What Is Social Justice?

Jonah Goldberg for Prager University asks and answers what is social justice.  I agree with him that social justice usually in practice ends up with thieves employed by the government taking property from A, keeping a substantial cut, and throwing the much reduced remainder at favored B and C.  This poorly thought out Robin Hood theology is at the basis of the manifestly failing welfare states today.  It is the antithesis of the voluntary charity called for by Christ in the tale of the Good Samaritan and it is beyond shameful that powerful people within the Church still think that the State is the preferred medium for social justice.  For those completely destitute and unable to work through no fault of their own, State support is a last resort necessity.  Where the welfare state ideology, masquerading as social justice, has gone astray is in taking a last resort and always making it a first resort, with disastrous consequences that are obvious to all, and completely ignored by those who ever bleat “social justice” and usually mean “state control”.

15 Responses to What Is Social Justice?

  • In Populorum Progressio, Pope Paul VI carefully distinguished the respective roles of private individuals and the public authorities, harmonising the demands of solidarity and subsidiarity:
    “33. Individual initiative alone and the interplay of competition will not ensure satisfactory development. We cannot proceed to increase the wealth and power of the rich while we entrench the needy in their poverty and add to the woes of the oppressed. Organized programs are necessary for “directing, stimulating, coordinating, supplying and integrating” (John XXIII, Encyc.letter Mater et Magistra: AAS 53 (1961), 414) the work of individuals and intermediary organizations.
    It is for the public authorities to establish and lay down the desired goals, the plans to be followed, and the methods to be used in fulfilling them; and it is also their task to stimulate the efforts of those involved in this common activity. But they must also see to it that private initiative and intermediary organizations are involved in this work. In this way they will avoid total collectivization and the dangers of a planned economy which might threaten human liberty and obstruct the exercise of man’s basic human rights.”

  • This is what frustrates me with talking with some Catholics (no really, I had this exchange with Bad Catholic once).

    They have in mind a meaning of social justice that we’ll call c!sj. Leftists have in mind a meaning (as demonstrated above in the excellent video) of social justice that we’ll call l!sj.

    Now in general discussions, many Catholics end up on the side of leftists because they hear them talk about “social justice” and assume c!sj is meant (when in fact it is l!sj), thus leftists are allies. Likewise when they hear rightists oppose “social justice”, they assume c!sj is meant. When in fact in both cases, the l!sj is what the left and right are meaning. Thus you have things like Shea’s post today, “A smart & moving letter”.

    If we were to use animals as metaphors, Catholics would be sheep (no offense, but the boss is a shepherd, remember?), rightists would be donkeys (because they can be used as guard animals), and leftists would be wolves in sheep’s clothing. Right & Catholic should be natural allies, but because the wolf wears a disguise and makes all the right noise, the donkey is dismissed as an enemy because it’s just too different.

    And so we have today, where the wolf has begun to eat the flock, while the sheep beg and plead for it to remember their old friendship.

    (and yes, the metaphor also applies to those sheep who say they’re against wolves and donkeys both and purely for sheep – if anything they are even easier to deceive than those who admit they have chosen a side)

  • There is a lot of talk about social justice. But with God there is only mercy on one side of the coin and justice on the other, and it isn’t called social justice. His eternal justice should scare the living hell right out of us. God doesn’t look just at income inequality. He sees more than 1 million babies murdered annually in the US, and the open promotion of same sex marriage and all the other innumerable crimes against humanity that cry out for vengeance, and His vengeance is a terrible thing. Just ask Kings Manasseh, Zedekiah and the others who thought differently.

    Domine Deus, miserere nobis et totius mundi.

  • When I read this post, I immediately thought of the parable of the Good Samaritan giving comfort and life but also providing that others ought to give comfort and life in the spirit of social Justice. The good Samaritan loved the injured victim. The High Priest did not love the victim. Nor did the others. Compassion is social justice. Compassion is taught by compassionate people.
    .
    Our society reeks of selfishness. Selfishness is adored and glorified. Selfishness is the High Priest of the parable. “Hooray for me, to hell with you” as the saying goes.
    .
    Government is made up of people. Like the church, who, without priests cannot exist, so, too, the government, who, without citizens cannot exist. The government in and of itself owns nothing but must take from its citizens what it gives and uses. The citizens must exercise the virtue of compassion and give to others the means to survive, their just due. Giving to others what they want is extortion and taxation without representation for there is no group of citizens who owes another group of citizens what that other group demands or wants, but only what anyone and everyone needs to survive…and in love and compassion, a two way street. The victim could not have lived without a love for his rescuer. The Samaritan’s good works delivered the victim from evil.

