Weasel Words: Social Justice

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By Mike Cronin

When you hear someone speak of social justice, what comes to mind?  The first time I heard the term, I recall wondering why justice needed a qualifier. Over time, I came to realize that it was simply another corruption of language the weasels have been using to push us towards more collectivism; in this case: it sounds so righteous, but it is really just code for the same old thing collectivists always seek: group “rights” and wealth redistribution.

To their way of thinking, it is unjust for a few to accumulate substantially more wealth than others, or for there to be a large difference in incomes and holdings between the wealthiest and the poorest members of society. The supposed goal of social justice is a community wherein there is at least rough parity in the economic outcomes for everyone. The goal is to be obtained regardless of whether there might be a huge disparity in the productive inputs between everyone, and in ignorance of the economic concept that it is possible to create wealth vice distribute it. More broadly, but in the same vein, the term social justice is also used when collectivists seek “rights” for groups that do not exist for the individual.

Here are some of the problems with the concept:

1.            When opponents argue that the term social justice means equal outcomes without equal inputs, proponents argue that they don’t mean absolutely strict equality…but they fail to identify just what an acceptable range of differences might be, and they blank out discussion of input entirely – as if it were axiomatic that all input effort is equal.

2.            Proponents of social justice have no recourse but to use the coercive power of government to obtain “equality of outcomes.” In other words, to tax the incomes and/or confiscate the wealth of those who have been the most industrious, in order to give it to those who have been less industrious.  This deters productivity and rewards mediocrity – where is the justice in that?

3.            Polish political commentator Janusz Korwin-Mikke (a.k.a. JKM) opines: “Either ‘social justice’ has the same meaning as ‘justice’ – or not. If so – why use the additional word ‘social?’ … if ‘social justice’ means something different from ‘justice’ – then ‘something different from justice’ is by definition ‘injustice.'”

4.            Valid rights are negative in nature. That means they require no positive action on the part of others, merely that one restrain oneself from violating another’s rights.  The group “rights” social justice proponents argue for are really privileges, obtained at the expense of others. Two examples: If one has a “right” to housing (as opposed to the right to attempt to buy or rent shelter through mutual agreement with an owner or landlord), then one has a “right” to the time, materials, and labor of construction workers, tradesmen, planners, landscapers, and other human beings involved in the production and marketing of the house. If one has a “right” to health care (as opposed to the right to seek out health care from a willing provider in exchange for some mutually agreed upon value), then one has the “right” to the time, effort, skill, and materials of doctors, nurses, therapists, pharmaceutical producers, and all of the other people engaged in the provision of one’s care.

How awesome for you if you’re getting some of that social justice the politicians have been promising! How cool is it that now you have such rights! But how long will it be until no one will design new technology, or build a factory, or rent a house, or grow crops, or slog through years of medical school anymore?  Ever wonder why there is a shortage of engineers and doctors, and an overabundance of lawyers in this country? Where will you get your social justice when such people extract their own form of justice from society?

Weasel Words: Poor and Poverty

By Mike Cronin

When you are told that you need to help the poor in this country, what image comes to mind?  Are you thinking about the homeless lady pushing around a shopping cart full of her meager possessions? Do you envision whole communities in America that live in shanty towns and dig through landfills to scrounge for their daily sustenance?  Well, that kind of abject, absolute poverty may exist somewhere in America, but it’s exceedingly rare. When politicians, clerics, and pundits demand your sacrifices so they can help the poor, they are speaking “Weaselese.”

