18th January 2011
The nonsense of ‘social justice’
Social justice does not belong to the category of error but to that of nonsense. … [T]he prevailing belief in ‘social justice’ is at present probably the gravest threat to most … values of a free civilization.
Given that most educated people chant the mantra of social justice, it must have taken quite a bit of courage to argue – as Hayek did, years ago – that the idea of ‘social justice’ is nonsense. The ‘derivatives’ of social justice: things like ‘justice across generations’, ‘economic justice’ (economic redistribution), even affirmative action; must equally be placed in the category of nonsense.
It is impossible for anyone to provide a coherent definition of ‘social justice’ since it is impossible to arrive at a general rule or principle that clarifies what it stands for in every possible case. It should also be obvious, upon reflection, that the concept of justice and accountability is an attribute of individual human conduct. Entire groups can never be accountable for anything. Thus children, always born innocent, can never be implicated in the misdeeds of their forefathers. We must deliver justice to individual adults, not to entire societies. Only guilty individuals must be punished, not innocent parties.
There does exist, however, a general principle to reduce relative disadvantage across society, a principle that can be applied unequivocally in every case: the principle of reasonable equality of opportunity (not perfect equality of opportunity). This is ensured by providing (not by directly managing the delivery of) school education to the children of the poor. After that is done, individual initiative and luck should determine the achieved outcomes.
– My editorial in Towards a Great India, 15 November 2009.