  • Why can’t you just say “justice.” Isn’t “justice” enough? “Social” refers to “groups”, does it not? So isn’t “social justice” really “group justice?”

  • I believe justice is defined thus: “To reward or punish based on merit”.

    Are the actions here discussed a reward or a punishment?
    No?
    Then please; let’s drop the term “justice”.
    Social justice may refer, I suppose, to the punishment of a group/society. Paul P’s description is probably best.

  • exNOAAman wrote “believe justice is defined thus: “To reward or punish based on merit”.

    Perhaps, the most famous definition is contained in the opening lines of the Institutes of Justinian, “Iustitia est constans et perpetua voluntas ius suum cuique tribuens” = Justice is the constant and perpetual intention to give to each his own.

    Thus, Ulpian says in the Digest, “Iuris praecepta sunt haec: honeste vivere, alterum non laedere, suum cuique tribuere” = These are the precepts of the law: to live uprightly, not to harm another, to give to each his own [Dig.1.1.10.1 Ulpianus 1 reg]

    It is the foundational principle of the Roman and Civil law, the basis of the jurisprudence of every civilised nation.

  • “group Justice” would refer to the government which is a group. Social Justice would refer to society with government at its head. The voice of the people is Congress. The will of the people must be heard on the ballot.

  • It should be called “Socialist Injustice”

  • DJ Hesselius on Thursday, March 27, A.D. 2014 at 2:31pm (Edit)
    Why can’t you just say “justice.” Isn’t “justice” enough? “Social” refers to “groups”, does it not? So isn’t “social justice” really “group justice?”

    No, actually. That’s a large part of the point.

    The left is using “social justice” to mean treating people as parts of a group to be balanced; the right is more likely to think that “make laws that promote justice” is an inherent purpose of laws.

    Justice in the Catholic sense; read here: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08571c.htm
    It is a moral quality or habit which perfects the will and inclines it to render to each and to all what belongs to them. Of the other cardinal virtues, prudence perfects the intellect and inclines the prudent man to act in all things according to right reason. Fortitude controls the irascible passions; and temperance moderates the appetites according as reason dictates. While fortitude and temperance are self-regarding virtues, justice has reference to others. Together with charity it regulates man’s intercourse with his fellow men. But charity leads us to help our neighbour in his need out of our own stores, while justice teaches us to give to another what belongs to him.
    and
    Justice between man and man is called individual, particular, or commutative justice, because it is chiefly concerned with contracts and exchange. Individual justice is distinguished from social, for not only individuals have claims in justice against other individuals but a subject has claims against the society to which he belongs, as society has claims against him. Justice requires that all should have what belongs to them, and so the just man will render to the society, or State, of which he is a member, what is due to it. The justice which prescribes this is called legal justice. On the other hand, the individual subject has claims against the State. It is the function of the State to protect its subjects in their rights and to govern the whole body for the common good. Authority for this purpose is given to the State by nature and by God, the Author of man’s social nature.

    Pretty clearly NOT about balancing of groups— and small wonder that the more nasty folks would want this term destroyed!
    The rights aren’t granted by the state, but must be PROTECTED by it?
    Goodness.

  • Our church has always been the most successful and efficient engine for providing true SJ. The sad reality that when gov entities wish and even demand to take charge of this process only means a less efficient result and a less just reward.

  • Social Justice as explicated in this article has next to nothing in common with the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church. This is important to keep in mind as people rightly criticize and reject this ‘socialism in sheep’s clothing’. This is not Catholic Social Doctrine, which offers true light on the subject.

  • Botolph, good point, given that the left has hijacked the term.

  • According to Père Henri-Dominique Lacordaire OP, who re-founded the Dominicans in France after the Revolution and was reckoned the most eloquent preacher of his day, “”Between the weak and the strong, between the rich and the poor, between the master and the servant, it is freedom which oppresses and the law which sets free.”

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