The Mysticism of ‘Social Justice’

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If there were a Hall of Fame for political rhetoric, the phrase “social justice” would deserve a prominent place there. It has the prime virtue of political catchwords: It means many different things to many different people.

In other words, if you are a politician, you can get lots of people, with different concrete ideas, to agree with you when you come out boldly for the vague generality of “social justice.”

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said that a good catchword can stop thought for 50 years. The phrase “social justice” has stopped many people from thinking, for at least a century — and counting.

If someone told you that Country A had more “social justice” than Country B, and you had all the statistics in the world available to you, how would you go about determining whether Country A or Country B had more “social justice”? In short, what does the phrase mean in practice — if it has any concrete meaning?

In political and ideological discussions, the issue is usually whether there is some social injustice. Even if we can agree that there is some injustice, what makes it social?

Surely most of us are repelled by the thought that some people are born into dire poverty, while others are born into extravagant luxury — each through no fault of their own and no virtue of their own. If this is an injustice, does that make it social?

The baby born into dire poverty might belong to a family in Bangladesh, and the one born to extravagant luxury might belong to a family in America. Whose fault is this disparity or injustice? Is there some specific society that caused this? Or is it just one of those things in the world that we wish was very different?

If it is an injustice, it is unjust from some cosmic perspective, an unjust fate, rather than necessarily an unjust policy, institution or society.

Making a distinction between cosmic justice and social justice is more than just a semantic fine point. Once we recognize that there are innumerable causes of innumerable disparities, we can no longer blithely assume that either the cause or the cure can be found in the government of a particular society.

Anyone who studies geography in any depth can see that different peoples and nations never had the same exposure to the progress of the rest of the human race.

People living in isolated mountain valleys have for centuries lagged behind the progress of people living in busy ports, where both new products and new ideas constantly arrive from around the world.

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  • Anamah

    When I read Sowell and compare with Sharpton I realize is not social justice… is not the color… is not the country, is simply a difference in their quality… Eureka!!! the Reverend has something wrong, he have something rotten inside, a so morbid individual that simply explains how human nature can go. Sowell is a a joy! Like hearing Mozart! The other one… is at least unbearable…

  • Robin

    And yet the UN has decreed, and now the US is implementing, that the educational results and the granting of degrees may not be affected by social or economic backgrounds. All the real differences that affect an ability to think abstractly or logically will cease to matter.

    We must have equity of results even if that means the nature of education for all shifts to vocational, skills,basic literacy only, influencing attitudes and values instead of nurturing the intellect.

    There is also an organized movement to move us beyond text so that the visual and aural count just as much. Taking us back to the primitive, preliterate days in the name of equity.

    Where's the social justice in trying to make all citizens malleable, manipulable, and subject to the herd instinct?

  • davarino

    Everyone is free to do with their brain what they want. If they want to waste it on drugs and booze, or video games and lounging around, thats their right, but dont blame that on society. There are lots of "disadvantaged" people that take advantage of the opportunities given to them and make the most of it, which makes them advantaged. Now if you want to call hard work and applying one's self, "advantaged/social injustice", so be it, but its there for the taking. Or you can forgo your God given gifts and settle for something much less by crying "social injustice" and wait for the government to come and give you the scrapps off their miserable table.

  • Sparky

    There's no point in pretending that "social justice" is anything other than a wet blanket that the progressives can throw over reality. Since the term has absolutely no meaning whatsoever, or can mean whatever those in power want it to mean, it really becomes a term that can be pointed at ANY differences among any populations in the world and justify the use of coercive power to "rectify" the inequity. Since equality itself is the greatest social myth ever perpetuated by man on himself, social justtice is a perpetual ticket for those in power to oppress those not in power. It is ruinous at best and will lead to either acquiescence on the part of the governed, or bloody revolution in an attempt to throw the blanket off!

  • Iratus Vulgas

    Meaningless melodramatic buzz words are basic building blocks of the Left. It allows them to build emotional arguments without regard to logic. They often speak a language all their own. Unfortunately, too many people buy into this political theater. It's easier than thinking.

  • 080

    Social justice is what we're doing. It is based on the twin budget and current account deficits. Since those will soon be coming to an end the social justice will disappear.

  • poetcomic1

    Never forget that the Nazi sympathizer and Jew-hater Father Coughlin who was disowned by the Catholic Church sold millions of his weekly paper in the 1930's. The name of the paper was SOCIAL JUSTICE. Fascism= Liberalism.

  • Don Kosloff

    The sooner it disappears, the better.

  • acey

    give me a example of a cosmic value