‘Social justice’ is a term that trips easily from the mouths of politicians and of others on what would be seen as the Left in our society. It is one of those things, like motherhood, that you can’t be opposed to. More widely, it is a favourite term of those in the United Nations who see the disparities in wealth and development across the world as inherently unjust. It is generally agreed to be a term coined by a Catholic philosopher in the 1840s, and owed its growing popularity to the conditions for people in the expanding towns and cities of the Industrial Revolution. The novels of Charles Dickens never mention the term, but are imbued with its sentiment. The Methodists and others of the time who worked to end or at least regulate child labour, abolish slavery and deal with prostitution and alcoholism were filled with ideas of social justice, even if they did not use the term (John Wesley talked of ‘social holiness’). More recently John Rawls built it in to some aspects of his Theory of Justice. Friedrich Hayek dismissed it as a nonsense term.

What are we to make of it in contemporary Australia? What does it mean, what should it mean? If you search for meanings on line you will find, I think, an emphasis on equality, egalitarianism, and fairness. But of course that doesn’t get you very far. These are not the only things human beings desire. How much equality do you want? In what areas of life? How much liberty would you trade for how much equality? If we wish to be free to do what we like, following John Stuart Mill, we must allow others an equal freedom to do what they would like. What if I want to earn a whole lot of money, and I can do so being a first-class tennis player? And what if I were successful? Wouldn’t that make us unequal? I wrestled with some of that in my last essay.

Nation-states are large communities, and they all possess, to a great or lesser degree, a felt obligation that the society should look after the old, the frail and the vulnerable. The rest of society is expected to work and look after those for whom they have responsibility. All, except the desperately poor, have safety nets of various kinds at various levels. The one I’m used to is the Australian one, and by and large it seems to me to work pretty well. Yes, one can always tweak the net, and how it’s paid for. When could we say that a given society had reached the desired ‘socially just’ level? I have no idea. If it ever occurred it would be an inhuman society, since we human beings are self-centred as well as altruistic. My children are more important to me that other children. But I would look after a vulnerable child were I to encounter one. It’s a question of balance, of trading, of compromise.

It seems to me that ‘social justice’ is best seen as an aspiration, and that we will never achieve it, for reasons set out above. Pushed hard, I would probably say I value freedom more, because of my academic career in political science (a forbidden subject in many countries), and because I have written as a kind of ‘public intellectual’ for fifty years. Since I have mentioned (and value) John Rawls’s thought, I can set out what he thought of as the basic needed freedoms for any civilised society.

First, freedom of thought, and with it freedom of conscience, as one deals with social relationships: how should I behave in good conscience in areas of religion, philosophy and morality — freedom of opinion and behaviour, on good grounds.

Second, the political freedoms, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, all familiar to me in my working life as a teacher and commentator.

Third, the freedoms he thought were necessary for the liberty and integrity of the person: no slavery, freedom of movement, freedom (within obvious bounds) to choose one’s occupation.

Fourth, the freedoms provided by the existence of a rule of law in a representative democracy, and the rights and liberties conferred on us through legislation.

All of these freedoms together, if they are allowed, constrain each of us in what we do, for they apply not just to us but to everyone else too — Mill again.

Within all that, ‘social justice’ is a kind of valued social co-operation such that the most disadvantaged are assisted. We cannot make them equal, but we can help them be less unequal in some respects important to them.

What I hear most of the time, however, is a slogan that carries little meaning. ‘What do we want? Social Justice! When do we want it? Now!’ It is connected to envy and jealousy and dislike. As I argued last time, if equality is important to you, then you need to be able to explain what kind of equality it is that you want, and how you would propose the society secure it. If you are asking for it under the banner of ‘social justice’, you also need to explain how it is that what is currently the case (that which you want to change) is ‘unjust’. I would not find any of this easy, if I were the person chanting, and I think that is why we hear the slogans a lot but we never hear them developed into an argument. In my experience, when I hear cries for ‘social justice’,  it isn’t long before I hear that the money tree can provide it, if only we tax those rich people.

One of my own goals, when accepting a new responsibility, has been that I wish to leave whatever-it-is in better shape than when I was given charge of it. With a single organisation, like a university, or a research-funding body, it is relatively easy to pick a couple of measures (what we now call ‘Key Performance Indicators’), and see what has happened over time. But when we are talking about a whole society there is no single bottom line. Those interested in anything to do with money will point to GDP per capita. If that is rising over time, then things must be better. Aha! a critic will say, you need a measure of dispersion as well. All the increased wealth could be going to a few people. You can find a candidate or two for that measure. Others will want to add even more criteria.

But what about longevity? What about proportions going on to higher education? What about obesity? What about the number of single-parent families? I’m just picking measures at random. If these measures show a positive trend, is social justice more evident? What if some trends are going up and others are going down?

