people the tools to compete.

    I think the conversation about “income inequality” would be so much more inviting to conservatives if we stopped talking about equality and started thinking about competitiveness. Equality is a buzzword that triggers liberal fantasies about utopia. But every conservative grasps the importance of competitiveness. Forget about liberal equality, and focus on the virtue of competitiveness in our workforce, and I think the topic makes much moire sense.

    Society doesn’t owe everyone a job, but we do owe people the tools to compete for one. That preparation for competition translates into two basic tasks: education and employment opportunity.

    For too many people today, they’re born into areas which offer neither. The schools suck and they’re ain’t no jobs anyway. And as each generation passes, the gap between the competitive and un-competitive grows.

    That isn’t an individual problem that can be remedied by individual initiative. It’s not a ghetto kid’s fault that his schools suck and there are no jobs. That’s a systemic problem that won’t be fixed by focusing on individuals.

    • #17
  18. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @Martel

    KC Mulville:That isn’t an individual problem that can be remedied by individual initiative. It’s not a ghetto kid’s fault that his schools suck and there are no jobs. That’s a systemic problem that won’t be fixed by focusing on individuals.

    Letting his parents select which school he goes to is focusing on individuals, as would be limiting the massive amounts of red tape required to start a business in most big cities, as would be apprenticeship programs.

    Yes, all of these address “the system,” but it re-focuses the system on individual choice, individual responsibility, and individual opportunity.

    • #18
  19. user_1008534 Member
    user_1008534
    @Ekosj

    Hi Titus.

    Re: “The problem with individual rights….”

    I think you are on shaky ground here. Particularly about associations not based on individual rights.

    These associations are nothing but an aggregation of like-minded individuals. The assiciation ceases to exist without the ondividuals that comprise it. So, I think it is a mistake to assume some special role for the association beyond that applicable to any individual member/participant.

    In my thinking, it is the myth of the group that lies at the root of the problems you point out. “We” have it hard because “they” keep us poor. Whatever the logic, it absolves the individual of any responsibility for their condition. Chance may have had you born to a poor single parent. You choose to remain part of the cycle. Go to school …. Your’re supposed to do that anyway. Go to the library. Read a book. Learn something. Anything. Make an effort to break out. But all too often individuals choose otherwise. Sit on the stoop with my friends. Drink. Do drugs. It may be the path of least resistance … But it isn’t the only path. Each individual chooses.

    • #19
  20. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @Martel

    Ekosj:In my thinking, it is the myth of the group that lies at the root of the problems you point out. “We” have it hard because “they” keep us poor.Whatever the logic, it absolves the individual of any responsibility for their condition.

    When it’s legitimately true that “they” are holding “us” back it’s even more important for somebody to emphasize what they can do themselves.  You may not have as much control over your own life as you should, but if your psychological emphasis is always on what “they” need to do for you you’re likely to psych yourself out of making even those changes you can make.

    Lefties:  even when they’re right they’re wrong.

    • #20
  21. Ricochet Contributor
    Ricochet
    @TitusTechera

    Martel:

    Ekosj:In my thinking, it is the myth of the group that lies at the root of the problems you point out. “We” have it hard because “they” keep us poor.Whatever the logic, it absolves the individual of any responsibility for their condition.

    When it’s legitimately true that “they” are holding “us” back it’s even more important for somebody to emphasize what they can do themselves. You may not have as much control over your own life as you should, but if your psychological emphasis is always on what “they” need to do for you you’re likely to psych yourself out of making even those changes you can make.

    Lefties: even when they’re right they’re wrong.

    Do you realize that you’re saying, well, sometimes you have it tough, & then you have to abandon your mother, perhaps the only person who has ever shown you love? A big reason why people are looking for help or refusing to help themselves is this, that it would tear apart the only things they do have.

    • #21
  22. Ricochet Contributor
    Ricochet
    @TitusTechera

    Ekosj:Hi Titus.

    Re:“The problem with individual rights….”

    I think you are on shaky ground here.Particularly about associations not based on individual rights.

    The associations I have in mind are things like the family–which is pre-political. The individual is a political construct, like self-interest. These belong together with liberalism. Go back before the creation of liberalism, this is not how people talk. & instead of rights–the powers or expectations of power in the individual–there were duties. The world was seen otherwise. The family still belongs to that way of seeing the world, to a large extent. Family is not a contract or voluntary–& children are unlike anything encountered in a liberal world: You do not control how they are produced or what they are like & you cannot bend them to your will. Or at least not so long as liberalism is not replaced by scientific tyranny, which might just manage these things…

    In my thinking, it is the myth of the group that lies at the root of the problems you point out.

