Justice is an important concept. In all societies it is good from time to time to make an assessment of the justice system. To do that a determination of what has worked and what has not with respect to justice is required. A consensus must be reached on two points before beginning an assessment: The fundamental principles of justice and the tools of its application.
Requirements of a workable system…
Reaching a consensus on justice’s legitimate principles must first be agreed and accepted. Those principles must consider whether there is value in recognizing individuals. Does justice require that each person is unique, worthy of dignity, deserving of respect? Should they be endowed with the ability to direct their own life without harming others? Aren’t those things basic human qualities? Isn’t it innate in people that they are noble enough to consider the well being of others?
Social cohesion is strengthened when each of us is seen as unique and worthy of dignity. Without acknowledgement of the foundational value of the individual justice is not possible. Justice involves working to identify then establish norms for society. Proper norms free people to do what is good, for themselves. It is an inherent danger in all systems of government that the few impose their will upon the many. They are an exercise of power not justice.
In America we work with a political system built on a representative form of government. It requires the participation, involvement and support of the people of the nation. We utilize a market economy as our mechanism of trade and commerce. The organizations of our society, most basically the family, minimize the barriers hindering the most vulnerable. This aids in preventing them from being forgotten and left behind. Implicit in our government is the need for a sound financial system, a firm grasp of economic reality and communication.
All attempts, even honest ones, to involve the state in redistribution of resources are fraught with peril. Trying to bring about more “just” outcomes using the police power of the state creates opportunity. Regardless of the good intentions, redistribution can and most often does rapidly decay into rent seeking. Rent-seeking happens when an entity uses their position to get some additional benefit from the government. “Rent” means receiving a payment that is over the costs involved in the production of the item or keeping the item in service. Such actions do not produce any benefit for the community-at-large.
The most common occurrence of rent seeking is lobbying the government to receive special subsidies, grants, free stuff and tariff protection. The progression accelerates when the attempts to redistribute are less than honest. Is the first word that springs to you mind when you hear the word government “honesty”? Such interventions undermine a free society.
Capitalism depends on voluntary exchange. Widespread opportunity is a pillar of the system. A just system must minimize harm and optimize opportunity. Those conditions are prerequisite for growth and prosperity. They are built into capitalism at the individual level and systemically.
Politics, the economy and society are not zero sum games. Cooperation and collaboration amplify both differential outcomes and the total size of the pie produced. When more is created in total, all receive more; their fraction causes the absolute value of what each receives to go up. Even though the absolute value of the differences between individuals do get larger it is a good and desirable outcome overall.
The rancor of “social justice” is incongruous with our exceptional standard of living. Our markets are a positive sum game. We have the highest material standards in the history of the world. Poverty is literally disappearing as a result of open markets and capitalism. It makes no sense to turn a blind eye to success. Becoming ungratefully oblivious to what we have is to be ruled by envy; devoid of reason.