In short, ‘social justice’ is best avoided unless you are chanting. Find something more precise to worry about.








Join the discussion 75 Comments

  • Bryan Roberts says:

    ‘Social justice’, like ‘human rights’, is meaningless gibberish that enables people who are sure they know what is best for the world to get their own way.

  • spangled drongo says:

    Just the interest on that “social justice” is now 1.5 billion per month.

    As Marcus says, [quoting Paul Simon] we’re just slip-slidin’ away:

    God only knows
    God makes his plan
    The information’s unavailable
    To the mortal man
    We’re working our jobs
    Collect our pay
    Believe we’re gliding down the highway
    When in fact we’re slip slidin’ away


  • spangled drongo says:

    Here’s where all that “social justice” is coming from, going to and being regulated by:

    “In the past 12 months, the labour market generated a total of only 100,000 jobs. The private sector lost 50,000 jobs while governments basically borrowed money to employ more than 150,000 workers. Almost half of these public sector jobs went to well-paid professionals, with the rest mainly spread across management or service occupations.”

    • Neville says:

      SD you’ve nailed it. What a mess and if /when the Labor morons take over govt spending and public service bums on seats will escalate even further.

  • Julie Aitkin says:

    The Australian population experiences death rates amongst the lowest in the world. However, death rates for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population are much higher than the non-Indigenous population, which is one indicator that the overall health status of Indigenous Australians is worse than that of other Australians. Mortality rates are a useful measure to monitor changes in the overall health status of populations over time.
    While there have been some improvements in mortality rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over recent decades, a notable gap between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous population remains. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2014. Mortality and life expectancy of Indigenous Australians: 2008 to 2012. Cat. no. IHW 140. Canberra: AIHW.

    This is one of the key indicators that goes along with longevity that you mentioned. The paper I quoted from does show that COAG is trying to address this social issue.

    If you google life expectancy in other countries you get some pretty horrific figures http://countryeconomy.com/demography/life-expectancy
    Especially in Africa and war torn countries like Afghanistan. The problem is that improving life expectancy for some can cause higher mortality rates for others due to unequal distribution of resources. Achieving “social Justice” is definitely a tricky thing to do.

  • Boambee John says:

    When people speak of “social justice”, they often seem to want equality of outcome (rather than equality of opportunity). My response is to ask whether that is equality of skills outcome or equality of financial outcome.

    Both are easily subjected to reductio ad absurdum.

    With equality of skills outcome, presumably it means that anyone can have whatever career they desire. Want to be a surgeon but don’t understand anatomy? No worries, here is a scalpel, it will come to you. Want to be a 747 pilot but lack spatial coordination? Don’t worry, practice makes perfect if you and your passengers live long enough.

    Clearly not achievable!

    On equality of financial outcome, I offer the example of a school. To achieve the aim, everyone employed there, principal, classroom teachers, teacher’s aides, school secretary, janitor, must all be paid the same. Come back to me when the ACTU has agreed to your proposal.

    Simple caIls for “social justice”, unqualified in any way, demonstrate wooly thinking.

    • tripitaka says:

      Boambee John, if you are only hearing simple calls for “social justice” you are not listening properly. There are many many very well written, rational arguments backed up with research findings that show that social justice is not a wooly concept or thinking. The same applies to your claim that people speak of social justice and want equality of outcome. It must be the case that you only talk to right wing people who are warriors for the idea that greed and selfishness and self interest are the way to have a good life. And of course these sort of people don’t understand social because they don’t even believe in society.

      LOL I’ve read you on that hilarious site, Catalaxy. hohoho what a hoot it is to read the foolish things that are said there. If ever there were a group of nasty unhappy people who don’t live in a society but in a hell of their own making, they are to be found at at Catallaxy.

      • Boambee John says:

        And good evening to you too.

        No, I do not have the narrow range of acquaintances that you suggest. Perhaps you should try to widen your range?

        You should comment at Catallaxy a bit, might make for some interesting debates, should that be your forte.

  • margaret says:

    I don’t hear or see any calls from anyone chanting “social justice!”.
    I think it’s some sort of made up neo liberal fear that any dissent comes embedded with this false slogan which as Bryan/David 🙂 said, is meaningless.
    Envy and jealousy are not the emotions of the so called “lefties” and the old slogan ‘champagne socialist’ is a reality.
    Australia really is in danger of becoming like America, a nation of paupers and oligarchs.
    If people see envy and jealousy then they should look to their own situation and how they may compare themselves with others in their own extended families and circle of friends and acquaintances that may in some way trigger this feeling. It’s more personal than political. It’s a driver in capitalist societies that succumb to greed.
    Here’s another slogan:
    Know thyself.
    PS That was a joke (!) … Bryan/David

    • Ross says:

      There’s no hope for them Margaret. Social justice? Marxist conspiracy.
      If I had my way, we’d have a levy on the major banks and bring Catholic Private School funding in to line with other schools.
      I know, I know. That would be socialism gone mad.

