Social Justice? Libertarians Want Justice; Others Want Control
Commentary From Your Libertarian Opinionizer
Why would libertarians give up their individuality for a collectivist version of “social justice?” Libertarians believe in real social justice for everyone but too many liberals want “social justice” to disguise what they really want: Social control over everyone.
First, Libertarians believe in social relationships. It’s just that they reject imposed social relationships while accepting and seeking voluntary social relationships of all kinds at all levels of society.
Second, Libertarians believe in justice. That is what their concept of self-ownership and their moral/ethical Non-Aggression Principle against coercion, intimidation and fraud are all about.
Third, “justice” and “social justice” are not the same things even though some social justice advocates try to make it seem so. Virtually every fair, honest, decent human being in the world wants justice; only liberals, progressives, socialists and similarly-oriented people talk in terms of “social justice.”
So What is Social Justice?
“Social justice” can only be achieved through voluntary interactions among individuals within a given social unit. Stealing from some and giving to others through a concept of forced redistribution only creates control and therefore injustice; an unjustly created permanent victim group and an unjustly created permanent dependent group.
That’s not social justice, that’s social control.
The Oxford Dictionary offers this definition for “Social Justice:”
“Justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society.”
Then it offers this “example sentence:”
“individuality gives way to the struggle for social justice”
So first we have to understand two words.
From the same dictionary “social” is an adjective “relating to society or its organization” while “society” is a noun meaning “The aggregate of people living together in a more or less ordered community.”
Properly understood “society” is a concept, not a concrete “thing.” It requires two or more concrete “things,” in this case individual humans, to make up a human society. Without actual human beings there can be no human society.
Dipping back into the same dictionary again “justice” means (British spelling alert!) “Just behaviour or treatment” with “just” in this context as an adjective meaning “Based on or behaving according to what is morally right and fair.”
Libertarians insist that forcibly taking from some and giving to others is not morally right and fair.
So now everyone should understand what “social justice” means, right? Well, apparently not. Key “social justice definition” into Google and you’ll get something like “About 86,000 results.” Do the same with Yahoo and you could come up with “1,130,000 results” while Bing might dish up “1,140,000 results.” (DuckDuckGo Don’tDon’tTell.)
Of course many of these are duplicates or not applicable to this context but you get the picture. This creates several problems.
Libertarian Nobel Laureate
Is “Social Justice” Really “Just?”
Even those who believe in and are deeply committed to the concept of social justice and talk as though they and everyone like themselves know what it means still don’t seem to know what it means. Sure, everyone has a vague idea about it but no one really seems to get it.
How can anyone who believes in social justice possibly have an individual definition of social justice when “individuality gives way to the struggle for social justice” Based on this “example sentence” there must be ONLY ONE definition of social justice and every properly collectivised individual must “give way” to it.
Who determines what social justice means and how does it become instituted? In a society like the United States with its population of 325.36 million or so, even after eliminating children and people with cognitive issues there is no way for every individual in society to agree on anything.
- If these issues are determined by consensus what prevents the consensus from constantly changing?
- If they’re determined by democratic vote then those on the 51% side are simply imposing their will on members of the 49% side. Is that “Just behaviour or treatment” for the 49%?
- If they’re determined by a small cadre of so-called “Social Justice Warriors” (SJWs) who take over political and social control of the entire society and impose its will on the majority how can that be considered “Just behaviour or treatment” for the minority?
- And perhaps the (Brit alert again) stickiest wicket of all is that very “example sentence” that states “individuality gives way to the struggle for social justice.” How can actual individual humans forced into “giving way” to the concept of “justice” within the concept of “society” possibly be considered “Just behaviour or treatment” for individuals?
Even people who believe in social justice are themselves individuals no matter how eagerly they may attempt to give their individuality away to the groupthink collective communal lockstep mentality that Social Justice Warriors demand.
Yet even they seem to be vastly unaware of how this could ever possibly work short of the use of outright top down coercively applied political power from hierarchical structures such as governments, nation-states and other power wielding-public institutions.
Individuals vs Individualists vs Socialists
Many self-identified socialists insist that they’re in favor of worker owned means of production with no hierarchical structures. So how can they justify political hierarchical structures such as a democratic socialist republic while simultaneously rejecting workplace hierarchical structures?
But then, all of that is their problem. While social justice people may be “individuals” they certainly are not “individualists.” In this context the Oxford Dictionary defines “individualist” as:
“An advocate of a social theory favouring freedom of action for individuals over collective or state control.”
And this definition also comes with an “example sentence:”
“radical individualists, committed to quality of life”
Many (most? all?) libertarians see themselves as “radical individualists” committed to quality of life issues. Unfortunately, there is also this:
“Alexandre Vinet, who claimed to have been the first person to use the term, defined socialism simply as ‘the opposite of individualism.’” – From the Wikipedia entry for “Types of Socialism” with a footnote pointing to the book “Christian Socialism” by John C. Cort.
