Saturday, April 17, 2010

Social Justice

"It is in justice that the ordering of society is centered." ~ Aristotle
Social Justice. How often have we heard this term, and what does it mean?

I googled the term and found an interesting article that attempts to define it, although the author failed to establish, at least in my mind, a satisfactory definition.

Perhaps if I break it down to raw definitions we can better understand what social justice means.

First, the word "social" as defined by Webster's dictionary, offers twelve definitions of the word as an adjective, of which only the first nine have pertinent relevance to the topic of social justice:

1. pertaining to, devoted to, or characterized by friendly companionship or relations: a social club.
2. seeking or enjoying the companionship of others; friendly; sociable; gregarious.
3. of, pertaining to, connected with, or suited to polite or fashionable society: a social event.
4. living or disposed to live in companionship with others or in a community, rather than in isolation: People are social beings.
5. of or pertaining to human society, esp. as a body divided into classes according to status: social rank.
6. involved in many social activities: We're so busy working, we have to be a little less social now.
7. of or pertaining to the life, welfare, and relations of human beings in a community: social problems.
8 noting or pertaining to activities designed to remedy or alleviate certain unfavorable conditions of life in a community, esp. among the poor.
9. pertaining to or advocating socialism.

When placed in conjunction with the word, "justice" it would seem to me to apply only to numbers 4,5,7,8, and 9.

The dictionary has 12 definitions of the word "justice", but only the first 5 to 7 would seem to apply to the term "social justice". For purposes of brevity, I will focus on the first 5:
1. the quality of being just; righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness: to uphold the justice of a cause.
2. rightfulness or lawfulness, as of a claim or title; justness of ground or reason: to complain with justice.
3. the moral principle determining just conduct.
4. conformity to this principle, as manifested in conduct; just conduct, dealing, or treatment.
5. the administering of deserved punishment or reward.
So, to encapsulate the term, it would possibly be fair to say "Social Justice" is defined thus:

Fair and equitable treatment to all members of a society by all other members of that society, according to previously agreed upon moral principles, resulting in administered deserved punishment or reward.

Now that we've defined it, the problem is, how to achieve social justice in our country, assuming our country is the society of which we speak.

The way I see it, the only true equitable fair treatment for all depends on the acceptance of moral guidelines of personal responsibility.

For instance, should we grant fair and equitable treatment to those who would not treat others fairly and equitably?

Should the irresponsible be granted fair and equitable treatment by the responsible, and if so, just how much should he be given before he is deemed no longer deserving of the rewards?

How do we distribute equal treatment when members of society contribute on different societal levels?

And, who is qualified to decide what is fair and equitable to those members of society who return either too little or too much fair treatment to the society?

Is this treatment incumbent on the governing body or on society itself to administrate?

I think social justice can not be administered by legislation. If there can be any semblance of social justice at all, it must be left up to the individual members of society to decide how he should treat the other members of society, in accordance with his own sense of morality.

Naturally, and inevitably, since each person has different concepts of what is just and moral, this would result in conflict between members of the society.

And that leads us back to inequality.

No matter how we define and/or administer it, social justice can never be either social or just.

And, in my opinion, it should never be attempted to be administered by the government.

That way leads inevitably to totalitarianism.

12 comments:

Z said...

"Should the irresponsible be granted fair and equitable treatment by the responsible, and if so, just how much should he be given before he is deemed no longer deserving of the rewards?"
That, to me, sums it all up for OUR government and Social Justice right now...there IS no end, in the Obama thuggery, to what the irresponsible 'should' be granted by us. That's scary and happening every single day.....
Super post, Mark.....

Derec said...

To me social justice means giving everybody an equal opportunity to pursue happiness. That's the basic American dream; that you can rise from the most humble beginnings to achieve success no matter what your social background is. Some people can work hard their whole lives and be completely dedicated, with no chance of ever rising out of their current conditions. That is why we have to have at least some way for people to find help until they get back on their own.

My dad lost his job when his employer went bankrupt. After that, collecting unemployment helped us stay afloat for awhile until he found another job. He is a very hard worker, and always has been, but was a victim of another's irresponsible behavior.

We also need to make sure these systems to help people aren't abused. People who don't work hard shouldn't ruin the whole thing for those who just need some temporary help.

To conclude I just wanted to point out that NOT everybody who recieves help from the government is irresponsible and lazy. Some people do get help from it to help get back on their own; and many do abuse it making some reform necessary.

I do disagree however with any kind of "social justice" that disadvantages one group just to help another out. I just want everybody to begin with an even playing field, and work their way up from there.

Pamela D. Hart said...

Mark: Great piece. The term “social justice” has become so distorted and people actually believe we can “even the playing field” by taking from one class or person and give to another. We are all entitled to “life, liberty and the PURSUIT of happiness” but there is NO guarantee that we will ACHIEVE happiness. Those results are as individual as our fingerprints.

