Sunday, May 13, 2012

Jonah Goldberg on the Asininity of Social Justice

Here's an excerpt from Jonah Goldberg's cover story in the current issue of National Review, "The Tyranny of Clichés," based on his new book with the same title (emphasis added):

"In 1840, the theologian Luigi Taparelli d’Azeglio came up with the concept of social justice as a way to defend civil society from the ever-increasing intrusions of the state. Social justice, according to Taparelli, was the legitimate realm of justice beyond formal legal justice. Since then, the term has become completely inverted: “Social justice” has become an abracadabra phrase granting the state access to every nook and cranny of life. 

The only way for social justice to make sense is if you operate from the assumption that the invisible hand of the market should be amputated and replaced with the very visible hand of the state. In other words, each explicit demand for social justice carries with it the implicit but necessary requirement that the state do the fixing. And a society dedicated to the pursuit of perfect social justice must gradually move more and more decisions under the command of the state, until it is the sole moral agent.  

Social justice is a Trojan horse concealing a much more radical agenda. “Social justice” is a profoundly ideological term, masquerading as a generic term for goodness. In short, it is a tyrannical cliché, a seemingly benign truism that, like a pill with a pleasant protective coating, conceals a mind-altering substance within."

32 Comments:

At 5/13/2012 2:29 PM, Blogger AIG said...

He is right, but the only people who use terms like "social justice", and who actually believe in it's meaning and application, are 18-25 year old OWS-etrs, or burned out communists. It's fortunately not really a phenomenon in the US, like it is in most parts of Europe where this is an actual "legitimate" political philosophy.

 
At 5/13/2012 2:55 PM, Blogger Prof J said...

I'd like to think you're correct, AIG, but there seems to be a lot of popular support for things like UI and welfare that come under the heading 'social justice.' No one is talking about ditching Affirmative Action, are they? In fact, there is more talk than ever, to my mind, about things like corporate social responsibility and the importance of not-for-profits. Are these not social justice concerns? I think Americans are becoming more like Europeans, not less.

 
At 5/13/2012 4:22 PM, Blogger AIG said...

In fact, there is more talk than ever, to my mind, about things like corporate social responsibility and the importance of not-for-profits.
Yes there is a lot of talk about those things. But there is very little actual attention paid to them. CSR is just one of those "fads" that pops up every 5-10 years in the academic community. It dies out pretty quickly once everyone realizes that there's no money in it. I've heard from several people who've made it their living to focus on CSR, that it is a dead fish. Whenever they get a bright-eyed student come around and tell them that this is what they're interested in, they turn them away.

There's still the "talk", and companies still have websites on "CSR", but no one takes it seriously. The problem is that there is a "lag" in the phases of a "fad". It has died out long before the "talk" about it dies out. Same with "sustainability"; everyone in the academic world where it started life has already realized it is a dead concept because there's no money in it. But in the policy world, it is just starting life. It's the life-cycle of a fad.

I think Americans are becoming more like Europeans, not less.
I'm not sure. I think we were more bright-eyed about big government 50 years ago then we are today.

 
At 5/13/2012 4:39 PM, Blogger Paul said...

AIG,

"I think we were more bright-eyed about big government 50 years ago then we are today."

Yeah, but we have a much higher % of the public addicted to it.

 
At 5/13/2012 4:46 PM, Blogger Paul said...

When it comes to the Left, It's not just "social", but also "economic","food","health","environmental", and so on. Just append the word "justice" to any kind of activity where resources can be transferred from producers to freeloaders.


"..the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and of more basic issues such as political and economic justice in society.

To that extent, as radical as I think people try to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn’t that radical. It didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the founding fathers in the Constitution, at least as its been interpreted and Warren Court interpreted in the same way, that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties."

~Barack Obama

 
At 5/13/2012 5:18 PM, Blogger Prof J said...

AIG,

The corporations largely view CSR as marketing. But then it only has value as marketing if the buying public values it, which makes me think the public buys the story of CSR.