So according to Vinet a person cannot be both an individualist and a socialist, meaning that individuals must give up their individual identity to become a socialist.
In today’s political-social-cultural-philosophical context libertarians are individualists who frequently go by such names as voluntaryists, agorists, ancaps, post-statists, anarchists, mutualists, minarchists, classical liberals and so on. None of them are likely to give up their individualism willingly.
Justice is Individual, Not Social
Ultimately then only individuals within a society can be just or unjust toward one another since justice depends on how people act towards one another; society cannot act, it is merely a neutral concept that refers to two or more individual actors.
So the original question remains: “Short of outright initiation of force, intimidation and fraudulent arguments what could possibly convince libertarians to give up their individuality for social justice?”
And of course a corollary question exists as well: What could possibly convince social justice advocates to give up their socialist society for individualism?
In the end social justice warriors will absolutely continue to insist on socializing every aspect of society no matter what their fellows or anyone else believes and libertarians will absolutely refuse to surrender their individuality to the world of groupthink socialism.
Because of their non-aggression principle libertarians would never employ the very persuaders against SJWs as they would ultimately have to apply against libertarians; initiation of force, intimidation and fraud.
With vanishingly few exceptions (like “voluntary socialism”) socialists insist that everyone in their society must “give way” to their rule. The best of the libertarian philosophies want only a peaceful, prosperous and open laissez-faire free society where all individuals own their own lives and live in mutual consent with one another.
The Modern American Libertarian Movement
Modern American libertarians, in short, are beginning to take seriously this observation by R. Buckminster Fuller from LibertarianQuotes:
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” — R. Buckminster Fuller
Modern libertarians have only barely begun, in the last 50 years or so, to build that new model.
Collectivism is the old model. Here’s the Oxford Dictionary definition of collectivism followed by its “example sentence:”
“The practice or principle of giving a group priority over each individual in it.”
“The Church has criticized the great emphasis placed on individualism rather than collectivism”
The Church, specifically Catholicism, not only sees the family as the fundamental unit of the church but as the fundamental unit of society, thereby marginalizing or outright ignoring the fact of reality that without individuals there can be no “family.”
This is consistent across all collectivist ideologies like progressivism, socialism, communism, communitarianism, egalitarianism, fascism, Marxism, Bolshevism, sovietism, etc. Even the Third Reich required “the subordination of individuals to a collective good.”
Karl Marx and his concept of Class Warfare may have had some validity in his Old World European 19th century world in which people were forced by the then monarchy-backed ruling classes into one of three other classes: Capitalists, bourgeoisie and Workers.
After all, it was the time of the first Industrial Revolution and swarms of dirt-poor peasants were leaving their dead-end futureless farmhand jobs to seek at least a chance for a better life in the new factory systems.
Does no one notice that today in 21st century America we are neither a primarily agricultural nor industrial society but an information society?
Does no one notice that today in 21st century America the old Marxist nostrums for organizing society are about as relevant as hunter-gatherer, slave system and feudalism concepts would be?
Does no one notice that today in 21st century America the majority of people have the freedom to move up, down, in, out and across many different “classes” during their lifetimes, and that maximizing that freedom by severely minimizing or abolishing the modern version of the monarchical ruling classes even more people will achieve that freedom?
Yet we still have people throwing around anachronistic Marx-speak jargon like comrade, wage slavery, proletariat, class warfare, the masses, planned economy and “Seize the means of production,” the latter because apparently no socialist can actually “create the means of production.” By definition the creators of the means of production are entrepreneurial capitalists, the bête noire of the collectivist classes.
In contrast today’s modern American libertarians reject “ruling class capitalism” as “corporatism” and instead define their free society in terms of laissez-faire, free markets, property rights, self-ownership, autonomy, choice, individual responsibility, antiauthoritarianism, non-coercion and decentralization.
Never “Give Way” to “Social Justice”
Yet some people want to surrender their personal identity to a group in the name of – what? Fear? Safety? Incompetence? Irresponsibility? In-group favoritism? Power-seeking? Clique fetishism? Or, ironically, because they’re antisocial?
If so, they’re certainly free to do so voluntarily; they just have no legitimate justification to force such associations on others.
Collectivism is the past, modern American style libertarianism is the future. Progressives with their beloved mandatory conceptualization of “socialist injustice” will still be swapping pieces of paper imprinted with presidents and patriots and one-eyed pyramids while free people will have long since moved on to Bitcoin and blockchain and beyond.
A Final word: Any attempt to call libertarians “antisocial” would be disingenuous in the extreme. Libertarians are not antisocial; they reject imposed associations but readily accept and even eagerly seek out voluntary associations.
The libertarian rallying cry might be characterized as “Be social, not socialist!”
References and Links
the author of this article insists “a really good case can be made for the social justice libertarian.” Lots of ideas and follow-up comments too.
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