Don’t we all work in our own ways to promote justice? But what exactly is justice? The classical definition is the will to render to a person what is due him. That seems pretty simple, pretty obvious.
So what is social justice? To those using the term it seems to mean something approximating moral fairness. That would seem to assume a system of rules and norms for society. So, don’t the questions become: Fair in whose eyes? Do all persons get what is due them as human beings, as members of the community? If so, is eugenics fair? If it is; is the fairness determined by the person being killed or the person doing the killing?
It seems as with so many things in life, shifting from the good intentions behind our motives for change, to the actual results achieved can be a dangerous leap, one with unintended consequences. To some, virtually every inequality comes about because the rules of the game are unfair. For better or worse, those individuals want the state to intervene whenever there are unequal outcomes.
The term social justice has considerable baggage. For some it encapsulates the highest aspirations of everything that is right. For others it embodies their darkest fears. Progressives venerate the term. Whether from fear or aspiration social justice animates their core policies.
Classical liberals see the term as anathema to the idea of liberty. They see it as a weapon fashioned and wielded by those pretending to the higher ground. Thomas Sowell has written that social justice is merely a fig leaf for wrong doing: Envy was once considered to be one of the seven deadly sins before it became one of the most admired virtues under its new name “social justice”.
Social justice implies enforcement.
If we cannot rightly define the term, if we cannot agree what it means should we be defining virtue by it? Should we be shaping public institutions around it? Should we be allocating resources based on its dictates? If we cannot agree what it is; should we be using to determine how people should be treated?
Does social justice distinguish between differences arising from luck and choice? People are entitled to make many choices are they not? Different people do often make different choices in similar circumstance. Are we to take away their tight to make those choices because of the unequal outcomes produced? For their own good you understand. And how does social justice equalize for differences in innate ability.
What we know is that the word justice in todays language connotes gravity and certitude while linking to the implication of coercive enforcement. For its advocates there is no alternative to confusion and coercion masquerading as fairness. They require removal of formal restrictions that limit the ability to flourish as they understand it. They do not care about property rights or individual rights.
The problem is the advocates of social justice disrespect the rights of any and all individuals who fail to accept their fairness; the fairness of social justice. We used to call it mob rule. A commercial society constrained by protections of liberal justice encourages material prosperity and morally improved relations between people. It also requires unequal outcomes.