    The reality from which people start is, there is not a lot of we. These people may blame the system for why they have no fathers, but before any of that, what they have is a life without fathers. A larger majority grows that way every year. They are individuals–people who had no one to take care of them when they needed it; or whose mothers tried, but could not.

    • #22
  23. Ricochet Contributor
    Ricochet
    @TitusTechera

    Martel:

    It’s extremely difficult to persuade somebody who’s already getting welfare, which is why Democrats are so eager to get so many people on food stamps and the like as soon as possible.

    True, but it’s either persuade them, resign yourself to permanent defeat or wage civil war. I think the first option is preferable. You either try to get back to an understanding of justice Americans can all share or you do not; if you try, you do it peacefully or violently. I recommend peace-

    Persuasion is possible (albeit difficult) for those who live near and with these folks, though. However, in some cases the best response to “I can’t survive without benefits” is to strip them of benefits. After they survive (and maybe even thrive) they’ll maybe get it.

    Neither you nor any GOP politicians or whoever has the power to destroy the welfare state. It has got to be done some other way. Or maybe you think someone could–please explain.

    Regarding the “defectiveness” of certain arguments, if nobody is convinced obviously it’s defective, but Aristotle (the king of rhetoric) assured us some people simply can’t be persuaded.

    Indeed, but when you are all citizens together, without persuasion there is only civil war or slavery. Back to the beginning.

    • #23
  24. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @Martel

    Titus Techera:

    Martel:

    Ekosj:In my thinking, it is the myth of the group that lies at the root of the problems you point out. “We” have it hard because “they” keep us poor.Whatever the logic, it absolves the individual of any responsibility for their condition.

    When it’s legitimately true that “they” are holding “us” back it’s even more important for somebody to emphasize what they can do themselves. You may not have as much control over your own life as you should, but if your psychological emphasis is always on what “they” need to do for you you’re likely to psych yourself out of making even those changes you can make.

    Lefties: even when they’re right they’re wrong.

    Do you realize that you’re saying, well, sometimes you have it tough, & then you have to abandon your mother, perhaps the only person who has ever shown you love? A big reason why people are looking for help or refusing to help themselves is this, that it would tear apart the only things they do have.

    Not even close.  Usually what people have to give up isn’t caring for their mother but hanging out with their friends on the corner smoking bud all day every day.  Detroit’s not in awful shape because people spend too much time with their grandparents, it’s because they party instead of study and then blame George Bush for failing.

    • #24
  25. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @Martel

    Titus Techera:

    Martel:

    It’s extremely difficult to persuade somebody who’s already getting welfare, which is why Democrats are so eager to get so many people on food stamps and the like as soon as possible.

    True, but it’s either persuade them, resign yourself to permanent defeat or wage civil war. I think the first option is preferable. You either try to get back to an understanding of justice Americans can all share or you do not; if you try, you do it peacefully or violently. I recommend peace-

    Not quite.  Under Clinton welfare rolls were reduced substantially, and I’d bet 95+% of welfare recipients opposed that happening.

    Persuasion is possible (albeit difficult) for those who live near and with these folks, though. However, in some cases the best response to “I can’t survive without benefits” is to strip them of benefits. After they survive (and maybe even thrive) they’ll maybe get it.

    Neither you nor any GOP politicians or whoever has the power to destroy the welfare state. It has got to be done some other way. Or maybe you think someone could–please explain.

    The GOP had just Congress when Clinton reformed welfare.  Granted, it’s harder now because the parties are more polarized, but you don’t have to persuade everyone, just enough.

    • #25
  26. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @Martel

    Regarding the “defectiveness” of certain arguments, if nobody is convinced obviously it’s defective, but Aristotle (the king of rhetoric) assured us some people simply can’t be persuaded.

    Indeed, but when you are all citizens together, without persuasion there is only civil war or slavery. Back to the beginning.

    You neither can nor will ever persuade everybody, you just have to persuade enough people to do what needs doing.

    For example, with school choice you seem to be operating under the assumption that we’ll never get anywhere unless we bring the NEA and AFT along.  Sure, that would be wonderful, but it’s not going to happen.  Instead, we’ll have to chip away at their power and influence and just outvote them.

