“Social Justice” is a term widely evoked, especially academically, but seldom examined.
The word is virtually ubiquitous on campus, in catalogues, courses and clubs, Peter Wood of the National Association of Scholars (NAS), averred in a luncheon address at the Indianapolis meeting. Mostly, academic elites mean, “social justice, as currently understood, not in the right way, as in how one individual should treat another, but in terms of fairness or equality,” Thomas Patrick Burke of the Wynnewood Institute, pointed out in a talk he gave at the Philadelphia Society’s annual meeting in Indianapolis last weekend.
Burke taught religion at Temple for 25 years before retiring from the faculty there in 1996. The modern definition of social justice is “a big departure from ordinary justice,” Burke avers. In its contemporary usage, “Social justice favors some over others,” Burke asserts. “Social justice requires all institutions to move towards fairness.”
“Social justice cuts the link between ethics and individual responsibility.” Social justice became redefined in the United States through the New Deal and as a result of last-minute changes to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Burke said.
“As the Civil Rights bill moved through committee,” the meaning of the concept changed “from elimination of segregation to elimination of discrimination.,” Burke said. “Before 1964, discrimination was a virtue: discriminate taste.”
“Liberals captured the word and twisted it just as they twisted the word ‘liberal.’”
“There is a distinction between coercive and peaceful (non-coercive) discrimination. Segregation is coercive discrimination.”
Additionally, there was “the addition of the word sex to the Civil Rights bill,” Burke stated. Ironically, this was an attempt “to kill the bill but the amendment was taken up on its merits by female members who pushed for it.”
Conveniently, the manner in which the moderns define “social justice” usually entails a subsidy to the party seeking justification. Joseph F. Johnston, Jr., of the law firm, Drinker, Biddle and Reath, characterizes this approach as “bogus philanthropy.”
Echoing Frederic Bastiat, he argues that in this transfer of resources, “some live at the expense of others.”
“Politicians giving taxpayers money to groups is not charity,” he said.
Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.
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