Thursday, December 10, 2009

Social Justice

A concept becoming more apparent in today’s society, one that has run rampant in schools and universities and one that receives much approval is the concept of social justice. It is a concept that inspires the young, drives ideological politicians (particularly on the left), ecological crusades and human rights conventions. But what is social justice?

The term "social justice" was initially promoted by the Catholic Church and other institutions such as world human rights organisations, green parties and left-leaning governments. Wikipedia defines social justice as a term used to denote the principles of: economic egalitarianism, progressive taxation, income redistribution and property redistribution – all aiming to achieve equality of opportunity and equality of results. The antonym of these of course is the inequality of opportunity and results, and disparity in wealth and lifestyles between individuals. The term social justice appeals particularly to the left and to those less discerning. It is a euphemism for the abolition of private property rights, individual rights and freedom. This is accomplished by legislation permitting the government to expropriate the wealth produced by the productive in order to subordinate their products to the non-productive. This ultimately leaves the productive with little incentive to produce any more than they do and the poor more dependent on the state. For the poor this results in their stagnation; it gives them little incentive to go to work and more incentive to breed more individuals like themselves.

Now to shed a little more light on the issue of social justice, a definition of egalitarianism, which is what social justice really means, is explained here:

“Egalitarianism is a moral principle. It is the belief that all people should be equal. This does not amount to an ethical system, though. It has no standard of value. It is the belief that value should be split evenly, but it says nothing about what those values are. Egalitarianism rides piggyback on other ethical systems. Examples of egalitarianism are widespread. Hatred of inheritance is one. That some people start off life in an easier position than others is despised by egalitarianism. So is the fact that some people have nurturing families, while others don't. Equality of results manifests itself in judgments about the economy. Difference in salary can cause much resentment. The list goes on and on. Egalitarianism comes in many forms, all of which are destructive. From equality of opportunity, to equality of results, it always has a single result. *Those who have achieved values must sacrifice them to those who don't.* Egalitarianism manifest itself as hatred of those who are successful or that have managed to achieve values. Those who have achieved values are despised. They are the ones who have acted to create inequality through the pursuit of happiness. The lazy and incompetent are not to blame. They didn't cause the inequality. Egalitarianism is just a mask for the hatred of the good. It is not concerned with the well-being of anyone. It only cares that everyone is in the same position, even if that position is starving and helpless. It asks for the destruction of value so that all can be equal. The rich must be made poor. The strong must be made weak. The beautiful must be made ugly. The competent must be made incompetent. The good must be made evil. The goal of egalitarianism is death, where true equality lies.”

In the Catechism of the Holy Catholic Church, section 2425, Pope John Paul the second writes, “The church rejects the totalitarian and atheistic ideologies associated in modern times with communism or socialism. She has likewise refused to accept in the practice of capitalism, individualism and the absolute primacy of the law of the marketplace over human labour. Regulating the economy solely by centralized planning perverts the basis of social bonds; regulating it solely by the law of the marketplace fails social justice, for there are many human needs which cannot be satisfied by the market.” In the encyclical “Populorum Progressio” Pope Paul the Sixth writes, “It is unfortunate that on these new conditions of society a system has been constructed which considers profit as the key motive for economic progress, competition as the supreme law of economics, and private ownership of the means of production as an absolute obligation."

Not surprisingly the Catholic Church rejects both systems - capitalism because of its tenets of individualism and the profit motive, and communism not because of its tenets but because of its atheism and oppression. Pope John Paul the Second goes on to lay out the blueprint for his “reasonable regulation of the marketplace and its associated sound economic initiatives” by offering the same Marxist blueprint that underpins the oppressive collectivist doctrines that he denounced only a few words ago. He states that “To work is a duty, to provide for one's family, one’s self and for one's community”; “Rich nations have a moral responsibility towards those that have not achieved the same wealth or who have been prevented in doing so by historical events”; “Everyone should make legitimate use of his talents to contribute his talents to the abundance that will benefit all, and to harvest the fruits of his labour”; “Economic life is not meant solely to multiply goods produced and increase profit and power; it is ordered first of all to the service of persons, of the whole man, and of the entire human community." You may be asking at this point what is so terrible about the Pope’s sentiments. If it were merely personal opinion then perhaps there wouldn’t be a problem. However, this is the official stand of the Catholic Church on economic principles balanced on the concept of social justice.

