In the collective life of humankind, justice manifests as a compass in decision making, protecting resources from being diverted towards extraneous values, and protecting groups of people from the oppression of a vocal and seemingly-powerful minority.
Justice cannot, then, be left to the “invisible hand” that is said to characterize our economic free market; cannot be facilitated through lobbying and partisan advocacy that characterizes our politics; cannot be a quixotic endeavor of struggling against a chosen injustice, one after another, that characterizes our humanitarianism. Instead, justice requires mature approaches.
1) If the purpose of justice is the appearance of unity, then its means and methods must be unified by definition – there cannot be a contradiction between ends and means. Justice should be applied through a consultative approach, through cooperation, selflessness, and harmony. All conflict and contention must be avoided as justice is applied and unity sought. Obviously, one interest group cannot contest and overpower others in order to create unity.
2) Justice calls for universal participation – after all, humanity is one, and its crises and victories are shared by all. So shall be its development. This requires the empowerment of all individuals to become active protagonists of their own development. Each individual is noble, each individual has latent capacities that can be manifest through education, and it is just that each individual contributes towards the betterment of the world. One segment cannot determine development values and assign roles to the rest.
3) Response to oppression is met through foundational and fundamental changes to both human consciousness and societal structure. It is extremely naive to think that tweaking aspects of the current thought and order will bring about justice and unity. And it is utterly ineffective to narrow in on and battle one injustice at a time in order to satisfy a desire for heroic quest. Interconnectedness and oneness govern reality. Justice must be approached at the level of principle, with sustained action, and long-term vision. Principles inform practicality, not vice versa.
7 replies on “Approaches to Justice”
The free market is a means of distributing resources efficiently by revelation of value via the price mechanism. The free market ensures that resources receive the highest value usage given present allocation of wealth and skill. The free market itself doesn’t divert resources to extraneous values.
1) The purpose of justice is the fairness of treatment. Not the fairness of outcomes. Unity and equality are not synonyms for justice.
2) Flowery talk about empowerment is cute, but universal participation requires compulsion. Some people will wish to opt out or segregate themselves. How do you plan to force their participation?
3) Principles inform practicality. There we agree. Individual liberty and voluntary association should be the guiding principles.
It seems to me that the free market isn’t very free at all. We are constantly bombarded by social forces beyond our control, the media, societal pressures, special interest groups, that manipulate our choices and thus the market. And on the level of the economic system, it’s also not free at all. Governments, lobbyist, large corporations, all determine allocation of wealth and resources. Right now our government spends trillions on the military and a fraction of that on education. It may be some people’s opinions that one is more valuable than another, but those opinions, when acted upon through policy, result in detrimental social effects. There is no argument that education is more valuable than military. So is the “free” market setting that value? Is the “free” market assessing the real needs of everyone in the country, or everyone in the world, in order to set priorities? It’s simply another method of oppression: those in power create the economic system, the system manipulates thought and fosters selfishness, and they become passive consumers.
There is no compulsion necessary. Every individual is ALREADY a member of humanity. I don’t see what you mean by opt out…opt out of being a person? That’s like saying a cell in the human body is going to opt out of receiving from and contributing to the body. A) it’s the cell’s nature to be a part of the body. B) no cell can practically live apart from the body. Whether you understand this fact or not, you are part of the human race. And every individual has both egoistic and altruistic potentials – what determines which is cultivated is the social environment. The question is how do we bring out each person’s latent capacities to contribute to the world.
Liberty was tried and failed (ie our present society). Again, let’s use biology. Imagine if each cell was given liberty to take as many resources as it wanted because of its ability. Or to destroy other cells around it for its own gain – oh wait, we do have that. Those are called cancer cells. An organism that uses cellular liberty as its guiding principle won’t survive very long.
Lets go point by point, Taylor.
– “We are constantly bombarded by social forces beyond our control, the media, societal pressures, special interest groups, that manipulate our choices…”
You have free will. Those forces (just like this blog) are attempts to persuade you. As long as they don’t coerce you, you’re free to reject them.
– “Governments, lobbyist, large corporations, all determine allocation of wealth and resources.”
Government is by its nature coercive. Do what they say or go to prison, face torture, property seizure or death. And lobbyists are asking the government coerce you for their benefit. Corporations however are simply assemblies of individuals that came together to produce goods or services for profit. Just like churches are assemblies to worship god, or charities are assemblies to offer aid. But corporations aren’t intrinsically coercive.
