The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

7 November 2004

Justice much as you can stand

One of the rotating quips (alas, uncredited) in the "It Is Written" section on the front page reads like this:

Social engineering is to engineering as social disease is to disease.

So where does social justice fit in? Right about here:

Justice is that virtue by which one accords to others that which is theirs by right. It, along with prudence, fortitude, and temperance constitute the cardinal virtues. The term right is, unfortunately, frequently used very loosely. If one says, for example, that the unemployed have a right to work or the needy have a right to assistance, this is not strictly correct. There is neither a legal nor a natural right here so the claim being made is actually a claim in charity rather than a claim in justice. And that's what a lot of people seem to mean by social justice.

I suspect that the term social justice, in the sense of Christian charity, is frequently used by those who want to harness the power of government which in my view is properly restricted to claims of justice, to claims of charity while separating charity from its real nature as a theological virtue.

I might go so far as to say that there's an unspoken call for vengeance behind the veil of "justice": the desire to see plutocrats exiled to, well, Pluto; the urge to punish the wealthy (except, of course, for those who contribute money to The Cause); the inexplicable hatred of inanimate objects like Evil SUVs.

Certainly sounds like a social disease to me.

Posted at 8:13 AM to Political Science Fiction


Actually, the unemployed do have a right to work. They can work at a great many things without needing first to make a deal with someone to pay them for said work.

What they don't have a right to, is getting paid -- much less getting paid a "living wage" -- for their work unless an agreement was reached beforehand to do just that.

But quibbles are for quibblers. On the larger point I find I am in considerable agreement.

Posted by: McGehee at 9:37 AM on 7 November 2004