'Social Justice' Means Treating Some People Unjustly

The definition of 'social justice' is imprecise.  That's where the rub begins.  It has precise meaning only for its user, is what the user wants it to be.  So, can it be precisely defined?  Perhaps, if we focus upon its application.

In his 1999 book The Quest for Cosmic Justice, Dr. Thomas Sowell wrote, "In politics, the great non-sequitur of our time is that 1) things are not right and that 2) the government should make them right. Where right all too often means cosmic justice, trying to set things right means writing a blank check for a never-ending expansion of government power."

That explains the ultimate objective of social justice: a never-ending expansion of government power [emphasis mine].

Sowell defines social justice (which he labels 'cosmic justice,' the relief of all misfortune) as an effort which seeks to eliminate undeserved disadvantages for selected groups.  He defines 'undeserved disadvantages' by referencing Dr. Thomas Nagle's definition: 'unequal starting points' certain people have through no fault of their own. 

What governmental policies (which Sowell universally rejects) can be enacted to reduce or eliminate unequal starting points?  To answer that, Sowell references John Rawls, who insisted 'having everyone play by the same rules or be judged by the same standards' was not sufficient.  True equality of opportunity meant 'adjusting starting points to provide everyone with equal prospects of success from equal individual efforts,' and 'putting [selected] segments of society in the position that they would have been in but for some undeserved misfortune' [more about additional society obligation below]. 

Social justice advocates say governmental policies must be put in place so that income, material possessions, unemployment rates, and leadership position outcomes are equal for all groups regardless of starting point or effort.  Any deviation from 'equal outcome' is proof some form of social injustice, be it racism, sexism, or capitalist greed, is occurring.  For them, " ...equality of treatment under the law is not a sufficient condition to achieve justice."

Nobel Prize-winning economist F.A. Hayek spoke of the 'meaningless conception' of social justice, destroyed advocates' arguments.  Hayek declared, "…the manner in which the benefits and burdens are apportioned by the market mechanism would in many instances have to be regarded as very unjust if it were the result of a deliberate allocation to particular people.  The particulars of a spontaneous order cannot be just or unjust.  The absence of personal intention in a spontaneous order means an absence of either justice or injustice.  Nature can be neither just nor unjust.  Only if we mean to blame a personal creator does it make sense to describe it as unjust..."

"The classical demand is that the state ought to treat all people equally in spite of the fact that they are very unequal.  You can't deduce from this that because people are unequal you ought to treat them unequally in order to make them equal.  And that's what social justice amounts to.  It's a demand that the state should treat people differently in order to place them in the same position…  To make people equal a goal of governmental policy would force government to treat people very unequally indeed."

Now let's turn to the social justice advocate Dr. John Rawls.  He pontificated in his 1985 essay 'Justice as Fairness' (which became a book with the same title), developed in it his principles for a discussion of justice.  He said society, to achieve social justice, should ensure that the greatest amount of liberty be limited only if the liberty of one member infringed upon that of any other member.  Rawls acknowledged free speech and protest (among others), and, interestingly, property, are rights everybody should be allowed.  But he said these were basic rights, not absolute rights.  When these basic rights infringed on the rights of others that's when limitations to those rights began, including property rights.

But Rawls never (that I can find) defined 'infringe' or 'limitations.'  So here we go again.  Nor did he define when infringement occurs or of what limitations consist or how they should be applied. 

Rawls did not view anything the state does in the name of income redistribution as an abridgment of liberty.  He said, "...there is no reason... why the violation of the liberty of a few might not be made right by the greater good shared by the many."  This was Rawls' view of what society, via social justice, should do (inhibit, impose limitations on rights) to achieve fairness.

Let's not forget Joe Biden.  On his first day in office, he signed seventeen executive orders.  One was 'Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation.'  The final line of the first paragraph states, "All persons should receive equal treatment under the law…"

Got that?  'All!'  As in 'applies to everyone.'

He signed another executive order, 'Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government.'  This executive order states the term 'equity' means the consistent and systematic fair, just, and impartial treatment of all individuals.... 

'All' again.

Second paragraph: "It is therefore the policy of my Administration that the Federal Government should pursue a comprehensive approach to advancing equity for all…  Affirmatively advancing equity, civil rights, racial justice, and equal opportunity is the responsibility of the whole of our Government."

That word 'all' again.  Which he negates in the very same paragraph by referencing special rights for groups identified in his budget.  Now that's chutzpah.

What he says (in Executive Orders) and what he does are two entirely different things.  In reality, Biden's budget proposes spending to reduce disparities in underserved communities.  He pledged during his campaign to promote racial equity as an inseparable part of economy rebuilding.  Biden wants it to appear he applies social justice to all, but he actually applies it only to groups he specifically identifies for political purposes.

Should we, in the name of social justice, treat people differently based on their race, gender, or class to correct collective imbalances in wealth, distribution of resources, or lack of opportunities and privileges within a society?  Nope.  As Hayek said, social justice demands treating people unequally. 

Bottom line: America originally failed to treat people equally, with devastating results. We must not repeat that terrible blunder.

Image: Free Press

To comment, you can find the MeWe post for this article here.