End of the Republic

The American Republic is in decline. The decline is self-inflicted, a sort of suicide by choice. Why are people deciding to follow the "Road to Serfdom" over the "Road to Freedom"?

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Location: Chesapeake Beach, MARYLAND, United States

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

An introduction to social justice

I have not been blogging for a while... my bad. I will "get back on the horse".

I wanted to discuss the topic of social justice. Social justice is defined in two different ways these days. There are those who think social justice will be achieved when we have equal educational opportunities for all, equal access to social services (health care, pensions, etc.) or (on a more extreme side) even equality of outcomes. On the other hand are those who believe that social justice simply means equality before the law.
The two definitions of social justice are mutually exclusive. If the country is to practice the first theory of social justice (equal opportunity, etc.), then the government (or other agency designed to dispense social justice) necessarily has to treat those who are better off (have more opportunities) differently than those who it deems are "in need" of assistance. In other words, the government does not view all people as equals. It views some people as the chattel it uses to obtain resources and others as recipients of the redistributed "opportunities". The government does not start with the premise of "all people are equal" - think about it. If the government started with the premise of "all people are equal", then there would be no need for any form of redistribution of wealth or of opportunity. Those who support this theory of social justice do not want all men on an equal footing before the law. They want the law to be enforced differently for different people. Some will benefit from the law and others will have to pay the cost.
The other definition of social justice only treats people as equal before the law. Neither equality of opportunity nor equality of outcome are important. Essentially, this theory comes from the idea that mankind is not perfect in the execution of his judgment. If we were all perfect (and made perfect decisions), then our outcomes would all become equal in the long run. We are not perfect beings. Some people will make better decisions than others. Some people will make their own opportunities. The result is an unequal distribution of ideas, wealth, and chance. The unequal distribution of intelligence and the ability to put it to a productive use leads directly to inequality in "material terms". Where does the government fit in this realm? Its only role is to make all citizens equal in its eyes. It merely protects them from theft, fraud, or any kind of coerced wrong-doings. All citizens are equal in its eyes. What I mean to say is that all citizens are equally worthy of its protection. This theory of social justice does not benefit the many at the cost of a few. At the same time it does not benefit the few at the cost of the many. The government benefits all equally. As for who pays the cost, I will write a small blog on public finance in a free society shortly.

What kind of society would you like to live in? One where the government (and its use of force) can treat some people differently than others or one in which we are all looked upon as equal citizens?

The Matz

2 Comments:

Blogger Bernie Spriggs said...

well, people's decisions change with the weather. as soon as they are in a position in which the opposite of their decision would've been better for them, they change their minds.

of course, everybody would say that everyone being treated the same way is the way to go. but: if you and the person next to you stole some money, you 100 bucks, your 'neighbor' 10,000, should you get the same sentence as the other guy? of course not! you just stole 100 bucks! pocket money!

so, this idea can only work if people would learn to live by a standardized model of morality, either religion or philosophy, and this would have to be included into a child's education which again other people would consider as indoctrination and loss of personal freedom. not to mention that we would have to agree to just one single morality/philosophy/religion and the latter one is at present being discussed with weapons.

so, what do i want to say? everyone should be treated the same way, not as citizens, but as people. but it's a long way to walk. it would probably need a utopia-version of earth to get there.

December 30, 2004 at 5:58 AM  
Blogger J. Thyme Matz said...

Bernie:

Nice to meet you! I would like to address some of the aspects you mentioned about my post.
People's minds do change quickly. Mainly I attribute that to the fact that they do not have any principle to guide them. Having a philosophical framework and learning to think, live, and (most importantly) act within that framework is a difficult task. It primarily involves hunting down contradictions in the way we think or act and doing some serious introspection. We can then find out the cause of the contradiction (an error in our thoughts or our actions) and eliminate it. When people adopt a philosophical framework to help them live their lives it makes changes much less frequent but also much more important. Having a framework also prevents people from being "blown around in the wind" or, in other words, succumbing to the whim of the moment.

You brought up the example of a crime. Somebody steals $100 and someone else $10,000. What should be done? This depends on your idea of social justice. On one hand we have a government that treats people equally before the law. The law dictates that the government assume people are innocent until they are presumed guilty in a court of law. The government does not round up random citizens to look for the suspects. It engages in an objective investigation to identify them, arrest them, charge them and try them for their crimes. Should they be found guilty, the government will enforce a punishment. The penalty for stealing $100 may differ from the penalty for stealing $10,000 - just the same as theft is treated differently from murder. To make my point very clear - under this type of social justice a person who stole $100 will receive the same pentalty and face the same system of justice be they rich, poor, white, male, female, gay, Christian, Jewish, etc. Under the "egalitarian" form of social justice each of these things may come into play. Was the person poor? Was she Korean? Did the money deserve to go to that person? Is it a hate crime? The penalty distributed by the government is influenced by other "social factors" designed to make up for perceived past injustices or to engineer some sort of social outcome. The punishment for any two people who stole $100 will be different depending on circumatances beyond their own control.

If we, as a society, are to err in our morality/politics/ethics/religion, do you not agree that we should err on the side of caution? A philosophy of pure liberalism (dictionary definition) and pure freedom is to err on the side of caution. I do not require others to think or act the way I do. I just require that they let me be free to act and think for myself. Just as my philosophy requires that I let anyone else think or act for themselves. Notice the contrast between liberalism and statism. A statist and his philosophy require others to think or act in a certain way. A statist is, by definition, anti-freedom. I believe in a "live and let live" type of philosophy. Statists do not.

January 1, 2005 at 10:34 AM  

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