Most of the poor in this country may suffer from relative poverty, but not absolute poverty. According to 2010 Census Bureau and other government statistics cited in a Heritage Foundation backgrounder:

  • 80 percent of poor households have air conditioning. In 1970, only 36 percent of the entire U.S. population enjoyed air conditioning.
  • 92 percent of poor households have a microwave.
  • Nearly three-fourths have a car or truck, and 31 percent have two or more cars or trucks.
  • Nearly two-thirds have cable or satellite TV.
  • Two-thirds have at least one DVD player, and 70 percent have a VCR.
  • Half have a personal computer, and one in seven have two or more computers.
  • More than half of poor families with children have a video game system, such as an Xbox or PlayStation.
  • 43 percent have Internet access.
  • One-third have a wide-screen plasma or LCD TV.
  • One-fourth have a digital video recorder system, such as a TiVo.
  • 96 percent of poor parents stated that their children were never hungry at any time during the year because they could not afford food.
  • 83 percent of poor families reported having enough food to eat.
  • 82 percent of poor adults reported never being hungry at any time in the prior year due to lack of money for food.
  • Over the course of a year, 4 percent of poor persons become temporarily homeless.
  • Only 9.5 percent of the poor live in mobile homes or trailers, 49.5 percent live in separate single-family houses or townhouses, and 40 percent live in apartments.
  • 42 percent of poor households actually own their own homes.
  • Only 6 percent of poor households are overcrowded. More than two-thirds have more than two rooms per person.
  • The average poor American has more living space than the typical non-poor person in Sweden, France, or the United Kingdom. In fact, at 1,400 square feet, the dwelling of the average poor American is still substantially larger than the average dwelling in every European nation except Luxembourg.
  • The vast majority of the homes or apartments of the poor are in good repair.

The next time you feel shamed into to voting for a politician that demands a sacrifice from you in order to help “the poor” through his government programs, understand that your hard-earned money, and your neighbors’, isn’t helping “the poor” stave off starvation, it’s enabling them to buy cars, air conditioning, flat screen TVs, TiVos, and Xbox-es.

Weasel Words: Crony Capitalism

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By Mike Cronin

No doubt you’ve heard the term “crony capitalism.” It’s a “weasel word.” Weasel words are terms or phrases that are used to steer your thoughts or beliefs away from the hard truth.

As I’ve discussed elsewhere, both of the dominant political philosophies in American discourse today, liberalism and conservatism (each weasel words in their own right, to discuss in separate posts!) tend towards the collectivist end of the political spectrum vice the individualist side. Neither school wants fully unchecked free market capitalism. The liberal school believes capitalism is exploitative, but it knows that without a productive economy that is at least semi-free, there will be no wealth to “redistribute.” The “establishment” branch of the conservative school professes to hold capitalism in high regard, but has never given up political power by totally de-regulating our economy and giving us a truly free market, despite having had occasional chances to do so. (The “Tea Party” branch of conservatism espouses capitalism and free market economics, but it has yet to achieve enough power in Washington to affect any changes to our mixed-economy system.)

Hence, members of both camps use the term crony capitalism in place of the term “corporatism” as a way to attach a negative connotation to pure capitalism. Corporatism is the result of industries, large corporations, unions, and other pressure groups essentially “buying” the laws and taxes and tariffs they want in order to change the game against their competitors. The competitive principles of bringing the best product to the buyer at the best price are replaced by using the coercive power of government to penalize or prevent the activities of newer, smaller or foreign businesses, or to rake in subsidy and bailout money.

Capitalism, and the free market, is the politico-economic system that develops as a natural result of government that recognizes and protects individual rights and liberty. It rewards achievement and is free from governmental coercion. We have never had a fully free and unfettered market in the US, yet our greatest periods of economic growth and prosperity have occurred during the times when our market was freest and our government was most constrained. China has risen to become the world’s second largest economy over the last 30 years because it shed many aspects of communist central economic planning and adopted some free market reforms. If China ever allowed its 1.4 billion people the same amount of political and economic freedom as we have enjoyed from time-to-time in this country, it would easily eclipse the US as an economic power. In essence, China’s rise is commensurate with the degree it has adopted free-market economic principles, and the decline of the US is commensurate with the degree corporate and other pressure groups, via government coercion, have shackled our economy.