    • spangled drongo says:

      “I don’t hear or see any calls from anyone chanting “social justice!”.’

      Though envy and jealousy are everyone’s emotions, marg, they only form the starter for the entitled majority’s philosophy today.

      To really justify this entitlement you need much stronger emotions such as a conviction of intellectual superiority c/w ignorance and intolerance plus downright hatred of those with a differing POV.

      You see it in spades at activist rallies and protests.

      • tripitaka says:

        If you see envy and jealousy as everyone’s emotions, you are projecting Drongo. You do understand Freud’s idea of projection?

        I don’t see it in everyone I know. I do know a few angry people who are having miserable lives, who hate ‘social justice’ and ‘political correctness’ and all those leftie things and they hate people on the dole and single mothers having babies just to get the pension. They love Trump and are so angry at the Liberal party now but it seems obvious to me that they are the envious ones who imagine that everyone else is having a better life than they are and that is why they are so angry.

        Most people I know strive to not be envious or to indulge in all the other deadly sins despite all the advertising and messages that are an essential part of Capitalism, that tell them that it is a good thing to actually be greedy and selfish and a glutton and to be lustful and to be envious of their neighbours and to spend money to self-aggrandise.

        Those chanting at activist rallies and protests are not chanting for social justice on their own behalf but for the children of those people who are vulnerable to the toxic messages that we get from the Right Wing Politicians. Because rationally, the only way to achieve peace on earth and for an individual to be safe and happy is for everyone in their society/world to be equally safe and happy.

        • Bryan Roberts says:

          So power-hungry madmen like the deceased Castro and the soon-to-be deceased Mugabe were presiding over “safe and happy” societies; safe from the “toxic messages” they might get from the Right Wing Politicians.

          Don’t think so.

          • tripitaka says:

            How do you get from what I said to what you said Bryan? You seem to be reading a lot of your own silly prejudices into my words.

            And as far as I can tell Cuba has done a lot better for it’s citizens, despite the embargo by the US, than all of the other South American countries in which the US has meddled to try and bring about Capitalism. Perhaps you should try reading some facts – not alternative facts but real ones – about what has happened there.

            Your short little response to my comment only reinforces how lacking in intelligence and understanding your type of right wing injustice warriors are and how unpopular your ideas about the way a society should be are becoming in Australia.

            Where is Drongo?

          • Bryan Roberts says:

            Here’s some social justice for you.

            Robert Mugabe’s net worth: 10 million.
            The average wage in Zimbabwe is $253 a month—and that’s for the 30 percent of the population who are employed.
            7.8 million (59.6%) of children aged 0-17 live in abject poverty.

            Didn’t see too much marching going on about this.

          • Bryan Roberts says:

            Here’s some more social justice for you.

            Castro family guesstimated net worth: between 100 and 200 million.
            The ‘official’ average wage is $25 a month, but that may vary. Over half the population earn between $50 and $200 per month.

            I guess they’re doing really well in comparison to – oh, let’s see – Colombia, where the average salary is about $700 per month.

          • tripitaka says:

            No really Bryan that sort of nonsense has nothing to do with the topic, social justice, or with my comment. You are just being silly. Mugabe has nothing to do with social justice or with socialism and your understanding of South American politics and history is just woefully inadequate and I can’t be bothered reading it let alone responding to it. My 3 year old granddaughter has a better understanding of the world around her than you seem to have and she certainly has more interest in learning about the world around her. But thank you for your responses. I hope it brightened your sad old day to be able to say some silly nonsensical things to me and feel like you have defended your position. 🙂

          • Bryan Roberts says:

            “Mugabe has nothing to do with social justice or with socialism ”

            Well, you’re right there. But parroting ‘truth is lies and lies are truth’ makes it obvious you have no idea what you’re talking about. I pity your granddaughter.

    • JMO says:

      Hi Margaret “Scio te ipsum” or “Know Thyself” was the motto of my old high school – Cairns State High School. I have fond memories of my time at that school. For once I agree with you.

      • margaret says:

        At last JMO 🙂

        • margaret says:

          That was tongue in cheek btw. But, your school had a good motto. Ours was Pro Ecclesia Dei For the church of God and
          Beati mundo corde Blessed are the pure in heart.
          Somehow I can’t imagine a boy’s school having the latter part as its motto. Funny that.

          • spangled drongo says:

            Mine was “nil sine labore” which we reckoned meant no sign of labour.

