Thursday, July 1, 2010

Social Justice: Good or Bad?

From Wikipedia:
Social justice
is the application of the concept of justice on a social scale. ...The idea was elaborated by the moral theologian John A. Ryan, who initiated the concept of a living wage. Father Coughlin also used the term in his publications in the 1930s-40s. The concept was further expanded upon by John Rawls beginning in the 60s. It is a part of Catholic social teaching, ...and is one of the Four Pillars of the Green Party upheld by green parties worldwide. Some tenets of social justice have been adopted by those on the left of the political spectrum.
Social justice is also a concept that some use to describe the movement towards a socially just world. In this context, [it] is based on the concepts of human rights, equality and involves a greater degree of economic egalitarianism through progressive taxation, income redistribution, or even property redistribution. These policies aim to achieve what [some] refer to as more equality of opportunity than may exist in some societies, and to manufacture equality of outcome in cases where incidental inequalities appear in a procedurally just system.

What is Social Justice? I like the beginning of this Wikipedia entry, "Social justice is the application of the concept of justice on a social scale."
Lets stop here for a second. Combining the words Social Justice sounds good but is it? Justice has this nice "right and wrong" air about it. It refers to sanctions for misbehavior and the rewards of right behavior. Social is a fine word but what does it mean in black and white description? Anything having to do with society. And thus lies the problem. Social justice can refer to the end of slavery or to the end of private property ownership. Really! It's that broad.

Surely everybody means something toward the "No Slavery" end of that spectrum right? No, not right.
Let's explore another concept that doesn't get mentioned as often as Social Justice and that is "Ethics of Responsibility." Social Justice suggests a means of accomplishing it not unlike Civil Justice. That is, just as life and liberty maybe constrained by force for those that violate Civil Justice, so too, there are those who would set themselves up as authorities for Social Justice to constrain the life and liberty of those who have too much (Yes-they get to decide that) and who refuse to "share" it with others less fortunate. SHARE? Its not sharing if its taken from you by progressive taxation and confiscation by force.
The Ethic of Responsibility, on the other hand, says, "for him who knows to do good and does it not, to him it is sin." SJ (Social Justice) says you are "bad" if you have too much. ER (Ethic of Responsibility) says I have been blessed with intelligence or opportunity or a strong body or a creative mind and as a result I have reaped the rewards of my labor. Others, who have not had these things, and are in dire straits, need my help. ER further says, others who have these things and have simply failed to work and achieve will not be helped by my generosity, only enabled to continue in sloth.
The SJ advocate says you can't make that distinction, that's like the fox guarding the hen house. Which tells us exactly how they consider others with ample resources - foxes.
So how is a benevolent assistance rendered for the truly needy? This is where the old joke about the golden rule actually makes some sense. What is the Golden Rule in this case? He who has the Gold makes the Rules. Well now that sound incredibly calloused. Why? It is his gold after all.
Yes many with ample resources will simply ignore the needy. But Jesus called us to Ethical Responsibility.
First that would imply we don't take advantage of the labors of others like Zaccheus did. He stole in the guise of taxation. He was practicing a little Social Justice of his own with himself as the prime recipient.
However, what about the vineyard owner who paid those that worked one hour the same as those who worked all day? Was he Un-Just to the day-long workers? Certainly not. They agreed to this wage and he was faithful to pay it. Now, if he was in collusion with all the other vineyard owners in an attempt to suppress wages that would be bad. Hey, we can file that under Civil Justice and have laws against that kind of collusion.
Second, it recognizes that the person with ample resources Owns those resources; they are his or hers. They may have earned them by building a better mousetrap or computer, or they may have inherited it from the inventor of Ketchup. Whatever, it BELONGS to them. It is not Un-Just to be wealthy. It is not a Sin to be wealthy. It is not BAD to be wealthy. It just IS. As long as it was not "Ill-gotten" gain. (There may be a case for calling lottery winnings ill-gotten gain but that is another blog.)
Third it recognizes that the truly needed need help. They don't necessarily deserve it but neither do those with good minds, strong bodies etc. deserve the resources they used to acquire their wealth. So since we are all in this together, and for the believer, the Love of God is shed abroad in our hearts, and since we are to be Royal Ambassadors for Christ, and since we are to be imitators of Christ, and etc. etc. we have a DUTY, a RESPONSIBILITY, to help those in need.
How? We pay our taxes. We may complain that they are confiscatory, we may criticize their distribution, we make work to change things. That is all good. In the USA we are the government. But we pay them none-the-less.
We give to individuals who need our assistance.
We give to churches who help those in need.
We give to World hunger organisations.
We might even support the building of factories in other countries to help them be more gainfully employed. The one with the gold (factories) gets to make the rules. True, in their endeavors of providing more jobs to other countries they may make a greater profit. PROFIT is not BAD, SINFUL, or EVIL.
I am against Social Justice because it is a misnomer at best. Those with no desire to work will always claim that helping them is social justice. I would rather place the burden on those with the resources to share to decide, reminding them frequently of the teachings of Christ concerning God's concern for the poor. That is an Ethic of Responsibility.

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