It is also probably the case that Americans are more divided than before, so we have some who love the state, and others who have the opposite view. Has it always been thus? I don't know. I'm too new here. I do have the impression that never have so many people been willing to call themselves libertarians.

 
At 5/13/2012 5:49 PM, Blogger AIG said...

The corporations largely view CSR as marketing. But then it only has value as marketing if the buying public values it, which makes me think the public buys the story of CSR.
True, it is marketing. But very little marketing actually creates value for most firms. There is certainly no evidence to suggest that there are any positive returns to CSR.

CSR was supposed to be a whole new business model and management model, and it failed so miserably and so quickly that it only ever existed as a tab on a company website. Now most people who advocate it can't even pretend that it wasn't a failure. They just move on to the next new fad of the decade (sustainability, ethics in business schools etc)

Background noise, like all the sustainability, social justice "insert word here" justice type of fads. And like background noise, the thing that generated it, has already moved on.

My old school for example a few years back was all into the "sustainability" fad. Lots of new master and PhD programs. Big new building. Lots of new professors. 3 years later, it had lost all the industry projects, it had lost most of the professors, it had lost most of the students, and it only served as a marketing tool for the university to attach the world "sustainability" next to every single engineering project that was going on (because after all, if you're working on extending the life of a fighter bomber for the USN...that's "sustainable", right? Sure it is)

Same with the business school. Lots and lots of noise from a couple of loud mouths about the need for CSR and ethics and sustainability. So they started a whole new department and a whole new major and concentration. A few year's later, only 2 students registered for that program. No amount of ridicule from the finance and econ professors could have brought about a more deserving end to that fad.

I say to Jonah Golberg, no point in getting worked up over silly fads. Ridicule them instead.

 
At 5/13/2012 7:27 PM, Blogger Waynester said...

Thomas Sowell: "All justice is inherently social. Can someone on a desert island be either just or unjust?"

 
At 5/13/2012 7:27 PM, Blogger Waynester said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 5/14/2012 6:48 AM, Blogger Zachriel said...

Martin Luther King: Now whenever anything new comes into history, it brings with it news responsibilities and new challenges. I would like to mention some of the challenges that we face in the world and in our nation as a result of this emerging new age of social justice. I would like to start on the world scale by saying more than ever before that men and women are challenged to develop a world perspective. The world in which we live is geographically one. Now we are challenged to make it one in terms of brotherhood.
http://www.wmich.edu/~ulib/archives/mlk/transcription.html

 
At 5/14/2012 8:38 AM, Blogger mike k said...

"He is right, but the only people who use terms like "social justice", and who actually believe in it's meaning and application, are 18-25 year old OWS-etrs, or burned out communists."

AIG, the church I attend and many others I know have "social justice" committees. These committees engage in nonsense like letter writing campaigns to congress, asking for the forgiveness of debt of third world nations, more spending on welfare programs, support for Obamacare etc. Unfortunately, I don't believe it's a fad. It's as if the church has abdicated its responsibility to serve the poor, indigent, ignorant and sick and now looks to the government to perform the role churches and other philanthropical organizations have historically played.

On another anecdotal note, I have a niece graduating this spring from a very small midwestern liberal arts college with, you guessed it, a degree in "social justice". Of course, she plans to teach elementary school. Already accepted to a MA Education program while working in the same school district as her sister. I actually find this "fad" a little frightening.

I think Goldberg was right on target.

 
At 5/14/2012 8:39 AM, Blogger mike k said...

"He is right, but the only people who use terms like "social justice", and who actually believe in it's meaning and application, are 18-25 year old OWS-etrs, or burned out communists."

AIG, the church I attend and many others I know have "social justice" committees. These committees engage in nonsense like letter writing campaigns to congress, asking for the forgiveness of debt of third world nations, more spending on welfare programs, support for Obamacare etc. Unfortunately, I don't believe it's a fad. It's as if the church has abdicated its responsibility to serve the poor, indigent, ignorant and sick and now looks to the government to perform the role churches and other philanthropical organizations have historically played.

On another anecdotal note, I have a niece graduating this spring from a very small midwestern liberal arts college with, you guessed it, a degree in "social justice". Of course, she plans to teach elementary school. Already accepted to a MA Education program while working in the same school district as her sister. I actually find this "fad" a little frightening.

