Justice, if only we knew what it was.

         - Socrates

Fiat justitia, ruat coelum: Let justice be done, though heaven fall.

        - Ancient Proverb

One of the few subjects on which we all seem to agree is the need for justice. But our agreement is only seeming because we mean such differing things by the same word. Whatever moral principle each of us believes in, we call justice, so we are only talking in a circle when we say that we advocate justice, unless we specify just what conception of justice we have in mind. This is especially so today, when so many advocate what they call 'social justice' - often with great passion, but with no definition. All justice is inherently social. Can someone on a desert island be either just or unjust?

"Justice is the first virtue of social institutions, as truth is of systems of thought. A theory however elegant and economical must be rejected or revised if it is untrue; likewise laws and institutions no matter how efficient and well arranged must be reformed or abolished if they are unjust.
Each person possesses an inviolability founded on justice that even the welfare of society cannot override. For this reason justice denies that the loss of freedom for some is made right by a greater good shared by others. It does not allow that the sacrifices imposed on a few are outweighed by the larger sum of advantages enjoyed by the many.
Therefore in a just society, the liberties of equal citizenship are taken as settled; the rights secured by justice are not subject to political bargaining or to the calculus of social interests.
The only thing that permits us to acquiesce in an erroneous theory is the lack of a better one; analagously, an injustice is tolerable only when it is necessary to avoid an even greater injustice. Being first virtues of human activities, truth and justice are uncompromising." - John Rawls, "A Theory of Justice" Individuals have rights, and there are things no person or group may do to them (without violating their rights). So strong and far-reaching are these rights that they raise the question of what, if anything, the state and its officials may do. How much room do individual rights leave for the state?
Our main conclusions about the state are that a minimal state. limited to the narrow functions of protection against force, theft, fraud, enforcement of contracts, and so on, is justified; that any more extensive state will violate person's rights not to be forced to do certain things, and is unjustified; and that the minmal state is justified as well as right.
Two noteworthy implications are that the state may not use its coercive apparatus for the purpose of getting some citizens to aid others, or in order to prohibit activities to people for their own good or protection. - Robert Nozick, "Anarchy, State, Utopia" "Man, no doubt, owes many other moral duties to his fellow men; such as to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, care for the sick, protect the defenseless, assist the weak, and enlighten the ignorant. But these are simply moral duties, of which each man must be his own judge, in each particular case, as to whether, and how , and how far, he can, or will perform them." There is one justice, not exclusive compartments called civil justice, criminal justice, social justice or economic justice. Achieving a just society is about much more than making the well-off pay a lot of tax. The impersonal process of the market... can be neither just nor unjust, because the results are not intended or foreseen. SOCIAL JUSTICE

Seeking to rectify the tragic misfortunes of individuals and groups, for example, the physically and mentally disabled, to mitigate and make more just the undeserved fortunes arising from the cosmos, as well as from society - is seeking to produce cosmic justice, going beyond strictly social justice.

Cosmic justice is not simply a higher degree of traditional justice, it is a fundamentally different concept. Traditionally, justice or injustice is characteristic of a process. A defendant in a criminal case would be said to have received justice if the trial were conducted as it should be, under fair rules, and with the judge and jury being impartial. After such a trial, it could be said that 'justice was done' - regardless of whether the outcome was an acquittal or an execution. In short, traditional justice is about impartial processes rather than either results or prospects.
Similar conceptions of justice or fairness extend beyond the legal system - a 'fair fight' and sport for example. The 'career open to the talents' or 'a level playing field' usually means that everyone plays by the same rules and is judged by the same standards. But this is not what is meant by those people who speak of 'social justice'. The two concepts are mutually incompatible.

What 'social justice' seeks to do is eliminate undeserved disadvantages for selected groups. This is often done in disregard of the costs of this to other individuals or groups, or even to the requirements of society as a whole. In the pursuit of justice for a segment of society, in disregard of the consequences for society as a whole, what is called 'social justice' might be more accurately called anti-social justice, since what consistently gets ignored or dismissed are precisely the costs to society.

Human envy is certainly not one of the sources of discontent that a free society can eliminate. It is probably one of the essential conditions for the preservation of such a society that we do not countenance envy, not sanction its demands by camouflaging it as social justice, but treat it, in the words of John Stuart Mill, as "the most anti-social and evil of all passions.

