Matt Zwolinksi has a post at Bleeding Heart Libertarians in which he asks “What Is Social Justice?” He offers a couple of specific answers and alludes to others. One of his offerings is something he calls prioritarianism.
Prioritarianism, as I understand it from Zwolinski’s explanation, assumes that (a) the welfare of an individual can be quantified, (b) the welfare of individuals can be summed, (c) the welfare-value of a marginal dollar is inversely proportional to the initial welfare state of the recipient, (d) the inverse relationship is stronger at lower initial welfare-values, and (e) most importantly, in accordance with (b), the welfare gained by the person to whom a marginal dollar is given somehow cancels the welfare lost by the person from whom that dollar is taken.
If this is a valid prescription for “social justice,” it must be capable of implementation. Otherwise, it is no more useful than a map of the Kingdom of Oz.
And who should be in charge of measuring welfare, summing it, and weighing the gains and losses in order to arrive at a socially “just” distribution of income, whatever that is? Well, we know the answer to that question: It has to be the state — or more accurately — elected officials and bureaucrats: people not known for their perspicacity, objectivity, and even-handedness.
In the alternative, a just society could be one where individuals engage in voluntary, cooperative exchanges of goods and services for their mutual betterment, and from the fruits of which they voluntarily aid those whom they know to be in need of aid.
The alternative is inevitably attacked as “unjust.” But it should be noted that such attacks come from individuals (philosophers, politicians, do-gooders, etc.) who would impose their own views of “social justice” on everyone. How any such imposition can be considered more “just” than a regime of voluntary, cooperative, mutually beneficial behavior is beyond me.
I submit that what we now have in the United States is a statist, “prioritarian” regime, with all of real-life arbitrariness, scheming, and graft that inexorably accompanies statism. What we need badly is a reversion to the kind of constitutional order that would allow the alternative to flourish.
Economic Growth since WWII
The Price of Government
The Commandeered Economy
The Price of Government Redux
The Real Burden of Government
Toward a Risk-Free Economy
The Rahn Curve at Work
The Illusion of Prosperity and Stability
Estimating the Rahn Curve: Or, How Government Inhibits Economic Growth