I think Goldberg was right on target.

 
At 5/14/2012 9:20 AM, Blogger juandos said...

"No one is talking about ditching Affirmative Action.."...

Well maybe its time to ditch this form of institutionalized racism that promotes the less than mediocre prof j...

"When it comes to the Left, It's not just "social", but also "economic", "food", "health", "environmental", and so on. Just append the word "justice" to any kind of activity where resources can be transferred from producers to freeloaders"...

Outstanding description paul of what is being foisted off as deep philosophical and social consciousness now a days...

" Now we are challenged to make it one in terms of brotherhood"...

Baloney zach!...

 
At 5/14/2012 9:54 AM, Blogger AIG said...

AIG, the church I attend and many others I know have "social justice" committees.
Catholic church, I bet. Yes I have seen these sort of things in Catholic churches before. But these are "committees" started by young people, with young people (correct me if I'm wrong). There's OWS-ers in your Catholic church too.

Also, hasn't this been a historical behavior of the Catholic Church? IE...a form of "collectivism" which they do try to translate into government policy? (don't want to pick on the Catholic Church here, but that's just my historical perspective)

 
At 5/14/2012 9:56 AM, Blogger Zachriel said...

juandos: Baloney

How so? Those are King's words on the topic of "social justice".

 
At 5/14/2012 9:56 AM, Blogger Hydra said...

How about you leave off the adjectives and just call it Justice. If you pursue Justice and it happens to lead to any of those areas, would it be any more palatable?

Is Justice anything more than equal rights, balanced with equal responsibilities? If that (or something like it)is the case, who cares about the adjectives?

 
At 5/14/2012 9:58 AM, Blogger Hydra said...

and the importance of not-for-profits.

================================
Isn't one cornerstone of the conservative welfare plan increased dependence on not for profits = charities?

 
At 5/14/2012 10:03 AM, Blogger Hydra said...

I say to Jonah Golberg, no point in getting worked up over silly fads. Ridicule them instead.
==================================

What is the difference between a fad and established dogma?

A fad is newer, and therefore it represents disruptive thinking, which like disruptive technology, is a threat to established interests.

 
At 5/14/2012 10:11 AM, Blogger AIG said...

Is Justice anything more than equal rights, balanced with equal responsibilities? If that (or something like it)is the case, who cares about the adjectives?
That...is not the case. That's the point. That's why they call it something other than simply, justice.

A fad is newer, and therefore it represents disruptive thinking, which like disruptive technology, is a threat to established interests.
There's really no comparison here between this and disruptive technologies.

 
At 5/14/2012 10:38 AM, Blogger mike k said...

AIG, the church I attend and many others I know have "social justice" committees.
Catholic church, I bet. Yes I have seen these sort of things in Catholic churches before. But these are "committees" started by young people, with young people (correct me if I'm wrong). There's OWS-ers in your Catholic church too.

AIG, correct on the catholic, incorrect on the age of the committee members. Predominantly white, affluent, professionals older than myself (I'm in my 50's). They may very well support OWS (I actually believe they do) but my comment was about your assertion of social justice being a "fad". Is marxism a fad? progressivism a fad? "Social Justice" appears to me to be the current rejoinder for collectivism and I don't see that as a fad.

 
At 5/14/2012 11:09 AM, Blogger Paul said...

AIG,

"But these are "committees" started by young people, with young people (correct me if I'm wrong). There's OWS-ers in your Catholic church too."

It's much more than that. I'm Catholic myself, so I don't want to besmirch the entire church, but there is a large element of radical clergy within, especially in Latin America where the Catholic church has a long history of aiding and participating with Marxist guerillas.

In fact, radical elements within the church teamed up with Saul Alinsky in the early 70's to help fund his community organizer machine. The CCHD has given over $40 million since the 70's to radical organizations like ACORN, The Midwest Academy, and UNO of Chicago. Here's a link detailing what I'm talking about: http://www.reformcchdnow.com/

 
At 5/14/2012 11:13 AM, Blogger AIG said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 5/14/2012 11:17 AM, Blogger AIG said...