The Catholic Church’s attitude can be made very clear when faced with a few essential questions. Does man have a right live for his own sake or is he a slave living for the sake of others? Is the standard of the good what is right and proper for an individual based on his nature as a volitional human being who possesses a rational faculty or is it based on moral objectives set out arbitrarily by legislative authorities, social or mystical dictums? Is man to think and act freely in all matters of life, both spiritual and material, or is he to live by faith and in obedience? Are economic life, productivity, the profit motive, voluntary trade and voluntary associations among individuals working toward their own prosperity, the sole purpose of the economy? Or is the economy a massive aid programme whereby individuals work hard, keep a little and then have the majority of their product expropriated by third parties, distributing it as they see fit to whomever is deemed to be in need at the time? It is clear that the Church’s position is the latter of these.

The evangelists for social justice including the Catholic Church have a very clear choice to make. Unfortunately their choice of a middle ground is an illusion. Principles such as individualism or collectivism are polar opposites and the idea that you could mix the two is an elementary mistake. The Pope, however, is an educated man and the chances of him making a mistake of this nature are highly unlikely. The so called “reasonable regulations of the market place” or “split economies” may appear as a half way measure, a platform of compromise between two extremist ideologies but in practice the legislation will always lead to collectivism. Principles are not characteristics, elements or attributes of ideas. They are the ideas and as such cannot be compromised. You either have property rights or you do not… In a split economy or fascist state you may own property but only by permission at the mercy of the government but you do not own it as a right, in the sense that you can modify or dispose of your property as you see fit without state consultation at huge personal cost.

As with the principle of property rights it is so with the principle of freedom. You either have freedom or you do not. Freedom is the ability to act or to think without the initiation of force by other individuals or a government being used against you, to stop you from acting or expressing that thought. Hence the saying, freedom of speech also means the freedom to offend with what you say. The oxymoron that is the concept of hate speech is yet another attempt by government trying to protect free speech but also attempting to protect people's sensitivities – speak freely for sure but do not offend anyone. Of course the practicalities of stating a truth in public without offending anyone such as radical Islamists are such as to render the exercise impossible.

The stance taken by the church adapting to new socio-political arenas over the years and especially after it lost its own political power is a great illustration of a long standing phenomenon of the church expressing the ability to challenge the basis of its practices but not the basis of its morality. Individualism, the profit motive, property rights, egoism are the concepts that under pin the economic system of capitalism, the one that produces the greatest amount of goods and services and human prosperity. Collectivism or altruism is the system of slavery whereby humanity is commanded to subordinate their lives, their minds and their products to either a God or a state or a society. These are the concepts that underpin communism or fascism. The church’s attempt at the middle ground is an attempt to gain the effects without observing the necessary causes and in fact stealing the causes underpinning the bloodiest of political ideologies in order to restructure capitalist economies in the hope of maintaining their productivity. The idea is to preserve the tenets of altruism and collectivism, whereby humanity is enslaved to the needs of its members in the hope that it will result in the same economic prosperity as capitalism can offer.

In the early 20th century the leaders of the communist and fascist movements denounced the theocracies because their reasoning was considered to stem from mysticism, which it did. So they threw the mystical elements out whilst preserving the epistemology and morality that gave rise to their economic principles. As Rand eloquently observed to secularise a once- theocratic error is still to commit it.

The revolt against individualism by the Church and by other collectivists particularly lefties and greenies is a misguided onslaught based upon an ancient dichotomous portrayal of man as either the exploiter or the exploited. Of a fat, rich, greedy, hedonistic, consumer that rapes the earth and the poor of their resources and opportunities - versus - a skinny, poor, servant, who dedicates his life to living for others, humble in matter and spirit, one that is exploited by greedy opportunists taking advantage of him. The idea that this is the alternative facing humanity today is false. Both portrayals, and in fact both ideologies, of fascism and communism are part of the same fraudulent coin. The former expects others to sacrifice themselves to him and the latter sacrifices himself to others. It is the image and portrayal of humanity as a sacrificial animal. The “reasonably, regulated economy” or the “split economy” that the pope and that most other people recommend today is the attempt to make sure that the burden of sacrifice output versus sacrifice input remains equitable for all humanity, still running with the conclusion that sacrifice is integral to human existence. However, there is another alternative: a much better one that doesn’t require human sacrifices, one that upholds the sovereignty of all individuals over themselves, a socio-political system of human individual rights.

