“Social” Justice

A few months ago, I printed what I thought was a pretty good description of the concept of “social justice”:

(J)ustice is justice, whereas “social justice” is code for one set of rules for the rich, another for the poor; one set for whites, another set for minorities; one set for straight men, another for women and gays. In short, I pointed out, it’s the opposite of actual justice. — Burt Prelutsky, Me and the Rotarians.

Wandering through the archives of YouTube the other day, I stumbled across a different definition – this one by former “Green Jobs Czar” Van Jones:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_-vgtYkJdA?rel=0]


Here’s how you know if you live in a society where there’s social justice: Would you be willing to take your life, write on a card, throw it in a big pot with everybody else, reach in at random and pull out another life with total confidence that it would be a good life?

In other words, I’m not saying that you’d wind up exactly where you were before, but that you’d be able to have a good life, that you’d be able to put it together, figure it out. If you don’t have that confidence, you don’t live in a country where there’s social justice. Because in a socially just – as opposed to a legally just – in a socially just world, since we’re all pretty much born equally ignorant, we should have roughly equal chances to have good lives.

You didn’t do anything particularly spectacular at the point of birth, such as you deserve all this. And so, that’s a high standard. What it means in a country like ours is, we will constantly be striving. We won’t ever arrive there, in all likelihood. We will have a more perfect union – we won’t have a perfect union, but it can be more perfect. And each generation has to figure out a way to move us closer to the reality of liberty and justice for all, and not just the rhetoric.

Damn, that sounds so . . . nice, doesn’t it? Throw your life in a big pot, draw out another, and be totally confident that life will be a “good” one!

Wow! Sign me up!


True, we are all “born equally ignorant,” but we don’t stay that way.  Were I, an engineer, to throw my life into the pot and draw out the life of, say, a tailgunner on a Miami garbage truck, I’m fairly certain that I could go on and make a “good life.” Were I instead to draw the life of, say, a brain surgeon, my life might be “good,” but the patients of that surgeon would certainly suffer.  What if I were to draw the life of someone with a degenerative disease?  Would my life be “good”?  By what measure?

You see, that’s the question – who defines “good”?

In my world, I define it – for me.  No one else gets to do that.  And I don’t get to do it for anyone else.

But Van Jones has taken it upon himself to define it for everyone else.  He notes that the people he’s addressing, students at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC, don’t “deserve all of this” – that is, the college education they are getting (and, one assumes, paying for.)  Apparently the society they live in gave it to them by virtue of their birth, not because they or their parents worked hard for it.

But, somehow, they do deserve “a good life.”

And it’s the job of “social” justice to ensure they get it.  What is the mechanism with which this will be accomplished?  Well, he doesn’t tell us, but you pretty much have to assume that it is government. And that means that someone must be put in charge of determining who should have what.

And that always leads to this:

Welcome, Comrade, to where we are all equal, but some are more equal than others!

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