Well I can't really speak of what goes on in churches, but you're right...I have seen it take more traction there than elsewhere.

Which is one of the things that worries me when I think of the "religious right"..it's not really "right".

 
At 5/14/2012 11:40 AM, Blogger Paul said...

AIG,


"Which is one of the things that worries me when I think of the "religious right"..it's not really "right".

Because they are different factions. There's a huge "religious Left" element out there that never is called to account by the media. The Catholic church was largely in Obama's corner right up until it bit them in the ass with the contraception mandate.

 
At 5/14/2012 4:27 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"How so? Those are King's words on the topic of "social justice""...

Well what set up King as a definer of 'social justice' zach?

 
At 5/14/2012 5:05 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

Is Justice anything more than equal rights, balanced with equal responsibilities?


To which AIG responds:



That...is not the case.

=================================


And you don't see a problem with this argument?


Are you suggesting that justice is something other than equal rights and equal responsibilities?


Or are you suggesting that any kind of justice that might be qualified as social rather than, say, criminal, is really about really about destroying equal rights and equal responsibilities: that this is not and can never be anything rightfully called social justice, because ALL of it is wrong?

 
At 5/14/2012 5:22 PM, Blogger Paul said...

"Are you suggesting that justice is something other than equal rights and equal responsibilities?"

We're saying "social justice" is something other than equal rights and equal responsibilities. Nobody who uses the term would say tax cuts for people who pay disproportionate taxes is a form of social justice. Ditto for the deportation of illegal immigrants.

 
At 5/14/2012 5:42 PM, Blogger AIG said...

And you don't see a problem with this argument?
Hydra, with all due respect, you can't SERIOUSLY be that...?

Finish the rest of the quotation that I responded to. You see now what I was responding to?

 
At 5/14/2012 8:25 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"Are you suggesting that justice is something other than equal rights and equal responsibilities?"...

Well personally hydra I see two problems right off the bat with this line of yours...

Problem 1) Social Justice is all about pandering to society's lowest common denominator...

Problem 2) There's no 'justice' in the justice system...

 
At 5/15/2012 9:24 AM, Blogger John H said...

Please libertarians stop making this terrible anti-social justice argument. Don't say you don't know what it is or that it can't be given any sense. It is quite clear what it is or at least no less clear than ordinary justice.

And a demand for social justice does not have to be associated with the state. You can easily think that social justice is better served in free market ways. e.g. the minimum wage is bad for people.

in addition, ordinary justice as understood by libertarians is a demand for state involvement. They call for proetection of private property by the state for example

 
At 5/15/2012 4:33 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"Are you suggesting that justice is something other than equal rights and equal responsibilities?


Or are you suggesting that any kind of justice that might be qualified as social rather than, say, criminal, is really about really about destroying equal rights and equal responsibilities: that this is not and can never be anything rightfully called social justice, because ALL of it is wrong?
"

Please try to write comments that make sense if you wish to be taken seriously.

 
At 5/15/2012 4:57 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

John H: "Please libertarians stop making this terrible anti-social justice argument. Don't say you don't know what it is or that it can't be given any sense. It is quite clear what it is or at least no less clear than ordinary justice."

Well, John, it seems we're having a lot of trouble defining the term social justice" here. Maybe you can help us out by explaining what it means to you.

Many of the comments here suggest that the term is used as a code word for something other than the commonly understood meaning of the word "justice".

"And a demand for social justice does not have to be associated with the state. You can easily think that social justice is better served in free market ways. e.g. the minimum wage is bad for people."

I'm not sure many libertarians "demand social justice", assuming you are still addressing libertarians. Mostly the demand is to be left alone to pursue their own peaceful interests. You know, liberty.

"in addition, ordinary justice as understood by libertarians is a demand for state involvement. They call for proetection of private property by the state for example"

Another term you might consider defining better is "libertarian". A wide range of views are held by people who call themselves libertarians, so to suggest that you know what libertarians understand, may be presumptuous.

 

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