Social Justice?

I love the Web – not only you can access the hot topic of the moment, you can also root back through time and find gems of wisdom and enlightenment. This essay is one of the best I’ve ever read. The subject is “social justice”. It not only explains Hayek’s critique of “social justice”, but also offers a new twist on the subject as “social justice, rightly understood”. I haven’t thought through the “rightly understood” bit, but the explanation of Hayek’s criticism is wonderful.

The essential problem is this: in any society that allows freedom of action, the interaction of many individual decisions produce unpredictable consequences. Some of these consequences are fortunate, some unfortunate. Advocates of “social justice” want to correct the unfortunate consequences, but the only way to do so is to reduce individual freedoms. This, in turn, will produce a new set of unpredictable consequences, including some unfortunate ones. This will cause some to want further corrections and further restrictions on freedom. Repeating this cycle progressively reduces individual freedom.

Greatly reduced freedom might be an acceptable price if the result is fewer unfortunate consequences, but there will always be fewer fortunate consequences as well. As freedom is reduced, societal functions must be increasingly involuntary and directed by an authority. But hegemonic decisions must be based on poorer data than decisions distributed throughout society. Hegemonic decisions lead to poorer (but faster) results.

This leads me to think that the quest for social justice will always lead to greater social injustice.


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