Individualism is a political theory holding that each human being is an end to himself; that men have inalienable rights to their own lives, and that the sole purpose of civilised society and of government is to protect those rights. Its antithesis, collectivism, holds that society as a whole – the state – not the individual, is the unit of moral value, and that an individual’s rights and values must be subordinated to its needs and dictates. Individual rights are explained in the AR Lexicon: “A ‘right’ is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man’s freedom of action in a social context. There is only one fundamental right (all the others are its consequences or corollaries) - a man’s right to his own life. Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action; the right to life means the right to engage in self-sustaining and self-generated action – which means: the freedom to take all the actions required by the nature of a rational being for the support, the furtherance, the fulfilment and the enjoyment of his own life. (Such is the meaning of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.) The concept of a ‘right’ pertains only to action – specifically, to freedom of action. It means freedom from physical compulsion, coercion or interference by other men. Thus, for every individual, a right is the moral sanction of a positive – of his freedom to act on his own judgement, for his own goals, by his own voluntary, uncoerced choice. As to his neighbours, his rights impose no obligations on them except of a negative kind: to abstain from violating his rights. The right to life is the source of all rights – and the right to property is their only implementation. Without property rights, no other rights are possible. Since man has to sustain his life by his own effort, the man who has no right to the product of his effort has no means to sustain his life. The man, who produces while others dispose of his product, is a slave.” Hence it is the view of this author that the concept of social justice which means egalitarianism which means the compulsory disposal of the products produced by one man in order to “redistribute” them to the non-productive is a concept which is necessarily by definition the antithesis of individual rights and therefore it is anti-life.

The moral theory supporting the political notion of individualism is egoism. “Egoism exhorts a man to be the beneficiary of his own actions. That is, to pursue his interests, his fulfilments and his happiness. It emphasises the importance of the individual, of a personal life, of privately held values, of a man’s own aspirations, goals, dreams and hopes. Egoism urges men to achieve the values their lives require, not to sacrifice them” (Bernstein, 2005). Furthermore, the issue of private property including the concept of the private ownership over the means of production is the “moral principle that men own the product of their intellectual and or bodily efforts” (Bernstein, 2005). Moreover, Bernstein explains that the profit motive is “the incentive to work productively in order to increase one's economic gain. Such a motive is logically dependent on private property because it presupposes that men can retain both their earnings and the goods they purchase with them. Morally if men have a right to their own lives, then they have a right to keep the values they have gained by their own effort, the values that their lives depend on.” As the reader can see already there is a clear conflict between the principles of individual rights, private property and the profit motive and those of collectivism, wealth redistribution, progressive taxation and social justice or egalitarianism.

We are encouraged to “keep in mind that logically and historically freedom is based on egoism and reason. A principled commitment to liberty arises only when men recognise two related truths: that human beings have the inalienable right to their own lives – and that the mind is the means by which they gain knowledge and promote their lives. Therefore, men must be free to further their own lives and to employ the instrument allowing them to do so. This forms the basis of the principle of individual rights that is the essence of capitalism” (Bernstein, 2005).

“In brief, capitalism is the system of reason, egoism, and freedom. This means that it liberates the instrument by which men creates values (reason), it acknowledges their need, and rewards their attempts, to achieve their own values (egoism); and protects their legal right to pursue their own values (freedom). That men therefore produce values [and wealth] under capitalism is no mystery."

It is this system of individual rights, of laissez-faire capitalism, that society ought to repair to, not a newly fabricated variant of collectivism. It remains a bizarre mystery that capitalism to this day receives so much resentment and abuse where on the other hand global governments receive so much adulation and trust from the public. This is especially in light of the fact that collectivism has claimed the lives of over 100 million people in China and a further approximate 100 million in Russia, South America, Europe, North Korea, and Cambodia combined, some through torture killings and others through mass starvation. This is a track record resulting from state control and ownership. The blood shed in our history and the famines of the last hundred years in the countries mentioned were a result of state intervention, not capitalism. This is not a call to the Business Roundtable but a call to an uncompromising commitment to individual rights.

Ideas and quotes from the following books:
Requiem for Man, Capitalism The Unknown Ideal by Ayn Rand
The Capitalism Manifesto by Andrew Bernstein
The Ayn Rand Lexicon Volume 4

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