    • #26
  27. Ricochet Contributor
    Ricochet
    @TitusTechera

    Martel:

    Neither you nor any GOP politicians or whoever has the power to destroy the welfare state. It has got to be done some other way. Or maybe you think someone could–please explain.

    The GOP had just Congress when Clinton reformed welfare. Granted, it’s harder now because the parties are more polarized, but you don’t have to persuade everyone, just enough.

    Well, Mr. Clinton was followed by Mr. W Bush who was followed by Mr. Obama. The GOP & Dem reformed welfare in the first eight years; how about the next eight; how about the setbacks & reversals of the last six? It seems like you depended on the good luck of the Dem president. There is a GOP Congress now; there was another one ten years ago. Two presidents of two different parties. Things did not continue to improve. The welfare state was not further undone, much less destroyed.

    But you & I are not president or Speaker. We have no responsibilities in this matter. We do not know the details of deal-making & the political costs. Aside from that, how do you propose the GOP might change things?

    • #27
  28. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @Martel

    Not even close. Usually what people have to give up isn’t caring for their mother but hanging out with their friends on the corner smoking bud all day every day. Detroit’s not in awful shape because people spend too much time with their grandparents, it’s because they party instead of study and then blame George Bush for failing.

    Just to clarify, by no means am I saying that there are no objective obstacles to the poor succeeding.  Far from it.  Big city governments tend to stifle any sort of economic ground up growth, the drug war is unfair, the welfare state has killed the family, etc.

    However, none of those things by any stretch guarantee failure–what does that is the culture of “if you study too much you’re acting white,” “life is about getting laid as much as possible and nothing else,” “look at me the wrong way and I’ll shoot you,” and “it’s everybody’s fault my life sucks but mine.”

    As bad as the drug war is, it’s less likely to harm you if you don’t sell drugs.  As bad as the schools are, most teachers in those schools would do backflips to help a kid in that environment who really wants to learn.

    Moreover, most of what’s holding them back is either 1) an idiotic policy instituted by the left or 2) and idiotic cultural behavior excused by the left.

    • #28
  29. Ricochet Contributor
    Ricochet
    @TitusTechera

    Martel:Just to clarify, by no means am I saying that there are no objective obstacles to the poor succeeding. Far from it. Big city governments tend to stifle any sort of economic ground up growth, the drug war is unfair, the welfare state has killed the family, etc.

    However, none of those things by any stretch guarantee failure–what does that is the culture of “if you study too much you’re acting white,” “life is about getting laid as much as possible and nothing else,” “look at me the wrong way and I’ll shoot you,” and “it’s everybody’s fault my life sucks but mine.”

    As bad as the drug war is, it’s less likely to harm you if you don’t sell drugs. As bad as the schools are, most teachers in those schools would do backflips to help a kid in that environment who really wants to learn.

    Moreover, most of what’s holding them back is either 1) an idiotic policy instituted by the left or 2) and idiotic cultural behavior excused by the left.

    Sure, I agree with all this, but this does nothing to change anything. It is not ok to talk about a kid who really wants to learn. Kids are just that–kids. Putting life-changing expectations & will-power on the shoulders of a kid who has never seen the other world is not ok-

    • #29
  30. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @Martel

    Titus Techera:

    Martel:

    Well, Mr. Clinton was followed by Mr. W Bush who was followed by Mr. Obama. The GOP & Dem reformed welfare in the first eight years; how about the next eight; how about the setbacks & reversals of the last six? It seems like you depended on the good luck of the Dem president. There is a GOP Congress now; there was another one ten years ago. Two presidents of two different parties. Things did not continue to improve. The welfare state was not further undone, much less destroyed.

    But you & I are not president or Speaker. We have no responsibilities in this matter. We do not know the details of deal-making & the political costs. Aside from that, how do you propose the GOP might change things?

    Nothing is either easy or guaranteed.  Governors can work to improve the inner cities in their states and then make sure people find out about it.  Also, the GOP or conservative groups need to somehow establish some kind of presence in these cities, be on the ground, talk to people, become human to them, actually discuss stuff with them.  Ultimately, we’ll need to drive a wedge between urban “leadership” and the decent people who actually care about their communities.

    The national GOP is far to enamored of power and “being in charge” to do anything risky, and everything that might actually work is risky.  None of my ideas would work until we get rid those like Lindsay Graham.

    • #30
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