There is no economic justice

There is a lot of talk of “economic justice” these days, but the economy knows nothing about justice or injustice; it only knows about credits and debits. There is no political justice either, because politics only knows about power–and it distinguishes between those who have power and those who don’t. If we want “economic justice,” we can’t just screw around with tax codes or social welfare programs. If we want justice of any kind, we must turn to law–that is, the legal function system of society.  We cannot depend on morality, religion, ethics alone. Morality, if it is to have any effect, must be translated into law.

It is often said that we cannot legislate morality, but this is nonsense. Law, in large part, is the formalization of moral consensus. For example, in 19th century America, the moral view that slavery is wrong finally took hold, and it was finally translated into law in the form of the 15th Amendment to the Constitution.

If we think targeting certain minority populations for abuse and hate is morally wrong, we enact hate crime laws. If we think child abuse or sexual assault is wrong, we enact laws to that effect. When it comes to “economic justice,” if society thinks it is wrong to have vast disparities in wealth or for some people to starve while others throw away their money (and food) because they have too much, we need to pass laws (or write constitutions) to that effect.  If we are serious about positive social change, we need to stop relying on moral appeals or just exhorting people to “do the right thing.”


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