        - Friedrich Hayek


Of all the nonsense that twists the world, the concept of 'altruism' is the worst. People do what they want to, every time. If it pains them, to make a choice- if the 'choice' looks like a 'sacrifice' -- you can be sure that it is no nobler than the discomfort caused by greediness... the necessity of having to decide between two things you want when you can't have both. The ordinary bloke suffers every time he chooses between spending a buck on beer or tucking it away for his kids, between getting up to go to work and losing his job. But he always chooses that which hurts least or pleasures most. The scoundrel and the saint make the same choices.

- Robert A. Heinlein, "Stranger in a Strange Land" Ah, yes, the 'unalienable rights.' Each year someone quotes that magnificent poetry. Life? What 'right' to life has a man who is drowning in the Pacific? The ocean will not hearken to his cries. What 'right' to life has a man who must die if he is to save his children? If he chooses to save his own life, does he do so as a matter of 'right'? If two men are starving and cannibalism is the only alternative to death, which man's right is 'unalienable'? And is it 'right'?
As to liberty, the heroes who signed that great document pledged themselves to buy liberty with their lives. Liberty is always unalienable; it must be redeemed regularly with the blood of patriots or it is always vanquished. Of all the so-called 'natural human rights' that have ever been invented, liberty is least likely to be cheap and is never free of cost. - Robert A. Heinlein, "Starship Troopers" "I came here to say that I do not recognize anyone's right to one minute of my life. Nor to any part of my energy. Nor to any achievement of mine. No matter who makes the claim, how large their number, or how great their need. I wished to come here and say that I am a man who does not exist for others." - Ayn Rand, "The Fountainhead" "The basic principle of altruism is that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that service to others is the only justification of his existence, and that self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty, virtue and value. Do not confuse altruism with kindness, good will or respect for the rights of others. These are not primaries, but consequences, which, in fact, altruism makes impossible. The irreducible primary of altruism, the basic absolute, is self-sacrifice - which means: self-immolation, self-abnegation, self-denial, self-destruction - which means: the self as a standard of evil, the selfless as a standard of the good." - Ayn Rand, "Philosophy, Who Needs It?" In popular usage, the word "selfishness" is a synonym of evil. yet the exact meaning and dictionary definition of the word "selfishness" is concern with one's own interests.
Altruism declares that that any action taken for the benefits of others is good, and any action taken for one's own benefit is evil. Thus the beneficiary of an action is the only criterion of moral value - and so long as that beneficiary is anybody other than oneself, anything goes. An industrialist who produces a fortune, and a gangster who robs a bank are regarded as equally immoral, since they both sought wealth for their own "selfish" benefit. A dictator is regarded as moral, since the unspeakable atrocities he committed were intended to benefit "the people" not himself.
There is a fundamental moral difference between a man who sees his self-interest in production and a man who sees it in robbery. The evil of a robber does not lie in the fact that he pursues his own interests, but in what he regards as to his own interest.
The Objectivist Ethics holds that the actor must always be the beneficiary of his action and that man must always act for his own rational self-interest. It is not a license "to do as he pleases". Just as the satisfaction of the irrational desires of others is not a criterion of moral value, neither is the satisfaction of one's own irrational desires. Morality is not a contest of whims.
The moral cannibalism of all hedonist and altruist doctrines lies in the premise that the happiness of one man necessitates the injury of another. 'The greatest good for the greatest number' is one of the most vicious slogans ever foisted on humanity. This slogan has no concrete specific meaning. There is no way to interpret it benevolently, but a great many ways in which it can be used to justify the most vicious actions. What is the definition of "the good" in this slogan? None, except: whatever is good for the greatest number. Who, in any particular issue, decides what is good for the greatest number? Why, the greatest number.
If you consider this moral, you would have to approve of the following examples, which are exact applications of this slogan in practice: fifty-one percent of humanity enslaving the other forty-nine; nine hungry cannibals eating the tenth one; a lynching mob murdering a man whom they consider dangerous to the community.
There were seventy million Germans in Germany and six hundred thousand Jews. The greatest number (the Germans) supported the Nazi government which told them that their greatest good would be served by exterminating the smaller number (the Jews) and grabbing their property. This was the horrible achieved in practice by a vicious slogan accepted in theory. But, you might say, the majority in all these examples did not achieve any real good fro itself either?
No. It didn't. Because "the good" is not determined by counting numbers and is not acheived by the sacrifice of anyone to anyone." - Ayn Rand, "Textbook of Americanism" THE ORIGINS OF MAN's RIGHTS

"Though the earth, and all inferior creatures be common to all men, yet every man has a property in his own person. This nobody has any right to but himself. The labour of his body, and the work of his hands, we may say, are properly his. The great and chief end therefore, of men uniting into commonwealths, and putting themselves under government, is the preservation of their property."

