Social justice today is commonly defined by progressive liberals and their socialist-communist brothers and sisters in academia, the media and in the bureaucratic swamps of Washington DC and our State capitals as ‘JUSTICE IN TERMS OF REDISTRIBUTION OF WEALTH, OPERTUNITY AND PRIVLEGES”. The long history of social justice in Western and Judeo Christian traditions presents very different ideas about our obligations to each other and ourselves, as passed on to us by the ancient Greek Philosophers, the Prophets and Saints in the Old and New Testaments, Church Scholars and the great thinkers in the Enlightenment. Jesus sums up the totality of the idea of social justice in his words in Mathew—”What you do to the least of my brothers and sisters you do unto me”. Up until the mid-18th century when fringe ideas of the Enlightenment began to be entertained this statement was the essence of social justice.
Words can hide motives and political interests and can be used to drive a political agenda. Discerning people need to be suspicious of words especially when used to hide the actions of a governing class. Words can also be used to illicit feelings when reason and calculation should be applied. Remember that in 1800 Jeffersonian Republicans have today become democrats. Classical Liberal Economics is now described as being conservative. Think of Mao’s “Great Leap Forward’—80 million died, or the promises of Stalin and Lenin and Hitler and Polpot and Castro. All promising prosperity and liberty for all. All embracing concepts of redistribution of wealth—not the creation of wealth. All adhering the principles of modern day SOCIAL JUSTICE REFORMERS
But the Prophets and Saints and the Great Church Scholars and the great thinkers of the ancient Greece and then the Enlightenment understood and in most instances agreed with arguments that recognized the only way for there to be true justice in the world—a different idea than the legal standard of justice which is another topic, was for individual men and women to voluntarily practice the virtues of justice, prudence, tolerance, courage, and work within their own hearts. Together the action of “social justice” comes from within individual human hearts and is not coerced by some outside force (government). The reason socialist-fascist—communist regimes fail is because there is not requirement for individual virtue.
The modern Social Justice Movement in the Catholic Church got off to a very traditional start in 1892 with Pope Leo XIII RERUM REVORUM encyclical. Specifically, he addressed the issue of poverty and injustice and he also specifically upheld the right to hold property and the dignity of work. He acknowledged the relationship between labor and capital and recognized free markets as the best way to allocate scarce resources. He placed the responsibility of charity on individuals—just as Jesus had instructed, not on governments or institutions. Where in the Bible does it say that government should be the conduit for charity? During almost the same time an Italian Priest Fr..Luigi Taparelli wrote of the connection of “free will” and liberty again as Jesus taught advocating for the care of “the widow the infirmed and the mentally ill”.
Where did things go wrong with social justice? Prior to the Progressive Marxist movement of the early 20th Century, it was never assumed that government could give away that which was not theirs under the guise of social justice. Morality and virtue were replaced by government edict and coercion. Laws are constructed by the State to mollify and appease a polity—free stuff secures the existence of the State until there is no longer free stuff, In our modern day evolving Hobbesian State citizens are slowly losing their liberties and at the same time they are unknowingly relinquishing their duties to each other individually and their responsibilities in many cases to their own family members and communities. The Christian virtues mean nothing when the State is all-powerful. All citizens are asked to do is “obey”. The covenant relationship between giver and receiver to which God is a party, is replaced with a supplicant dependent relationship to a profligate overseer who has a vested interest in maintaining the subservient status of the receiver—vote for me next election.
The great English Apologist C. K. Chesterton put it this way and I paraphrase—Socialist progressives are socialists in their philosophy and policies, and communalist and utopian in their idealism.
He further pointed out that there was a real difference between “sharing” and “giving”. Sharing provides the opportunity to give away the communal fruits of other people’s labor. In giving you are giving the way the fruits of your own labor. There is no individual sacrifice in sharing. In fact if one is giving away the fruits of another’s labor it can even be stealing. In no way does a government check or subsidy or Medicaid or an insurance subsidy fulfill our individual responsibilities to our fellow man. Nancy Pelosi’s statement to Wolff Blitzer that “I feed them” referring to the poor is not the statement of a charitable giver, but rather the unenlightened admission to her comfort of being the overbearing overseer of a subservient class of people. Totalitarianists are comfortable with such a relationship. Conservatives are not. Progressives seek to expand subservience. Conservatives seek to create a means for individuals and their families to overcome poverty and inequality. Progressives never hold themselves accountable—they blame others, usually producers in the middle class. Conservatives only ask for opportunity and with that opportunity they create new things and new ideas and new products and goods and services that lift everyone up, not just the political and financial oligarchs in the elite ruling class.
One last thing about Ms. Pelosi when she said “I feed them”. As she walks over homeless people in the streets of Washington DC or in her own San Francisco district does she think that American tax payer programs to the poor are fulfilling her own duty to her fellow man? How many “snowflake” progressives believe that government tax payer funded programs fulfill our own obligations to our fellow man? “Render Unto Caesar…” as they say. Does paying taxes and redistributing wealth redeem us of our shared American sin of “privilege’ white or otherwise? Of course not. Had to answer that question because some progressive might have mistakenly read this far and thought I was making a very different point. Though I doubt any of them will even read this much less try to refute it.
If by “working for social justice” we are talking about a society where everybody else will take care of everybody else we are doomed to failure. Utopian societies always fail because there is no call to individual virtue. In its’ most simplistic form the modern day social justice system obviates any real relationship between giver and receiver and thus absolves the need for individual virtues (prudence, tolerance, justice, work, and courage) Virtue is replaced with government edict. It is very simple. All we are asked to do is “OBEY”
‘They will take care of you and yours” Just like in all the other failed progressive totalitarian States throughout all of history.
Social justice in a world without individual virtue, responsibility, accountability, and liberty is not justice of any kind. What has made America EXCEPTIONAL in our Founding and ever since has been in our recognition and practice of our virtues in pursuit of our liberties. Maybe that can be a new definition for social justice—The practice of individual virtue in pursuit of individual liberty.