Mark said...

Derec, Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against giving a hand up to those who are truly in need. I just don't agree with giving hand-outs ad nauseum.

Welfare, unemployment insurance, and ADC, etc is designed to offer aid to people who have found themselves in disadvantaged positions, but only for as long as they can pull themselves up and get off the dole.

Everyone needs a little help now and then.

But, the "playing field" will never be level, regardless of how money or resources are distributed. There are too many different types of people for any kind of social engineering to be successful. Some people are lazy, others work hard. Some people are responsible and others aren't. Some people are con artists and others are honest.

Social justice is not a "one size fits all" plan. It never has been. It never will be.

And, why on Earth do Liberals insist we "level the playing field" by bringing the good players down to the level of the poor players? Why can't they come up with a plan that raises the poor up to the level of the wealthy instead?

Social justice sounds good, but it's a pipe dream of monumental proportions.

Jim said...

why on Earth do Liberals insist we "level the playing field" by bringing the good players down to the level of the poor players?

This is a nonsensical question. There's not a liberal in the world (except maybe a nut or two) who would ever even suggest such a thing. Please explain how raising the marginal tax rate of a person making a million or two a year by say 3% could possibly bring that "good player...down to the level of the poor player"?

Why can't they come up with a plan that raises the poor up to the level of the wealthy instead?

Again, more nonsense. Nobody is suggesting that there should be a plan to get poor people making $250,000 a year. Only the opportunity to do so if they have the smarts and the drive to make it happen.

Mark said...

Jim, You say, "This is a nonsensical question."

No, it isn't. What is redistribution of income if not an attempt to equalize income levels by taking wealth away from the haves and redistributing it to the have-nots? Liberals are forever talking about increasing the taxes to the rich to level the playing field, and if you deny that fact, you are lying.

Furthermore, you say, "Nobody is suggesting that there should be a plan to get poor people making $250,000 a year."

Exactly my point, Captain Obvious. My question is, why not? Why don't Liberals suggest that? Why do Liberals think the only way to level the proverbial playing field is by lowering the wealthy to the level of the impoverished? What is so wonderful about making everybody poor?

BenT - the Unbeliever said...

Where should we get funds to help the disadvantaged? Wealth doesn't appear magically. If we want to send single mothers to college, how does it help to cut a senior lunch program to pay tuitions. The only way to lift the poor is to close the gap between haves and have-nots.

Everyone can't just become magically well-off.

Trader Rick said...

Are Sunday afternoon family picnics in the park still allowed? I don't want to get in trouble with the Obama people...

Mark said...

Bent, you say "Where should we get funds to help the disadvantaged?"

WE don't. YOU do. And I do.

This is what you Libs don't seem to understand.

Charity is supposed to be voluntary, not mandated. Leave us to help our own voluntarily and the disadvantaged will get all the help they need, and not only monetarily, but spiritually as well.

You need to have more faith in the One who provides. If Libs would understand that help comes from above instead of from the Government, all of our problems will be handled in His time and in His way.

BenT - the unbeliever said...

Before the implementation of Medicare 75% of seniors died in poverty. Where was all your christian charity then?

Jim said...

Liberals are forever talking about increasing the taxes to the rich to level the playing field, and if you deny that fact, you are lying.

And if you really wrote that, you are lying, Mark. There is NOT A LIBERAL IN THE WORLD who is suggesting that the point of taxing the rich at higher rates is to "level the playing field". None. The point of a progressive tax model is that the rich can well afford to pay a higher rate of tax than the middle class and lower class. And that tax is to pay for defense, infrastructure, disease control, air traffic control, etc. It has little if anything to do with "leveling the playing field."

My question is, why not? Why don't Liberals suggest that? Because it is an idiotic thing to suggest, so they don't, Mr. Oblivious.

Liberals think the only way to level the proverbial playing field is by lowering the wealthy to the level of the impoverished

No they don't. You're lying, Mark. A slightly higher tax rate on someone earning $250,000 or $5,000,000 would not impoverish them. Whoever suggests that would an idiot or a liar.

Which is it, Mark?

Jim said...

The only way to lift the poor is to close the gap between haves and have-nots.

I'm in agreement with much of what you say, Ben, but I don't think "closing the gap between the haves and have-nots" is the object nor the solution. A multi-millionaire paying $10,000 more in taxes while a family earning $50,000 gets a $2,000 tax credit for college tuition and the US Air Force gets a few hundred gallons of Jet Fuel seems like effective tax policy and hardly closes any "gap." It doesn't hurt the first person, helps the second person, benefits the future of America by having better educated workers, and provides for the defense of the US of A.