Justice or Social Justice, Not Both (2019 Apr)

by Barry A. Liebling

Leftists are eager to boast they are for social justice. Those who are active in the progressive left cabal work hard – in politics, in business, in education, in all aspects of everyday life – to see it come about.

But not everyone is tricked by the leftist agenda. Conservatives, libertarians, and ordinary citizens with little interest in politics are at least uncomfortable with the social justice playbook. And those who have an accurate understanding of what is entailed by social justice reject it entirely. Here are important facts you should know about social justice.

Consider ordinary, straightforward justice. It is the valid idea that a person should get what a person deserves. And deserving is entirely based on an individual’s choices and actions. Do the right things, and you should prosper. Behave badly and you deserve bad outcomes. Generally speaking acting properly means living a productive life while respecting the natural rights of others – which means dealing only by mutual consent and not tolerating the initiation of force or fraud. Of course, justice does not always prevail. There are endless instances of people suffering injustice. But the concept, properly understood, applies to individuals and is an appropriate basis for making judgements.

Social justice is incompatible with justice. It deliberately discounts (sometimes to zero) individual actions and focuses on group membership. The modern interpretation of social justice is derived from Marxism. Originally, Marx described the inevitable conflict between economic classes – for example the working class versus the property owners. The working class is oppressed, and the property owners are oppressors. The oppressed (according to social justice) deserve to take the power and wealth away from the oppressors. The oppressors deserve to lose everything. According to dialectical materialism the “flow of history” assures that the oppressed will inevitably win.

Social justice enthusiasts do not stop with economic classes. These leftist zealots invent as many categories as they can where there is an oppressed, good class (for example women, ethnic minorities, gays and lesbians) which is the designated “victim” of the oppressors (straight white males, who automatically have three strikes against them, are the arch villains in this menagerie). In the world of social justice the more oppressed categories a person can claim the more that person deserves. And oppressors – because of their group memberships – deserve to be put down.

Notice that social justice discounts individual choice and action – but does not entirely eliminate it. If you belong to one or more oppressed groups you are supposed to resent people who are officially your oppressors. Tell them they owe you wealth and power because before you or they were born some of their ancestors were better off than some of your ancestors.

Suppose you belong to multiple oppressor groups (again think of straight white males) and you are committed to leftist “ideals” and on-board with social justice. How should you behave? The appropriate response is to publicly turn your anger inward, engage in self flagellation, and proclaim how ashamed you are to have privilege based on your (impossible to escape) group membership.

Here is something to consider. In the real world of justice you have agency to make yourself a better person. If you think clearly and act properly you are likely to flourish (which is is not the same as guaranteed success). In the social justice universe your moral worth is determined principally by what groups you belong to (whether or not you ever decided to join). The most you can do to better your circumstances is to follow the social justice playbook and do what you can to push down the official oppressors.

There is a lot of contemporary political talk about people coming together and respecting one another, or conversely stewing in mutual rancor. Of course, a benevolent society is ideal. In the real world if most people act right, most people get along. Observe the natural consequence of buying into the social justice way of thinking. People are assigned to permanently antagonistic tribes where the players are supposed to aggress against those who are in the “bad tribes.” There is no peace. Social justice implies perpetual conflict.

How is it decided what categories count as being oppressed and what groups are the oppressors? A naive observer might mistakenly believe that the answer is obvious. But assigning oppressor or oppressed status to groups is complicated and is ultimately decided by the high priests of leftist politics. It really depends on who the progressive ruling elite despise the most. Here is an example. It is now in vogue for social justice warriors to call for reparations for slavery. The descendants of slaves should received gigantic riches which is to be taken from the decedents of slave owners. But it is not obvious exactly who qualifies in each category. Do African Americans who arrived in the United States after slavery was abolished fit into the victim group? Do white Americans whose relatives never owned slaves qualify as oppressors? Try untangling that knot.

It gets worse. Are there any social justice advocates calling for African Americans to pay reparations to the decedents of white soldiers who fought and sometimes died in a war to end slavery? Of course not. Social justice is not blind. It is always adjusted to deliver punishment to individuals who belong to groups the leftist vanguard hates.

Often you hear complaints from people who are not committed to the left that there is too much emphasis on social justice. The movement, they lament, has gone too far. In fact, the entire idea of social justice should be recognized as the antithesis of genuine justice. Get rid of it.

*** See other entries at AlertMindPublishing.com in “Monthly Columns.” ***

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