So what is justice? It’s not what we are led to believe it is by social justice warriors.
We must be able to define justice before we can determine how to pursue it. F.A. Hayek defined the emptiness of the concept of “social Justice” in Part 1 of The Mirage Of Social Justice. In Part 2, he proceeds to provide the meaning that is lacking in the typical use of the term.
What Justice Is Not.
First, he tells us what justice is not. Justice can not refer to outcomes. We can not refer to a state of affairs or a circumstance such as the distribution of income between people in a country, as either just or unjust. It is neither. It is a circumstance, a condition. It is an emergent property of the system by which we all live, one that has evolved over time based on individual human behavior.
When we apply the terms just or unjust to a state of affairs, we immediately start to look for someone to blame for bringing it about or allowing it to happen. That, says Hayek, is a very dangerous categorical mistake. It divides society. It makes us all enemies.
A bare fact, or a state of affairs which nobody can change, may be good or bad, but not just or unjust.
Justice Can Not Refer To Outcomes, Only To Human Behavior.
Justice is an attribute of human behavior. The term “just” can refer only to human actions and not to results. In spontaneous order, there are no rules that determine what anyone’s position will be. The particulars of the spontaneous order – the positions individuals actually occupy – cannot be called just or unjust
Justice lies not in the outcome of the system but in its norms of interpersonal behavior, what Hayek calls “rules of just conduct”. These are different from laws, which are enacted by legislatures and are manufactured rather than evolved collaboratively over time. The politicized decisions of the legislature do not determine what is just. Only human conduct – how each individual deals with each other individual – can be called just or unjust. Rules of just conduct refer to the actions of individuals that affect others.
The Rules Of Justice Tell Us What Not To Do.
Rules of just conduct are generally negative rules. They prohibit unjust conduct. Eight of the ten commandments are negative (thou shalt not). Nine of the first ten amendments to the US Constitution in the Bill Of Rights are negative (Congress shall make no law…..and so on). Rules of just conduct enjoin particular kinds of actions in order to help individuals be free to act as they choose. The test of the validity of these rules is universality – do they apply to everyone equally, as opposed to favoring one group over another.
These rules impose no positive duties on anyone, unless they themselves choose to incur such duties. They do not confer rights on any individual. They do not eliminate uncertainty. They do not assure success. They do not aim at a result. They are not the product of someone’s will; they emerge from acceptable human behaviors over time.
Professing To Use Concepts Of Justice To Determine Outcomes Is Socialist And Totalitarian.
Essentially, there are no positive criteria of justice. There is a strain of thinking among the intelligentsia that goes by the name of legal positivism. This means that laws can be written by the legislature and applied by the state bureaucracy to achieve particular results. This, to Hayek, is what is fundamentally unjust. Worse, this concept of law holds that it is legitimate for the state to use coercion in the service of pursuing these particular results, thus totally abandoning the rules of just conduct.
This is simply the ideology of socialism: to achieve total control over the social order because the governing elites believe it is in their power to design and determine future outcomes.
Social justice warriors have seized upon this apparent approval of unjust means to pursue their ends by adopting violent and intimidating methods, from strikes to marches to wild accusations, and even the use of weapons. In the struggle between individual sovereignty and the sovereignty of the omnipotent state, the social justice warriors take the side of the state, in order to intervene to compel individuals into approved behaviors.
Property, Contract And Tort.
We know there is a better alternative to this never-ending struggle. The lesson of history is that a system based on private property and contract tends to bring about the spontaneous order which favors individual human freedom with the appropriate rules of just conduct. Hayek notes that David Hume referred to:
the three fundamental laws of nature, that of stability of possession, of its transference by consent, and of the performance of promises, or, as a modern author sums up the essential content of all contemporary systems of private law, ‘freedom of contract, the inviolability of property, and the duty to compensate another for damage due to his fault.’
Private property and the freedom to transfer it within the rule of law are fundamental for a free and open society. Social justice warriors want private property to be eliminated or transferred without consent. Whatever that is, it is not justice.