Social Justice

By Williams, Walter E. | Freeman, July 1998 | Go to article overview

Social Justice


Williams, Walter E., Freeman


The pursuit of social justice probably accounts for most human misery. What's more, throughout history, one form of injustice has usually been replaced by another that is far worse. Russia's 1917 revolution expelling the Czars and their injustices ushered in Lenin, Stalin, and a succession of brutal dictators who murdered tens of millions in the name of the proletarian revolution. The injustices of Chiang Kai-shek were replaced with those of Mao Zedong; Castro's ousting of Batista and Ayatollah Khomeini's toppling of the Shah of Iran produced regimes far more brutal. After Africa became independent the injustices of colonial powers were replaced with those of brutal dictators.

The slaughter of nearly 200 million poor souls, not including war deaths, during the twentieth century was a direct result of the pursuit of visions of social justice, such as income equality, the common good, and the various alternatives to the so-called evils of capitalism. As if by design, measures taken to produce what was seen as the good society lowered both the common man's humanrights protections and his standard of living.

By contrast, after the American revolution, we laid the groundwork that produced the world's freest people. However, for most of the twentieth century, we have been losing ground. If you ask which way are we heading-away from totalitarianism or toward itthere is no question that, by tiny steps, we are heading toward totalitarianism and arbitrary governmental abuse and control.

Some Americans are naive enough to think that the oppression seen in other countries can't happen here. But let's not forget that the country that gave the world great men like Goethe, von Humboldt, Beethoven, Bach, and Schiller also gave us Auschwitz, Buchenwald, and Treblinka. Also keep in mind that it was German-Americans who helped create the underground railroad to assist runaway slaves, and it was German-Americans who had the best reputation for getting along with the Indians. Let's also not forget that pre-Nazi Germany provided Jews with one of the most hospitable climates in Europe, so much so that during the early 1900s, in nearly one-half of all Jewish marriages, one of the spouses was a German gentile.

If social justice has any operational meaning at all, it is that the purpose of law is to prevent one person from violating another person's right to acquire, keep, and dispose of property in any manner so long as he doesn't violate another's simultaneously held rights. In other words, laws should be written to prevent force and fraud. Laws that force one person to serve the purposes of another are immoral. These values, expressed in our Declaration of Independence as the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, guided the framers in the writing of our Constitution and Bill of Rights. Today, our government has become increasingly destructive of the ends it was created to serve. Americans have become increasingly hostile and alien to the liberties envisioned by the framers. We have disregarded the inscription that graces the U.S. Department of Justice: "Where the law ends tyranny begins."

Why Is Slavery Immoral? Most people agree that slavery is immoral. But what makes it so? Slavery denies a person the right to use his property (body) and the fruits of his labor as he sees fit. Slavery forcibly uses one person to serve the purposes of another. Tragically, most Americans, including blacks, whose ancestors have suffered from gross property-rights violations, think it quite proper for one person to be forced to serve the purposes of another. …

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