Thursday, April 08, 2010

Social Justice or The Bible Says what I want it to Say

Mark W. Hendrickson has written an article on Social Justice; he follows the Glen Beck mentality of opposing it.
The standard of biblical justice is equal treatment by law: “Thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty” (Leviticus 19:15). Justice not only means that nobody is to be picked on because he is poor or favored because he is rich, but that (contrary to the doctrine of “social justice”) nobody is to be picked on because he is rich or favored because he is poor. Everyone’s rights deserve the same protection. Thus, nobody should be taxed at a higher rate than his neighbors, nor should anyone receive special government handouts.
So basically the Bible opposes modern liberalism; to be Biblical you need to support the flat tax and oppose welfare.

I think it's helpful here to define three terms, equal access, equal opportunity, and equal results.

Equal Access implies that everybody technically has the same access to societies benefits. Kids can go to college (if they can afford it), parents can by homes (if they can afford them), sick people can get medical care (if they can afford it) and so on.

Equal Opportunity does it's best to afford everybody the same tools to succeed. Thus a poor black kid who's talented should have access to the same educational system as a wealthy white kid.

Equal Results are of course everybody succeeds regardless of efforts or abilities - spreading success over that many people naturally implies that this success is pretty modest.

Hendrickson is going to stop at equal access, while accusing liberals of wanting equal results. This is because, protestations aside, he can't really conceive of economic injustice. If a poor black kid wants to go to college, he can work hard and earn the money to attend. If this ends up with a situation where wealthy and upper middle class white kids out number poor black and Latino kids 100 to 1, well that's the breaks. So long as it's theoretically possible for the poor to participate in societies benefits that's all that's required. And in fact, the Bible apparently mandates that we stop there.

I, on the other hand, favor equal opportunities. Or to put it another way, we as a society need to invest in all Americans not just those who have already succeeded (or who's parents have succeeded). This is more just and better policy. Yes you are always going to have people who don't try that hard or people who's capabilities aren't that great - but you will also have people who, under Hendrickson's preferred system will be lost, becoming solid and productive citizens.

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