Commentary Magazine


Topic: New Deal

Social Justice: A Solution in Search of a Problem

The left has always had a knack for the high-sounding phrase, such as New Deal, Great Society, etc.  One that is increasingly in vogue these days is Social Justice.  It sounds noble—everyone’s in favor of justice, right?—but when you look closely, it’s nothing more than the old redistribution of income in the name of “equality.” The left argues that free markets inherently produce unequal results and these inequalities need to be corrected for justice to be achieved.

Over at the Library of Law and Liberty, my friend David C. Rose, a professor of economics at the University of Missouri—St. Louis, brilliantly eviscerates the whole notion of Social Justice. He calls its basic assumption into question:

But is the premise actually true? Do free market societies inevitably produce unjust outcomes, or are social justice theorists incorrectly inferring injustice from what is actually innocuous inequality? In my view the latter is true and the former is false, so social justice theory amounts to a solution in search of a problem. As such, it constitutes a massive straw man argument against the free market society. Making matters worse, it is a particularly attractive straw man argument because it comports well with incorrect but very plausible folk wisdom about what a market economic system is and how it functions. An affirmative defense of this claim is beyond the scope of this essay, but it will become clear below that an affirmative defense of this claim is not required to reject social justice theory. 

You can read his short essay here. It is well worth your time.

The left has always had a knack for the high-sounding phrase, such as New Deal, Great Society, etc.  One that is increasingly in vogue these days is Social Justice.  It sounds noble—everyone’s in favor of justice, right?—but when you look closely, it’s nothing more than the old redistribution of income in the name of “equality.” The left argues that free markets inherently produce unequal results and these inequalities need to be corrected for justice to be achieved.

Over at the Library of Law and Liberty, my friend David C. Rose, a professor of economics at the University of Missouri—St. Louis, brilliantly eviscerates the whole notion of Social Justice. He calls its basic assumption into question:

But is the premise actually true? Do free market societies inevitably produce unjust outcomes, or are social justice theorists incorrectly inferring injustice from what is actually innocuous inequality? In my view the latter is true and the former is false, so social justice theory amounts to a solution in search of a problem. As such, it constitutes a massive straw man argument against the free market society. Making matters worse, it is a particularly attractive straw man argument because it comports well with incorrect but very plausible folk wisdom about what a market economic system is and how it functions. An affirmative defense of this claim is beyond the scope of this essay, but it will become clear below that an affirmative defense of this claim is not required to reject social justice theory. 

You can read his short essay here. It is well worth your time.

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