– “Right now our government spends…”
The rest of that paragraph was addressed in the first bullet point. Government is not a free marketplace. They take from citizens to fund what they see fit. Yes, we have democracy, but there will always be a minority who doesn’t support government spending but is nevertheless forced to contribute.
– ” I don’t see what you mean by opt out…opt out of being a person?”
Opt out of whatever system this article seems to espouse. If you’re a shopper at a grocery store and you dislike the products, you opt out by not shopping there. If you’re an employee and you dislike your boss, you quit. If you’re a member of a religion and you find another faith, you convert. If you’re a citizen of a country and you dislike the government, you immigrate to another. Now that last one is tricky. We’ve seen with the Soviet Union and North Korea that societies that emphasize the whole over the individual deny their people the right to leave.
-“Liberty was tried and failed (ie our present society). Again, let’s use biology. Imagine if each cell was given liberty to take as many resources as it wanted because of its ability.”
Ahh here we go. That is a very dangerous way of thinking. I’m not a cell in a body. The body controls cells by force. Cells that don’t obey instructions are destroyed (and when that process breaks down, you get cancer). A well functioning body requires absolute obedience. I will not volunteer my absolute obedience to whatever unifying world order you’d like to create.
Thank you for your contributions!
The purpose of this blog is to provide a space for a discourse that focuses on the advancement of civilization. Civilization includes the expression of concepts into social reality, and finding shared understandings of conceptions helps advance civilization.
Oneness is an ontological reality, not a choice, and the question becomes how to build social systems that manifest oneness. It’s true that human beings have free will, but just as we are subject to physical forces that we cannot reject, we are likewise subject to social and spiritual ones. Isn’t it the case that an individual who grows up with little education and with a prejudiced community will think differently about human nature than an individual in a different environment? A whole range of human capacities exist – that some are fostered over others does not make them a natural state. Of course a human being has a selfish nature, but also has a selfless one. In fact, human history is filled with examples of cooperation. How can we build social systems to foster cooperation?
This article doesn’t attempt to espouse any particular system. Rather, every human being is a member of humankind. A grocery store, a religion, a nation even, are all limited in their scope. What every human being has in common is that we all belong to one humanity. No matter what divisions exists – either naturally or by social imposition – unity can be built around, at the very least, this one commonality.
It’s true, that a cell has no free will and a human being does. Every human being is endowed with capacities and talents, and the task before humanity is to build systems and promote thought that, through choice, brings out those capacities in a human being which contribute to the betterment of the world. This, not through force or reward, but because the motivation to serve others is an intrinsic quality common to every human being.
We have seen examples throughout the last century or two of the extremes of suffocating collectivism, on the one hand, and unfettered individualism, on the other; and the damaging societal consequences of both. Unity in diversity is the fundamental principle. How can we understand society and the individual’s relationship to it that avoids these extremes?
In the end, all of our points are based on assumptions – about human nature, about reality, about relationships. It is extremely difficult to prove one over another. All we can do is choose the assumptions we think are the best for humanity’s well being, and then act on them – operationalize them. Then, together, we can reflect on how these assumptions shape thought and society. If the assumption that human beings are cooperative by nature leads to cooperation and happiness, and if the assumption that human beings are competitive by nature leads to competition and misery, which shall we choose? Let us discard assumptions that no longer tend to humanity’s needs, and rather, re-conceptualize a view of the world that conduces to our material and spiritual prosperity.
-“Justice cannot, then, be left to the “invisible hand that is said to characterize our economic free market”
-“Justice … cannot be facilitated through lobbying and partisan advocacy that characterizes our politics.”
-“Justice should be applied through a consultative approach, through cooperation, selflessness, and harmony.”
-“Justice calls for universal participation”
-“One segment cannot determine development values and assign roles to the rest.”
“This article doesn’t attempt to espouse any system.”
I disagree. You’ve already established some pretty clear rules for how the system shouldn’t function. Don’t be evasive. Your restrictions are not abstract. There is some sort of underlying practical agenda whether you’ve fleshed it out or not.
Just to restate from my comment, “This article doesn’t attempt to espouse any particular system.”
You’re completely correct, though, there are mentioned multiple characteristics of a system built upon these conceptions of justice and oneness. Society cannot be without system – even anarchy depicts a certain relationship between individuals. There is no one human system today that embodies the principles of justice described in this post. New conceptions require new systems. It would follow that, since the post proposes a certain conception of justice that is different than what our current systems are based upon, then the post also implies that new systems be built – not choosing from among the old. It is, thus, the task of humanity, together and united, to bring in the whole diversity of thought and human capacity to create new systems based on justice and oneness. The thoughts presented above are a humble contribution.
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