Saturday, March 20, 2010

Glenn Beck and Social Justice: Part II: Social Justice as Code for Communism

In this second post on the subject of Glenn Beck and Social Justice, we look at the argument of a person who argues basically in favor of what Beck believes except more coherently. Barry Loberfield, in a post from a few years ago entitled "Social Justice: Code for Communism," points out the origin of the term "social justice" in the writings of Karl Marx.

"To understand "social justice," we must contrast it with the earlier view of justice against which it was conceived -- one that arose as a revolt against political absolutism. With a government (e.g., a monarchy) that is granted absolute power, it is impossible to speak of any injustice on its part. If it can do anything, it can't do anything "wrong." Justice as a political/legal term can begin only when limitations are placed upon the sovereign, i.e., when men define what is unjust for government to do. The historical realization traces from the Roman senate to Magna Carta to the U.S. Constitution to the 19th century. It was now a matter of "justice" that government not arrest citizens arbitrarily, sanction their bondage by others, persecute them for their religion or speech, seize their property, or prevent their travel.

This culmination of centuries of ideas and struggles became known as liberalism. And it was precisely in opposition to this liberalism -- not feudalism or theocracy or the ancien régime, much less 20th century fascism -- that Karl Marx formed and detailed the popular concept of "social justice," (which has become a kind of "new and improved" substitute for a storeful of other terms -- Marxism, socialism, collectivism -- that, in the wake of Communism's history and collapse, are now unsellable)."

Loberfield is a liberal, not in the contemporary sense of the term, which now means "semi-socialist," but in the classical 19th century sense of one who upholds the virtue of liberty over the virtue of equality - and therefore sounds like a conservative in today's climate. This is actually the stance taken by the neoconservatives today. Loberfield is correct in saying that liberalism is the mortal foe of Marxism, even though both are derived from the Enlightenment and essentially modern.
"Give Marx his due: He was absolutely correct in identifying the political freedom of liberalism -- the right of each man to do as he wishes with his own resources -- as the origin of income disparity under capitalism. If Smith is now earning a fortune while Jones is still stuck in that subway, it's not because of the "class" into which each was born, to say nothing of royal patronage. They are where they are because of how the common man spends his money. That's why some writers sell books in the millions, some sell them in the thousands, and still others can't even get published. It is the choices of the masses ("the market") that create the inequalities of fortune and fame -- and the only way to correct those "injustices" is to control those choices."
Every policy item on the leftist agenda is merely a deduction from this fundamental premise. Private property and the free market of exchange are the most obvious hindrances to the implementation of that agenda, but hardly the only. Also verboten is the choice to emigrate, which removes one and one's wealth from the pool of resources to be redirected by the demands of "social justice" and its enforcers. And crucial to the justification of a "classless" society is the undermining of any notion that individuals are responsible for their behavior and its consequences. To maintain the illusion that classes still exist under capitalism, it cannot be conceded that the "haves" are responsible for what they have or that the "have nots" are responsible for what they have not. Therefore, people are what they are because of where they were born into the social order -- as if this were early 17th century France."

Loberfield here identifies the key goal of Marxism as economic leveling, equality of outcome. Now he comes to the difference between social justice, as Marx conceives it, and justice in liberalism.

"The imperative of economic equality also generates a striking opposition between "social justice" and its liberal rival. The equality of the latter, we've noted, is the equality of all individuals in the eyes of the law -- the protection of the political rights of each man, irrespective of "class" (or any assigned collective identity, hence the blindfold of Justice personified). However, this political equality, also noted, spawns the difference in "class" between Smith and Jones. All this echoes Nobel laureate F.A. Hayek's observation that if "we treat them equally [politically], the result must be inequality in their actual [i.e., economic] position." The irresistable conclusion is that "the only way to place them in an equal [economic] position would be to treat them differently [politically]" -- precisely the conclusion that the advocates of "social justice" themselves have always reached."

Hayek's observation is key. Unless the government intervenes, equality of opportunity and equality before the law will inevitably result in some getting richer and some getting poorer. This is what social justice opposes. Loberfield gets to the point.

"What is "social justice"? The theory that implies and justifies the practice of socialism. And what is "socialism"? Domination by the State. What is "socialized" is state-controlled. So what is "totalitarian" socialism other than total socialism, i.e., state control of everything? And what is that but the absence of a free market in anything, be it goods or ideas? Those who contend that a socialist government need not be totalitarian, that it can allow a free market -- independent choice, the very source of "inequality"! -- in some things (ideas) and not in others (goods -- as if, say, books were one or the other), are saying only that the socialist ethic shouldn't be applied consistently."
As far as Loberfield is concerned, socialism that is not totalitarianism is simply socialism applied inconsistently and partially - usually due to conservative and/or liberal resistance to socialist agitation. So some "social justice" activists are ideologically driven socialists (really communists), while others are so-called democratic socialists, that is, socialists who renounce violence and are content to live with contradictions and half measures. Those who, like many well-meaning Christian clergymen, use the concept of social justice without really being fully aware of what ideology it represents are basically dupes. They are like children playing with fire. It is amusing and fun, but they have no concept of how destructive it could be if it got out of control. Loberfield writes:
"What is "social justice"? The opposite of capitalism. And what is "capitalism"? It is Marx's coinage (minted by his materialist dispensation) for the Western liberalism that diminished state power from absolutism to limited government; that, from John Locke to the American Founders, held that each individual has an inviolable right to his own life, liberty, and property, which government exists solely to secure. Now what would the reverse of this be but a resurrection of Oriental despotism, the reactionary increase of state power from limited government to absolutism, i.e., "totalitarianism," the absolute control of absolutely everything? And what is the opposite -- the violation -- of securing the life, liberty, and property of all men other than mass murder, mass tyranny, and mass plunder? And what is that but the point at which theory ends and history begins?"
Read the whole thing here. This is one perspective on social justice.

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