The Politics of Social Justice
I teach government and recently in our discussion of politics, a group of my students explained that a major reason why they support the Democrats and Obama was due in major part to their desire for social justice, and their belief that Obama and the Democrats were working to achieve social justice while the Republicans and Conservatives were not. Some even pointed out that they believed that conservative Christians were hypocrites for not pursuing social justice more.
As a conservative Christian and a supporter of the Republican party I reflexively cringed and silent protests exploded in my head. Clearly my Liberal students had a perverted sense of social justice, and I thought, I must set them straight. However, as a parent of young children who are exposed to liberal teachers who have no inhibitions about preaching their liberal/pro-Obama crap to my kids, I always try to take a less bigoted approach.
Apparently, Liberals and Conservatives have two different ideas of what is social justice I concluded, and possibly they might not be aware of the conservative idea. So I asked my students what their definition of social justice was, and as I expected, it was a liberal definition. I said that that was only one opinion of social justice and a liberal one, and then I asked if anyone knew what Conservatives believed social justice to be, and no one had a clue (That is if you disregard the comments about how conservatives value money over human suffering, and survival of the fittest/social darwin crap). I said that I thought they had a real good understanding of the liberal view of social justice, but not the conservative view.
I informed them that for Conservatives, justice was less about equality, and more about protecting each person’s right to their life, liberty, and property. The story of Solomon’s wise judgment came to mind, so I shared that, and on the board they listed elements to the liberal definition, and along side it I wrote the elements of the conservative definition. All in all it was a good discussion. For those interested, I have created this diary to lay out the substance of that discussion, and at least what I view as the politics of social justice.
Solomon’s Wise Judgment
16 Now two women who were harlots came to the king, and stood before him. 17 And one woman said, “O my lord, this woman and I dwell in the same house; and I gave birth while she was in the house. 18 Then it happened, the third day after I had given birth, that this woman also gave birth. And we were together; no one was with us in the house, except the two of us in the house.
19 And this woman’s son died in the night, because she lay on him. 20 So she arose in the middle of the night and took my son from my side, while your maidservant slept, and laid him in her bosom, and laid her dead child in my bosom. 21 And when I rose in the morning to nurse my son, there he was, dead. But when I had examined him in the morning, indeed, he was not my son whom I had borne.”
22 Then the other woman said, “No! But the living one is my son, and the dead one is your son.” And the first woman said, “No! But the dead one is your son, and the living one is my son.” Thus they spoke before the king.
23 And the king said, “The one says, ‘This is my son, who lives, and your son is the dead one’; and the other says, ‘No! But your son is the dead one, and my son is the living one.’”
24 Then the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So they brought a sword before the king. 25 And the king said, “Divide the living child in two, and give half to one, and half to the other.”
26 Then the woman whose son was living spoke to the king, for she yearned with compassion for her son; and she said, “O my lord, give her the living child, and by no means kill him!” But the other said, “Let him be neither mine nor yours, but divide him.”
27 So the king answered and said, “Give the first woman the living child, and by no means kill him; she is his mother.”
28 And all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had rendered; and they feared the king, for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him to administer justice. – 1 Kings 3:16-28
Liberals generally believe social justice means forcing people to make amends for the past mistakes and wrongs of others, while correcting the inequities that exist in present society, and they (Liberals) believe that the government should encourage and pursue this brand of social justice rather than to enable the opposite.
Conservatives generally believe social justice means people are whenever possible, responsible for themselves; that they do not rely on the charity or tax of others, unless they absolutely can’t help themselves, and they (Conservatives) believe that the government should encourage and pursue this brand of social justice rather than to enable the opposite.
For many Liberals correcting present inequities (social justice) means that all people are given a fair share which is a more equal share, even if they did not earn or inherit it, and even if this requires forcing others to give up a major portion of their possessions. Apparently their Bibles are missing the last three versus of the third chapter of 1Kings (1 Kings 3:26-28).
For many Conservatives social justice means that people ought to keep their fair share, which is whatever a person earns or inherits, minus the tax for protecting their rights, and promoting the common good, and minus the gifts they offer to help others.
Neither Liberals nor Conservatives want people who can’t help themselves to suffer, and both want to help people, and both want people to be responsible, but they rank these later two priorities differently.
In general, Liberals are willing to let people get a free ride, if it makes helping others (who are deserving) easier, while Conservatives are willing to let people experience hardship (tough love), if it encourages them to be more independent, responsible, thrifty, and industrious.
Finally, for each, the common good (the general welfare) is closely related to whatever helps a society achieve and maintain the goal of social justice, as they see it.