State of the Union preview: 'Fairness' and 'Social Justice'

In the State of the Union address on Tuesday evening, expect Barack Obama to iterate the themes of his vaunted campaign speech in December in Osawatomie, Kansas.  In Osawatomie the President tried to conjure up progressive Teddy Roosevelt's "New Nationalism" speech of 1910, but sounded like a man speaking scoffingly and carrying a big chip on his shoulder.  The speech was pocked with economic fallacies, hypocrisy, class warfare rhetoric, anti-Americanism, distorted history, and some outright lies.  Leftists lauded it. 

On Tuesday --as in Kansas when he uttered the word "fair" 15 times-- the President will focus on fairness, "economic fairness" or "economic justice" in particular.  This is one of the Occupiers' rallying calls, not surprisingly.

Economic fairness ought not be confused with economic freedom.  By economic fairness, the President means using the instrumentalities of the federal government -- through coercion-- to redistribute resources and wealth, pick winners and losers, and settle political scores.  Such a construct is hostile to private property rights and the rule of law.  It seeks not equality but radical egalitarianism.  On this point the GOP has an opportunity to favorably contrast its candidate with the incumbent while educating Americans about the blessings of economic freedom, what F.A. Hayek called the "freedom of our economic activity" and the "prerequisite of any other freedom."

The late, great Milton Friedman once said, "I'm not in favor of fairness. I'm in favor of freedom, and freedom is not fairness. Fairness means somebody has to decide what's fair and that means [insert government agency name here] has to decide for me what's fair."  He expounded on this point further in 1992 when he wrote:

"...scrutinize word for word the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, and you will not find the word "fair."...

The modern tendency to substitute "fair" for "free" reveals how far we have moved from the initial conception of the Founding Fathers. They viewed government as policeman and umpire. They sought to establish a framework within which individuals could pursue their own objectives in their own way, separately or through voluntary cooperation, provided only that they did not interfere with the freedom of others to do likewise.

The modern conception is very different...Government is not simply an umpire but an active participant, entering into every nook and cranny of social and economic activity. All this, in order to promote the high-minded goals of "fairness," "justice," "equality."

Does this not constitute progress? A move toward a more humane society? Quite the contrary. When "fairness" replaces "freedom," all our liberties are in danger...

There is no objective standard of "fairness." "Fairness" is strictly in the eye of the beholder...


Is then the search for "fairness" all a mistake? Not at all. There is a real role for fairness, but that role is in constructing general rules and adjudicating disputes about the rules, not in determining the outcome of our separate activities."

"Economic fairness" or "economic justice" is a variation or offshoot of what the American left calls social justice.  On that broader subject, David Horowitz has spoken and written profusely and eloquently, including the following:

"[Social justice is] a totalitarian idea...[It] presumes a social entity which can distribute social goods equitably. This social entity is necessarily a state power. Consequently social justice requires the domination of civil society by the state and the restriction of individual liberty generally and as matter of course. The more "social justice," the less liberty. By contrast, the American Founders recognized that there is an inherent conflict between liberty and equality, or liberty and "social justice." In sum, the passion for social justice is a totalitarian passion and it is not surprising, therefore, that the left...has been throughout its history a totalitarian force."

The "blueprint" (read: centralized plan/scheme) the President is threatening to lay out on Tuesday will be a prescription for more of what ails us.  He is banking on susceptible and less informed segments of the electorate biting on, as Mark Levin puts it, "tyranny disguised as a desirable, workable, and even paradisiacal governing ideology."  While the President's Occupy-endorsed economic dogma is music to the ears of the 21% of Americans who call themselves liberal, it is a harder sell to the other 79%.  It is imperative that the GOP leadership on Capitol Hill and the Republican nominee not only vehemently oppose it, but effectively and strenuously articulate its fatal flaws and ominous (and un-American) origin.