"There is only one fundamental right (all others are its consequences or corollaries): a man's right to his own life. Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action; right to life means the right to engage in self-sustaining and self-generated action, which means: the freedom to take all the actions required by the nature of a rational being for the support, the furtherance, the fulfillment and the enjoyment of his own life. Since man has to sustain his life by his own effort, the man who has no right to the product of his effort has no means to sustain his life." "The dry superficial area of the earth being the only medium through which external nature becomes accessible to man; being not merely his only foothold and resting place, but also the means through which he obtains access to all the matter which he, through the exercise of his faculties, changes into objects fit to satisfy his desires and maintain his life, it follows that freedom to use the earth is the indispensable condition for the exercise of man's faculties and the maintenance of his life. Hence, the right to the use of the earth is a natural right, the denial of which involves the denial of the right to the exercise of any faculty, that is, the denial of the right to live." "The assertion of human, as opposed to animal, rights is not properly a simply emotive one; individuals possess rights not because we 'feel' that they should, but because of a rational inquiry into the nature of man and the universe. In short, man has rights because they are natural rights.
They are grounded in the nature of man; the individual's capacity for conscious choice, the necessity for him to use his mind and energy to adopt goals and values, to find out about the world, to pursue his ends in order to survive and prosper, his capacity and need to communicate and interact with other human beings and to participate in the division of labor. In short, man is a rational and social animal.
No other animal or beings possess this ability to reason, to make conscious choices, to transform their environment in order to prosper, to collaborate consciously in society and the division of labor." PROPERTY RIGHTS

"The ownership of property is a necessary implication of self-ownership because all human action involves property. If nothing else, we need a place to stand. We need the right to use land and other property to produce new goods and services."

Lease a man a garden and in time he will leave you a patch of sand.
Make a man a full owner of a patch of sand
And in time he will grow there a garden on the land.
The magic of property turns sand into gold. - Arthur Young Property sets up fences, but it also surrounds us with mirrors, reflecting back upon us the consequences of our own behavior. Both the prudent and the profligate will tend to experience their deserts. Private property was the original source of freedom. It is still its main bullwark.

        - Walter Lippman

"Property is desirable, is a positive good in the world. Let not him who is homeless pull down the house of another, but let him work dilligently and build one for himself, thus by example assuring that his own shall be safe from violence when built."
        - Abraham Lincoln

In every great monarchy of Europe the sale of the crown lands would produce a very large sum of money, which, if applied to the payment of the public debts, would deliver from mortgage a much greater revenue than any which those lands have ever afforded to the crown...When the crown lands had become private property, they would, in the course of a few years, become well-improved and well-cultivated...the revenue which the crown derives from the duties of customs and excise, would necessarily increase with the revenue and consumption of the people.

Everybody's property is nobody's property. Wealth that is free for all is valued by none because he who is foolhardy enough to wait for its proper time of use will only find that it has been taken by another. The blade of grass that the manorial cowherd leaves behind is valueless to him, for tomorrow it may be eaten by another aninal; the oil left under the earth is valueless to the driller, for another may legally take it; the fish in the sea are valueless to the fisherman, because there is no assurance that they will be there for him tomorrow if they are left behind today. - Scott Gordon "In the United States alone, approximately 25 million chickens are killed and eaten every day. It has been said that the difference between chicken hawks and people is that when chicken hawks eat more chickens, there are fewer chickens, but when people eat more chickens there are more chickens. The more fundamental difference is that people extablish private property rights and, as a result, take the future into consideration; chicken hawks don't."
        - In the Absence of Private Property Rights" by Dwight R. Lee

"Do not legislate. Meddle, and you snap the sinews with your sumptuary laws. Give no bounties, make equal laws, secure life and property, and you do not need to give alms. Open the doors of opportunity to talent and virtue and they do themselves justice; property will not be in bad hands. In a free and just commonwealth, property rushes from the idle and imbecile to the industrious, brave and persevering."
        - Ralph Waldo Emerson


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