In the April 3rd Detroit News is an oped by Arthur C. Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. It is titled "Social justice a conservative cause" in which he asks:
"Who owns the term 'social justice'-conservatives or progressives?
Michigan's progressives desperately hope you say they do."
Well, I don't think Michigan's progressives are desperately hoping for any such thing. It's pretty much in the bag. Progressives have always owned the 'social justice'issue. But it's only a successful issue for them because the conservatives don't know how to respond to it. 'Social justice' is of course a collectivist concept based on the notion that the individual has no right to life--no life value--except for his value to the collective; that the group may do with the individual anything it wishes so long as it can claim some social good.
But America was founded on the principle of the supremacy of the individual not the collective. Man's right to life was held as unalienable, that is, politically and morally absolute. But not anymore. The concept of individual rights was and still is so poorly understood that most politicians did not know how to defend it. The Democratic Party has never embraced the ideal of individual rights. The Republicans did for awhile but only half-heartedly so, until the Goldwater defeat at the hands of progressive Johnson after which they dropped all loyalty to it and became the me-too party.
This op-ed by Mr. Brooks reeks of me-tooism. It's as if he's saying "See see! Us conservatives believe in the progressive idea of social justice too. We can be just as collectivist as they are. Never mind their admonition that America can't afford to wait for us conservatives to accomplish the same goals as the progressives can accomplish much faster through physical force. Ignore that. We want the same thing except through kinder, gentler, more voluntary methods." Is that the kind of rallying cry that would inspire hoards of followers?
Mr. Brooks correctly points out that the policies of the Obama progressives have failed to achieve their social justice goals.
"The simple fact is that intentions don't equal results. The left's policies aren't working - which means it's time for conservatives to step up to the social justice plate."!!!
Wow, where to begin. First, if those policies aren't working, don't you think a sharp conservative pundit would want to enlighten voters as to why they're not working, or that there might be something innately wrong with the concept of social justice? Nope, not happening. Ok failing that, wouldn't a half-sharp conservative pundit wonder how, since liberal policies are failing, is it in the interests of conservatives to 'step up' and make them work? Should conservatives be eager to beat the progressives to the punch?
Mr. Brooks is saying in essence that the progressives are going about it all wrong and that:
"Conservatives should start by asking the downtrodden what they need the most. In the conversations I've had over the years, I've identified three things: moral transformation, material relief and opportunity. These are the central components of a real social justice platform."
Presumably, these three things are all to be provided by the government, not by the people themselves as envisioned by the founders.
"Personal moral transformation is the most important."
Let's look at the first of these, moral transformation. A moral code is a set of principles we humans use to guide our actions through our daily life. So what are we supposed to be transforming from and to?
"To illustrate this point, (the importance of moral transformation-MN) I used the 2010 General Social Survey - the country's best sociological database - to identify what makes people happy."
But what makes people happy is such a broad and out of context standard as to be meaningless. Happiness is not doing whatever makes one feel good like whim worship. So what set of principles does this General Social Survey offer us? None. Just a picture.
"Take the example of two men identical in age, education, race and income. The first is religious. He's married with two kids. He also works more and participates in his community more than 90 percent of the rest of the country. The other man meets none of these qualifications. The first man is nearly 400 percent more likely to be happy."
In other words, real social justice must encourage people to participate in faith, family, community and work. Nothing wrong with that as such, but the encouragement here is of course government encouragement, i.e. force. But America is being destroyed by a thousand encouraging cuts. Millions have lost their homes due to government encouragement of home ownership. Right now government is 'encouraging' health care with ObamaCare, 'encouraging' education through Common Core not to mention the philosophy of progressive education as such, 'encouraging' our participation in NSA information gathering, 'encouraging' the destruction of the purchasing power of the dollar with Quantitative Easing. It goes on and on endlessly. Nowhere in this op-ed is there a call for 'encouraging' politicians to provide citizens with the political and economic freedom that would enable them to provide for their own happiness.
Mr. Brooks' desire to hang on to the welfare state is revealed next:
"Moral transformation goes hand in hand with material relief. No less a libertarian than Friedrich Hayek argued that government should provide "some minimum of food, shelter and clothing."
Right, and that's why I no longer consider Mr. Hayek to be a credible advocate for Capitalism. Again, people should be free to provide for their own welfare. Private charity has always been up to the task for those in need, except of course when government decides to step into the market with its 'encouragement' bubbles.
"The final piece of the social justice puzzle is opportunity - the path from welfare to well being. Opportunity is under attack everywhere you look."
True enough. He cites the need for education reform that will provide for our children's futures but says nothing about getting government out of education.
In closing the op-ed says:
Conservatives can speak powerfully to these issues. Transformation, relief, opportunity - we have the principles that form the basis of real social justice policies."
And that's why conservatives will keep on losing. Oh there may be a swipe at the progressives in this 2014 election as in the Reagan presidency but I don't see a love fest for conservatives on the horizon.
Nobody should want to own the issue of social justice because there is no such thing. That concept is an intellectual or cognitive package deal designed to destroy a valid concept - individual justice, the only kind of justice that exists, and replace it with the invalid concept of social justice. It permits its advocates to commit individual injustices in the name of all sorts of imagined unfairness such as those invented under egalitarianism. For example, John makes more money than Fred so fairness (social justice) requires that we take some of John's money (an individual injustice) and give it to Fred.
America was not founded on the principle of sacrifice but rather on the principle of rational self interest, a self interest that respects the same rights of others. Conservatives need to 'step up to the plate' of individual rights if they ever hope to win big again.