Social Justice...or Injustice?

Much has been made in the media – or at least by the pundits – of the statement made recently by TV-radio personality Glenn Beck regarding the need for churchgoers to leave their congregations if their churches have as a primary goal the insistence upon “social justice,” presumably exercised within both the church and the government. Tons of wrath have been heaped upon Beck for that statement, one regular TV “talking head” on ABC’s Sunday morning clambake even calling him a terrorist for that or some other remark/position he’s alleged to have produced.

A prime element in President Obama’s campaign operation was his insistence upon the need for “social justice,” in this instance, obviously, as matter of public policy. He was promising to bring this circumstance to fruition when elected, leading the government into a posture guaranteeing “social justice.”

So…what is “social justice?” The definition of “social” is “of or relating to human society, the interaction of the individual and the group, or the welfare of human beings as members of society.” The definition of justice: “the maintenance or administration of what is just especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments.” The keyword in determining justice is, of course, “just,” defined as “having a basis in or conforming to fact or reason.” (Merriam-Webster Collegiate, 11th Edition).

Most folks probably think of the legal system or the courts when they consider justice, recognizing that in a nation of laws one can be punished if in violation of the rules that must exist in order to protect people’s rights, as well as in order to protect people from each other…the life, liberty, pursuit of happiness thing. The arguments are made and the judge/jury decide guilt, innocence, or civil responsibility. Regardless of status, citizens are treated alike regarding access, with the law being applied equally – at least supposedly. Neither the judge nor the jury gives the participants anything, just makes decisions.

The differences in treatment of participants arise on the basis of the degree of culpability. A drug-pusher does not receive the same sentence as a cold-blooded murderer. According to the rules of the court, the two are given nothing and actually are required to give up something – their freedom, though for different time-periods (or even life itself). The miscreants are not interested in justice; rather, they plead for mercy.

As defined by “social,” the miscreants are members of a society interacting with their fellow citizens and impacting their welfare or being impacted. Indeed, everyone fits that description. The result, of course, is that while all play by the same rules, whether in violation or conformity, their outcomes are vastly different, depending upon variables all the way from poverty to wealth, indolence to work-ethic, or illiteracy to Ph.d- status. Should justice be the same for everyone as practiced in the legal system, or does making it “social” change it to something else?

For instance, should everyone pay the same percentage of income in taxes and receive government service according to the same percentage, as is not the case now? That would seem just but everyone does not pay the same percentage in taxes, though everyone receives the same government attention. Presently, the wealthier pay a greater percentage for the same protections that are received by the poorest, who may pay no taxes at all.

The current administration has defined “social justice” as the making of everyone just like everyone else regardless of income, services, education, incentive, whatever. To do this requires that everyone suffers an impact of one kind or another, some on the giving end and others on the receiving end…by law. Obviously, everyone is not like everyone else, so for this to happen some must make a mandated sacrifice in order for others not to make a sacrifice. This would appear to be “unjust” to many.

So…the president is not talking about “social justice” when he uses that term. He’s talking about “social mercy,” i.e., redistributing the assets of the best producers to the less-productive, or in many cases the non-productive for one reason or another, sometimes just laziness or various addictions or the kind of irresponsibility remarked by fornicating children into the world and then deserting them to be cared for by government. In doing this, he actually is defining “social injustice,” which has been the way of life in this country especially since the introduction of the income tax in 1913, or at least the graduated tax.

Another term for Obama’s approach is “socialism.” Property-owners or entrepreneurs used to pay the bulk of taxes. Under the new system, the government will “level the playing field” by simply taking the property eventually and combining it with the inordinate income taxes, or at least the total control of it, as in the case of General Motors, Chrysler, Fannie and Freddy and – soon – any business the new czar proposed by Senator Dodd simply designates as “too big to fail.” Where has that phrase been used before?

To the extent that the church should be interested – as a CHURCH, not in impacting government – in “social mercy,” Beck is right. Social justice is a killer of incentive, the circumstance in government leading to the mediocrity inevitably endemic to socialism. This is not to say that government shouldn’t help the disadvantaged. It should. Just don’t call it “social justice.”