Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Anyone have a working definition of "Social Justice?"

When it comes to frustrating things in life, not much tops arguing with someone over economic policies and that "social justice" needs to be considered. Can someone tell me what the hell that means? To me, when I hear that, I think of the conversation between Jerry and George when George continues to use the phrase "You can stuff your sorries in a sack, mister!" and Jerry finally gives up trying to figure out what he's trying to express. I've yet to get the same definition of "social justice" twice, and I've gotten the most satisfying answers from people who don't support any explicit goal of "social justice" in economic policy making. As far as I'm concerned, unless anything changes, whenever anyone writes about "social justice," quotation marks should be mandatory.

Ultimately, I think people are confusing "social justice" as a preferred ends instead of a preferred means. By definition, equality in means will yield equitable results. The definition of "equality" and "equitable" can be as elusive as "social justice," but taking a snapshot of a social outcome and claiming a violation of "social justice" is completely missing the boat.

Here's what Wikipedia has to say about it. I love the first sentence: "Social justice refers to conceptions of justice applied to an entire society." Beautiful in its explanatory power, that's what that sentence is.

Turns out that there's a Centre for Social Justice, with the beautifully socialist tagline of "Narrowing the gap in income, wealth and power."

Here's a fun piece concerning Hayek and "social justice."

Here's a group of Social Justice Scholars.

And for what it's worth, I've been told that Milton Friedman "didn't do enough for 'social justice.'"


David said...

Good points. And why "social" justice? Is there any other kind of justice? Mineral Justice? Plant Justice?

Buchanan makes an interesting point while discussin Arrow's General Possibility Theorm that I think is relevant:

"Rationality or irrationality as an attribute of the social group implies the imputation to that group of an organic existence apart from that of its individual components"

Anonymous said...

Mr. Ryan,

While I must certainly chuckle at your level of emotion and choice to express your discontent through the employment of pseudo-expletives, I cannot help but wonder what sort of an upbringing one has that causes one to be so disdainful of his fellow man.

I wonder, how would you see the issue of social justice if you for once were subject to the receiving end of the abuse that is visited upon america's working class by the corporations and corrupt wealthy businessmen who have somehow, like you, not learned the same lesson that so many learned as young children -- that sharing not only benefits the greater good, but results in a higher median level of equity and happiness in a society.

Robbing honest people of what they deserve happens in this country every day, and it is up to the few politicians who are still not corrupt to redistribute as much as they can; force those who do not know how to share to for once make the right decision.

--Blake in California

Anonymous said...

Blake, please remember: Greed is Good! It is what makes us most truly American! There is a market for EVERYTHING! And where, in the panoply of your piddling life, there isn't yet a market, please create one with your own rules (e.g., "globalization") and do your best to convince the johnny-come-latelys that they best join in and get with the party. And please, do your best to ignore structural inefficiencies in any market that don't benefit the elites.

Anonymous said...

Blake posted:
"I cannot help but wonder what sort of an upbringing one has that causes one to be so disdainful of his fellow man."

Our blog hosts don't seem to have done the Great Books thing, not even the Good Book thing.

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