Social and Economic Justice

November 13, 2010 at 9:24 am (Uncategorized)

Since I’m crossposting this to my blog, I’m deleting prior messages, changing the subject line, and removing names, to protect the innocent. Short version, to catch folks up: There was a discussion of the ideas of social and economic justice, including the value of money, and whether or not it would be better to have the government supply everybody with what they need. I raised the ugly specter of scarcity, which brought about the following claim: Given scarcity, wouldn’t logic dictate that people should receive things they really NEED, like medical care, before people receive things they WANT, like a second mansion or a yacht?

I am now raising the issue that the comparison brought up is not an apples-to-apples comparison, and proposing that we start with one.

You have two people, both of whom have terminal cancer. Treatment is available, but you can only treat one of them due to available supplies (time, expertise, drugs, etc.). As an administrator, with no involvement with either person, which one gets treatment?

And, before you start claiming that the injustices of the system don’t lie in these situations, humor me and follow through the logic of all this before doing so. Which one do you treat? Do you make a value judgment that one of the patients is worth more than the other? If so, what gives you the right to make that choice?

If you offer the treatment yourself, you have the right to say who you’re going to treat, granted. But that’s making yourself into the one who decides what happens to others, on a purely subjective basis.

If you try to treat both of them, then you’re saying that it’s more fair to give out subpar treatment to both (increasing the likelihood that neither survives) than to give proper treatment to one.

An exchange system permits an external deciding factor – Person A can offer more than Person B for the treatment, therefore, Person A gets it.

Now, granted, this assumes they’re offering something you want, but that’s the entire basis behind an exchange economy, and a monetary system (which creates a universal commodity of exchange).

So, we’ve got a system of exchange. Some people have more of what’s of value than other people do. Now… what happens if they have enough to supply all of their needs, while others don’t?

This is where the question of “social and economic justice” comes into play. One school of thought says they’re free to do whatever they want with it – it’s their resources, they’ve gotten them one way or another (even if they inherited them, at some point somebody earned them and started passing them down), and if they want to give some of the resources away to other people, that’s great, but it’s not mandatory. This is typically the “right wing” school of thought – the school of thought, incidentally, that gives the most money to charity, even above and beyond what can be claimed for tax write-offs.

There’s another school of thought that says it’s more fair and just to take the resources of those who have more, and give them back to the people who have less – typically under the logic that either they deserve to have them taken away from them (having been a leech on the system in order to acquire an abundance of resources) or that the people who don’t have the resources deserve to have more (having been unlucky or otherwise, through no fault of their own, come out on the short end of the stick.) This is typically the “left wing” school of thought – the school of thought, incidentally, that gives less money to charity, but supports the government giving other people’s money out as charity.

Those two little incidentals, of course, sound like value judgments – the fact is, that’s what they actually do seem to support in the real world.

The problem with the “left wing” school of thought is this – you’re giving *somebody* the authority to arbitrarily take property away from one group of people, and give it to another. I can come up with several other problems, but ultimately, it boils down to that – what gives Person X the right to say “Person Y doesn’t deserve what they’ve got, Person Z does?”

Because the people who qualify as Person Z outnumber the people who qualify as Person Y?

Because Person Y has too much, while Person Z doesn’t have enough? Again – what gives Person X the right to say that?

If I were to break into Bill Gates’ house, rifle the couch cushions for a few million bucks, and give it all to charity, what have I done? I’ve just committed a burglary. But when the government does it, it’s social and economic justice.

If I were to break into Bernie Madoff’s house, swipe a few objetsd’artes worth a few million, fence them, and give it all to charity, what have I done? I’ve just committed a burglary, even though the person who was robbed was morally reprehensible and himself a lawbreaker.

And yet, when the government does it, it’s social and economic justice.

Why? Because the government knows better than I do, as an individual? I think pretty much everybody here has agreed that the government is vastly corrupt, and corruptible. I don’t see how that’s going to change because the government has begun playing Robin Hood (and what happened under the Soviet system kinda supports this theory.)

I have yet to see anybody justify giving the government the right to take from the rich and give to the poor without falling back on one of two arguments:

1: The ends justify the means. This includes all those little gems like “the good of the many outweighs the good of the few,” and even the very terminology of “social and economic justice” – which basically exists to claim that you’re actually achieving justice, not highway robbery.

