An organization to which we are much indebted, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, has an essay contest for undergraduates annually. This year, the question is simple at first glance but deep: what is social justice? I decided to write an essay in response, and here reprint my thoughts on what a true social justice is:
“True social justice would reward virtue, since justice gives to each what is his due. It would reward virtue through a variety of means: honors, distinctions, applause, riches, love. It would seek to encourage virtue wherever it may be, in the most likely and unlikely places, among both powerful and the weak. It would understand the evils of suffering, and seek its alleviation, yet it would understand the goods that may flow from evil. It would not distinguish between creed, color, or gender – but would know that virtue is engraved upon every man’s heart. Consequently, it would practice mercy towards those who need our aid, since all have the capacity for the good and therefore innate dignity deserving of charity. Above all, a true social justice would not descend to solely materialistic concerns: but would enable human beings to reach genuine fulfillment through virtue.”
In contrast, modern liberals argue for the leveling of material conditions. They assume worth to come from material possessions. They also assume that materialistic equality is possible, which is perhaps their greatest mistake.
The French Revolutionaries “would have had a protected, satisfied, laborious, and obedient people, taught to seek and to recognize the happiness that is to be found by virtue in all conditions; in which consists the true moral equality of mankind, and not in that monstrous fiction which, by inspiring false ideas and vain expectations into men destined to travel in the obscure walk of laborious life, serves only to aggravate and embitter that real inequality which it never can remove, and which the order of civil life establishes as much for the benefit of those whom it must leave in a humble state as those whom it is able to exalt to a condition more splendid, but not more happy.”
“Believe me, sir, those that attempt to level, never equalize.”
- Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France
David Ortiz, Editor-in-Chief
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