What is Social Justice? This term is used a lot these days yet its use always leaves the listener wondering exactly what is meant. The speakers using the term usually act as if its meaning should be understood but they never offer a complete definition. Instead they offer up some policies meant to achieve it.

We’ll use our Logic and Economic tools to analyze history and policies to come up with an understanding of what is meant by Social Justice.

Two Revolutions

The debate for and against Social Justice seem to have its roots in the American and French Revolutions. There are many similarities between these two revolutions:

  • Ending the rule of a king
  • Ending abusive taxation and exploitation of the citizenry
  • Acquiring self-determination by the citizenry
  • Instituting democratic practices

However there are also glaring differences between the two revolutions.

American Revolution

The American Revolution was that of a colony that revolted against a monarchy. Many Americans felt that even though they were British citizens they were not treated as equals. Tired of economic exploitation by Britain they fought and won a war for their freedom. After the victory the new government allowed anyone wanting to remain under British rule to leave the country voluntarily and safely.

The Founding Fathers of America set up a system of government that was Democratic in nature but would also protect citizens from the tyranny of the majority. Power was invested in the States and the citizens. Equal opportunity was the goal. Though imperfect at the time (slavery was a concession that the north had to make to keep the colonies together) our Constitution is primarily an instrument designed to protect and empower the citizen at the expense of the government.

French Revolution

The French Revolution was that of a country’s citizens against their king. The leaders of the revolution had as their aim equal outcomes. Demolishing the line between the “haves” and “have nots” was what fueled their actions and their thoughts. They removed the king from his throne and soon after removed his head from his neck.

Unfortunately, in their quest to create equal outcomes they felt it necessary to separate a lot more heads from necks. The “Reign of Terror” took heads belonging to royalty, the wealthy, and also many normal citizens who spoke out against the revolution’s methods. Ironically one of the revolution’s leaders, Robespierre, who instituted the Reign of Terror, also lost his life at the edge of the “National Razor”.

Why did the French Revolution take so much blood from fellow citizens compared to the American Revolution? Because they had different definitions of equality. See our page on Equality to learn about the differences between equal opportunity and equal outcome.

The Buyers of Social Justice

Social Justice policy is defined as a push for equal outcomes. It is very popular among folks who see themselves as:

  1. helpless victims
  2. exploited by others
  3. deserving of the good things/rewards that more successful people have
  4. not responsible for their personal shortcomings or failures
  5. being held back by oppressors in society

The common theme underlying these folks vision of themselves are envy and resentment of those who are better off than themselves.

Let’s respond to those descriptions one at a time:

  1. Nobody is helpless in America. No American is held captive against their will by either government or business. Even prison inmates are not helpless as they have the opportunity to help their own case if they choose.
  2. Americans are exploited only if they fail to exercise their right to pursue better circumstances and opportunities.  People are not exploited when a business makes a profit off of their effort – they are employed. Without profit there is no employment.
  3. You are deserving of better things – when you earn them.  Having something taken from someone else and given to you is not earning that reward. After all someone with very little would still resent something being taken from them (say government cheese) and given to someone else with even less.
  4. In America there is no one else to blame for personal shortcomings. You either work hard or you don’t.  You either study hard in school or you don’t. You either strive to improve your skills or you don’t. Your best still may not get you a house like Oprah or Bill Gates but it can take you out of public housing.
  5. The only thing holding you back is yourself.  If you choose to let the government take care of you you can count on being poor for your entire life. If you chose to work hard and lift yourself up you will free the bonds of dependency.

Being told that you are not responsible for your condition, need an advocate, and will be taken care of is a very seductive option. Like a narcotic though it is addictive. Like any addiction, freeing yourself from dependency is hard – much harder than avoiding dependency in the first place.

Why would anyone want to seduce someone into a state of dependency?

The Sellers of Social Justice

Every addiction has a group that benefits from that addiction. Cigarette makers, porn distributors, drinking establishments, etc. So what benefits do the sellers of Social Justice get?

Power. The most dangerous narcotic of all. Power to control the lives of others is as seductive as the message they deliver. Every policy touted by people crying for Social Justice has as its major side effect the control of other people. See our pages on Control Policies I and Control Policies II for additional information. Sellers seduce by telling you that:

  • you can’t help yourself
  • you need their help
  • you deserve better
  • you’re a victim
  • you’re oppressed
  • we’ll get revenge for you
  • we’ll make the mighty become low
  • we’ll give you what you need

If you give a man a fish he’ll eat for a day. If you teach a man to fish he’ll eat for a lifetime. Sellers of Social Justice do not want you to learn how to fish. They want to give you a fish every day. If you learn how to fish you are independent. If you have to be given a fish you are dependent. If you are dependent you can be controlled.

The sellers of Social Justice want to erase the line between charity and government welfare. Charity is more likely to be temporary and often requires that you learn to fish. Government welfare wants to be permanent and give you a daily fish in exchange for your liberty.

Final Thoughts

Sellers always make the case for Social Justice as a class struggle. The “Haves” vs. the “Have nots”. Have you yet seen a seller of Social Justice try to sell it without stirring up envy and resentment?  Their case for Social Justice abounds with False Logical arguments like Straw Men and Red Herrings. If their case was really good they wouldn’t have to stoop to those measures.

We went back to the French Revolution to look at the history of Social Justice. However we have to go back a lot further to find the first recorded incidence of Social Justice. In the first book of the Bible, Genesis – Chapter 4, comes the tale of Cain and his brother Abel.

The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. ….  Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.

Cain envied and resented Abel for what he had (the favor of God) but was unwilling to do what was required to receive that favor himself. Rather than lift himself up he chose to bring Abel down.

Envy is one of the deadly sins and for good reason. Envy is also the fuel necessary for Social Justice. If envy is not in a person’s heart then Social Justice has no seductive power over that individual.