Tuesday, October 23, 2018
Social Justice v Common Law Justice
Me, quoting from linked piece:
.... ....One unfortunate side effect of the focus on equality is that the scope of justice expanded greatly to encompass ever more areas of social life, pushing the boundaries of justice to the frontiers. After all, the realm of things that might be considered unfair because unequal is potentially unlimited. For instance, political philosophers like Philippe Van Parijs have worried about such trivial matters as whether surfers ought to be subsidized for what Ronald Dworkin calls expensive tastes, which they have blamelessly developed, yet unfairly bear the burden of financing. Or there is the issue raised by G. A. Cohen of whether one can support egalitarian policies while remaining wealthy oneself (e.g. as a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford). And, most egregiously, Adam Swift asks: Can we be partial to our own children and remain faithful to the cause of social justice? Whatever its intellectual value, all of this talk renders justice bloated and abstract, too far removed from the moral concerns of ordinary people, and conceptually stretched beyond recognition. Sometime over the last few decades, justice, which Rawls describes as “the first virtue of social institutions,” became the only virtue of institutions....
.... It's not that "all of this talk renders justice bloated and abstract", etc., it's that all of that talk is almost literally insane, as in nuttier than any fruitcake, and as a side effect, positively evil, the exact inverse of any notion of justice. See Harrison Bergeron, again. What it does do, all that talk, is reveal the absurdity of the whole idea of substantive equality as any kind of policy goal. Which is something at least...
.... The argument that the equality premise and desideratum of social justice demands that we don’t prefer our children over other children—what can that even mean in practice?—shows the absurd logical conclusions to which bloodless abstraction detached from ordinary lived experience can lead. That’s a big part of why Rogers stresses the role of emotion in our moral outlook and choices.
I saw the guy, a philosophy prof natch, who wrote a book taking this line with respect to “equal treatment” of kids, interviewed and trying to make this case. What struck me, among other things, was that as a matter of sheer logic and starting from a certain premise, who could argue against him as a matter of abstracted reasoning? One would have to assert something like, “Well, they’re my kids. My kids! Of course I’m going to prefer them. Virtually by definition I am.” Hence, Rogers’s related focus—related to the role of emotion—on the vital importance of earthly groundedness in moral reasoning.
Parallel to that bloodlessness is what Rogers notes follows from Rawls’s view that achievement, what goes into achievement, is “morally neutral,” by which I take Rawls to mean achievement is essentially the product of life’s lottery. Rawls, therefore, says—I take it, assuming the cardinal value and necessity of equality in relation to living decently—equality must be given its due, which then leads him to want to ensure that the least among us have what we all have in living a decent life, which thus must mean, I again take it, massive redistribution, with personal achievement being morally incidental to that.
So, not for nothing does Rogers say that A Theory Of Justice helped spawn our latest iteration of social justice.
Finally, at least for me finally for now, Rogers does a good job of giving meaning to social justice, noting its essential focus on wanting different institutions and overarching social and economic arrangements and deemphasizing the individual, and contrasting it with what I’d call common law justice with its premiums on existing fair processes and procedures, improving itself incrementally from within and resolving private disputes between citizens or between citizens and the state.
(I don’t prefer his term “natural justice” for two reasons: it’s a common law term of art encapsulating the fundamentals of procedural fairness—right to a hearing, right to notice, right to confront your accusers, right of cross examination, right of disinterested adjudication, others; and it might get mashed up with notions of natural law.)...