jus·tice : the maintenance or administration of what is just especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments; the administration of law; the establishment or determination of rights according to the rules of law or equity; the quality of being just, impartial, or fair ; the principle or ideal of just dealing or right action, the quality of conforming to law (from the Mirriam-Webster dictionary)
Justice is blind, or so they say. It is supposed to be impartial, no matter your race, creed, gender, or affiliation. However, a perversion of justice has been rearing its ugly head in politics lately, and I find that disturbing. Politicians have a long habit of using nice sounding words to cover up a not-so-nice truth. The nice-sounding name of the perversion I speak of is called “Social Justice”.
The term “social justice” is a phrase that has been around since before 1800. But what does it mean exactly? The definition has morphed quite a bit over the years, depending on the political or religious persuasion of the person discussing it. In The Federalist Papers #7, Alexander Hamilton describes “laws in violation of private contracts” as being “atrocious breaches of moral obligation and social justice”. In religion, social justice means doing good to and for the poor and needy, being charitable. In politics, those who advocate social justice mean it to be government mandated equality of outcome, regardless of skill or will, instead of just equality of opportunity.
I believe that today’s advocates of social justice are not advocates of justice at all, because what they are trying to accomplish flies in the face of the true definition of justice as noted above. Social justice uses progressive taxation (darn those rich people), income redistribution (y’all have earned too much), or even property redistribution (eminent domain anyone?) to accomplish a subjective definition of equality. Social justice for some always ends up being unequal justice for others. Our Founding Fathers fought a revolution for equal, impartial justice for all, based on the rule of law, with little or no government interference. It was their belief that through liberty alone everyone could have the equal opportunity to achieve their goals, limited only by their skill and their will. They left the social engineering where it belonged: in the family and in the church.
I am troubled that some would accuse those who oppose social justice in its modern-day form as being un-Christian or uncharitable. Do they truly believe that the government can possibly be more charitable or love greater than we as individuals can? Do they truly believe that government would be impartial with their form of ”charity”, and that it would not be used as a means to grant them more power or money? Where is the precedent that any government has ever been capable of such a thing, when historically quite the opposite is true? As someone who believes in free will, I freely choose to show my love for Christ by being charitable. The Biblical form of charity is an individual’s choice, made out of the free will to help another, and is an expression of faith. That the government may forcibly require a part of the fruits of my labor to be given to others, or that preferential judicial treatment be dealt out to those they deem less fortunate (by their definition, not mine), eliminates both my free will and my ability to love my neighbor, not to mention the practice of my faith in liberty.
Social justice is subjective, based on the beliefs and values of those that advocate for it at the time, and is therefore ever changing. Equal justice however, is objective, based on the tenet of equality for all and the unbiased rule of law, blind to such influences as money, position, religion, race, gender, etc. Equal justice is perverted when the subjective viewpoints of those who believe in social justice are allowed to come in, as the only way to promote social justice for one is to permit unequal justice for another. If allowed, this will bring an end to liberty and begin the slippery slide down the slope to tyranny. For whom do you think the government will deem more worthy of this subjective social justice, those with whom they agree or those with whom they disagree?
“To take from one, because it is thought his own industry and that of his father’s has acquired too much, in order to spare others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee of everyone the free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it.” Thomas Jefferson, letter to Joseph Milligan, April 6, 1816
“Property is the fruit of labor – property is desirable – it is a positive good in the world. That some should be rich, shows that others may become rich, and hence is just encouragement to industry and enterprise. Let not who is houseless pull down the house of another; but let him labor diligently and build one for himself, thus by example assuring that his own shall be safe from violence…” Abraham Lincoln, reply to the New York Workingmen’s Democratic Republican Association, Mar. 21, 1864
“single acts of tyranny may be ascribed to the accidental opinion of a day…a series of oppressions, begun at a distinguished period and pursued unalterably through every change of ministers, to plainly prove a deliberate and systematical plan of reducing us to slavery.” Thomas Jefferson, in a pamphlet entitled A Summary View of the Rights of British America, published in Williamsburg, 1774