2: The rich are Bad People. This includes all those little gems like “the more you take out of society, the more you ought to put back into it” and such.

Now, before the Usual Suspects come in and accuse me of being in favor of a corporate oligarchy for favoring a “right wing” approach to ‘social and economic justice’ – guess what? Both systems support a corporate oligarchy. Again, look at the Soviet system. Look at socialist nations around the world, and the names who are typically in charge of them – you still get corporate masters, they’re just disguised as governments.

Binary thought disorder affects all of this greatly, of course – all right wing folks support X, all left wing folks support Y. This is why I’ve long thought that we need more than one axis – even more than two.

Right now, folks will say we’ve got two axes to choose from – social and fiscal. Hence the view of Libertarians as “social liberals, fiscal conservatives.” Others simply lump them all into one – right vs left. At this point, I’m inclined to say that we’ve got at least 4 axes – social, fiscal, equality, and policy.

The social axis moves from liberal – do as you please – to conservative – you should do X, Y, and Z, but not do A, B, or C – EVER!

The fiscal axis moves from liberal – the government should spend freely, typically using taxes to fund it, in order to accomplish its goals – to conservative – the government should spend a bare minimum of what’s necessary to accomplish its goals properly.

The equality axis starts getting more interesting. It defines how the individual views the people around them. It moves from liberal – all people are inherently equal no matter what, and should not be judged any differently except by their actions, if even those – to conservative – people are not created equal, and should not be considered such.

And the policy axis is where we start seeing real trouble. It defines how much influence the individual believes the government should have. It moves from liberal – the government should make whatever rules or controls are necessary to enforce the rest of the axes – to conservative, which would advocate that the government that governs best governs least.

Personally, I identify myself on these axes as follows: Social liberal, fiscal conservative, equality centrist, and policy conservative (*very* conservative).

I would identify the Republican party as follows – Social conservative, fiscal liberal, equality conservative, policy liberal. The Republican party as it currently exists seems to have been taken over by the folks who would be ID’d as “socially conservative, fiscally liberal” – some of the worst of both worlds, from my line of thought. They firmly believe that there’s one proper way to live, that people should live that way, and that the government should do whatever’s necessary to establish that.

Here’s the interesting problem – so do the Democrats, who I would consider social conservatives, fiscal liberals, equality liberals, and policy liberals. Here’s the thing – the Democratic party doesn’t subscribe to a “live your life, just don’t hurt anybody” school of thought. Rather, they subscribe to a “live your life, as long as you don’t disagree with us” school of thought – the mark of a social conservative. Consider the numerous policies they seek to establish that govern how people live their lives – more stringent environmental standards, limits on what you can use to travel, limits on the rights of people to engage in potentially harmful consensual behavior (smoking, eating the ‘wrong’ foods), the Political Correctness patrol… think about it, folks. If they said “God says you should do all this” instead of “We say you should do all this because It’s the Right Thing to Do,” we’d be calling them a bunch of religious nuts. Just like the extreme right wing.

So we’ve got a government that’s run by a bunch of social conservatives who are fiscally liberal, who believe that the government should do whatever it takes to accomplish their goals. The only real difference between them is what those goals are. Of course, most of the people *there* actually have the goal of “being in power as much and as long as possible,” rather than ideological goals, but the ideological goals underlying them are equally scary.

Of course, you could split that whole “equality” axis down a Hell of a lot more – religious, racial, gender, ideological, behavior, just as a short example. But I’m looking at a broad stroke with that one, which is why I put the Dem’s down on the Liberal side of the line (they tend to support equal rights lines – as long as you agree with their social goals).

Now, given all this, perhaps you can see why I can’t really stand either major party. I’m still hoping for the day when folks realize that we’re dealing with dueling fascists – assuming we’re not just dealing with a corrupt ruling class that doesn’t give a shit about how things are run as long as they’re running it – and throw both the batch of bums out.
But that’s all for another day, and roaming rather far from where I was starting things, so I’ll just wrap up here, and be off to enjoy a little time away from the mines.


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