Justice, if only we
knew what it was.
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?
- Thomas Sowell, "The
Quest For Cosmic Justice"
"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.
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.
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.
- Thomas Sowell, "The
Quest For Cosmic Justice"
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
THE MORALITY OF ALTRUISM
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,
"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
"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.
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.
- Ayn Rand, "The Virtue
'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
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
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
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."
"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
- Tom Bethell, "The
Noblest Triumph: Property and Prosperty Through the Ages"
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
- 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.
- Adam Smith, "The
Wealth of Nations"
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
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
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