The cry for “social justice” is a call for the State to do something to fix economic and relational inequities without any regard to a universal principle of justice. Equality of outcome is the goal, the same goal that we find in Communist nations. Everyone is equal, equally impoverished except the bureaucrats administering the “equality” programs.
By describing justice in social rather than legal, or better, moral terms, our attention is immediately drawn to national problems that can only be fixed by a civil government with enough power to enforce its policies. So then, advocates of “social justice” believe that the State plays the key role in rectifying so-called social problems because they are national in scope. Antonio Martino points out, however, that the expression
social justice . . . owes its immense popularity precisely to its ambiguity and meaninglessness. It can be used by different people, holding quite different views, to designate a wide variety of different things. Its obvious appeal stems from its persuasive strength, from its positive connotations, which allows the user to praise his own ideas and simultaneously express contempt for the ideas of those who don’t agree with him.1
Anyone who criticizes policies that carry the label “social justice” are immediately considered to be callous, insensitive, uncaring, and lacking in compassion. Those who oppose “social justice” policies are not against treating people in a just way. They firmly believe that most if not all social justice policies that involve the State are wrong and, in the long run, do more harm than good. Attaching the “social justice” label to a government program does not make it just or helpful any more than attaching a Mercedes Benz hood ornament to a Volkswagen will turn it into a luxury car.
Foes of sophisticated and expensive governmental programs that are designed to help the poor and implemented by distant bureaucratic agencies may be right on target with their opposition. They have history on their side. Confiscating trillions of dollars from one segment of society and redistributing the collected revenue to another segment of society and calling it “social justice” does not mean that it is in fact the justthing to do.
“Social justice” is not in operation when the State takes upon itself the right to confiscate so-called excess capital from the rich to care for the poor, especially when the Bible opposes confiscatory taxation and such policies do not work.
Attempts to solve problems by declaring war on them by the national government has been an ongoing theme in politics since the mid-1960s. As you might expect, wars are expensive, and there are many casualties. “Overall, civilian social welfare costs increased by twenty times from 1950 to 1980, in constant dollars. During the same period, the United States population increased by half.”2 When the Food Stamp Program began in 1965, 424,000 people participated in the program (that’s less than 9,000 people per state, a manageable number for private welfare agencies to handle). Typically, social welfare programs begin small and then expand well beyond their initial intended purpose. When a behavior is subsidized, you get more of it.))
At the end of Lyndon Johnson’s presidency in 1968, participation increased to 2.2 million. The number doubled during the first two years of Richard Nixon’s presidency (1969-1970). By the end of Nixon’s first term in 1972, the number of food stamp recipients had increased five-fold. “By 1980, more than twenty-one million people were receiving food stamps, fifty times more people than were covered during the Johnson presidency.”3
Using the State to satisfy a concept of “social justice” did more harm than good because it lured people into programs that made them dependent upon the State. Undoubtedly there were poor people in 1965 who needed food and shelter but creating government programs in an attempt to satisfy the need was the wrong solution…
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