All Commentary
Thursday, August 1, 1996

Defining Justice

Socialists Manipulate Language to Advance Their Ideology

Mr. Da Vee is a freelance writer living in Monterey, California.

When a word is used in a certain context often enough, it can take on a whole new meaning. One such casualty of the English language is the word “justice.” By planting it within the phrase “economic justice,” we begin to equate justice with the equal distribution of wealth. Would economic equality through the transfer of wealth by the state be the realization of economic justice?

Nature does not produce a state of equality. No two people have the same physical or mental abilities. Add to the equation the free will of the individual either to utilize the talents that God has rationed—or to squander them—and economic equality becomes a goal that is incompatible with the right to property.

To correct nature’s “imperfections,” the socialist looks to the state to employ the leveling power of the law. Socialists assume that economic inequality in and of itself constitutes economic injustice. They regard wealth acquired through risk, toil, and sweat to be ill-gotten gain if it is “excessive.” Therefore justice must be imposed, or rather, inflicted by the state upon society through positive laws.

Positive laws are tyrannical. One individual’s rights—whether they be life, liberty, or property—must be sacrificed by the state in order to fulfill the positive rights of another. For example, if housing is considered a “right,” then the state will have to confiscate wealth (property) from those who have provided shelter for themselves in order to house those who have not. This is done under the banner of justice, when justice is defined as equality.

In The Law, French economist Frederic Bastiat wrote: “`The purpose of the law is to cause justice to reign’ is not a rigorously accurate statement. It ought to be stated that the purpose of the law is to prevent injustice from reigning. In fact, it is injustice, instead of justice, that has an existence of its own. Justice is achieved only when injustice is absent.”

True justice is realized when our lives, and property are secure, and we are free to express our thoughts without fear of retribution. Just laws are negative in nature; they exist to thwart the violation of our natural rights. Government ought to be the collective organization—that is, the extension—of the individual’s right of self-defense, and its purpose to protect our lives, liberties, and property.

Socialism’s allure lies in its deceptive appeal to become part of a noble cause—to create a utopian society where every individual is free from want. Yet a job, home, education, medical care, and standard of living, are not “rights.” They are things that may be gained in proportion to the effort and ingenuity spent in acquiring them—in a free society.

Socialists are skilled at manipulating language in order to advance their ideology. A movement that claims to seek economic justice is much more palatable to the American public than one which openly seeks the advance of socialism. Americans love justice, but most—especially politicians—will not admit to being socialists. Instead they will describe themselves as “liberals” or “progressives.” These are deliberately deceptive labels designed to make socialists appear to be operating from a moral high ground. For, to oppose a liberal implies that you seek to constrain—when in fact just the opposite is true. It is the modern liberal who views government as a tool to engineer society and control our lives. To oppose a progressive implies that you are “backwards” and an obstacle to progress. And to oppose “economic justice” as it is defined by liberals/progressives, is to favor injustice.

Economic justice is not realized when we are equal, it is realized when we are free to own property and order its direction. Wealth redistribution by the state is nothing more than legalized economic injustice.

Government that tramples the property rights of its citizens makes itself their adversary, and will eventually collapse or face insurrection. A government that exists to protect personal liberty and property rests upon a firm foundation—the allegiance of those it governs.