          • Peter WARWICK says:

            Margaret, you are still exhibiting the pebble you have in your sand shoe regarding men/ boys. Take the pebble out and a new world may open to you, or possibly may not.

          • margaret says:

            Probably not Peter … I’m limping, it’s getting to be a stone … but I’ll try not to cast it.

      • tripitaka says:

        Pity? lol so sad if that is that the best you can do. Where is Drongo? You are not up to his standard of witty and dismissive repartee.

    • ianl8888 says:

      > “I don’t hear or see any calls from anyone chanting “social justice!”.”

      Wrongo …


      Teaching your children to read with bedtime stories is social injustice, says their ABC, because it disadvantages those children whose parents don’t do that. The article actually uses the term “social justice”, Margaret.

      Giggle …

      • margaret says:

        … nice to hear a giggle from a guy (I’ll read that and get back to you). If you watched Q&A which I doubt you do but I do when I’m feeling hopeful you’d have seen the desire for social justice in action. (Whatever ‘social justice’ that nebulous term actually means, one aspect came through – ‘well off best ever time’ generation attempting to appease from both sides justifiably ‘angry and disillusioned’ generation.

        • Peter WARWICK says:

          Perhaps we need “inequality police” of “social justice police” in say, beige shirts, who would patrol the streets, and burst into homes at dinner time, and inspect the meal being eaten. Should there be scotch fillet on the plate, then the parents would be given a first warning to the effect that other people are not eating scotch fillet, but simple old rump. Further infringements of this kind would result in attendance at “re-education camps”, where the injustice of scotch fillet would be hammered home to unjust parents.

          And this would help the unemployment figures. I am sure there would be plenty of youngsters willing to take up a new role for good money, and a clean shirt.

          • margaret says:

            Will they carry guns? Seems a bit too close to brownshirts and blackshirts for comfort.
            And who eats scotch fillet?

          • margaret says:

            That was a joke Peter … I would eat scotch fillet but my steak days are ‘rare’ … tee hee

          • margaret says:

            Breaking news … Coles is fitting anti-theft devices to its steaks because of the high cost of beef.

      • margaret says:

        “One way philosophers might think about solving the social justice problem would be by simply abolishing the family. If the family is this source of unfairness in society then it looks plausible to think that if we abolished the family there would be a more level playing field.’ ”

        Who would read the bedtime stories in the institution?

        An interesting article, philosophically, but abolish elite schools before abolishing the family.

        Also, if women have reproductive rights then the babies that are born will have a more level playing field because when lawmakers want to protect a foetus but government won’t ensure that unwanted children are given equality of opportunity once they are born and the mothers are not supported, well … no ‘social justice’ there is there?

        Also ‘social justice’ was mentioned just once … and it wasn’t a chant.

        Guffaw …

      • Ross says:

        Oh Ian888, Really?
        No, the ABC does NOT say that reading to your children is social injustice.
        Please read the article you link to. It is an exploration of Platos theories by a person with no links to the ABC .
        Seriously….read it again and try to take in what the writer is actually saying.
        Oddly enough…the exact opposite of what you state.
        Is there some trigger mechanism in some people’s brain, that goes off when they see the three letters, ABC?

        • ianl8888 says:

          Yet another straw man from the glib set.

          I didn’t say the ABC advocated not reading to children as “social justice”. I pointed out that the term “social justice” was used in that article as an example contrary to the goal-post shifting Margaret.

          Don Aitkin has supplied you glib setters with a whole range of dishonest methods of debate … you are determined to use every one of them.

          [For some reason this site has been unobtainable for about a week]

  • Hayek has a whole chapter on the word “social”. He explains that prefixing any phrase by “social” strips all meaning from the phrase.

  • margaret says:

    “What if I want to earn a whole lot of money, and I can do so being a first-class tennis player? And what if I were successful? Wouldn’t that make us unequal?”
    Yes. Isn’t that part of meritocracy?
    No-one expects equality. It’s a furphy.

    • Ross says:

      What if you had built a financial empire in say….cardboard. What if it came to pass that you had illegally colluded to fix the price to the disadvantage of my competitors, to the tune of tens of millions of dollars?
      On that scale you’d be any reasonable person would be expecting a stint in the pokey. You know…as a warning to others? As justice.
      That is not what happens to the rich in Australia.
      No. You pay a fine. Carry on with your wonderful life, and on your death, you get a state funeral (!)
      I don’t begrudge people making more money than me. Doesn’t bother me at all, actually.
      But social justice? Please.

      • Ross says:

        Apologies for ‘all over the shop’ grammar. Never type and edit when angry.

        • margaret says:

          Ross I forgive you anything.
          Also, anger is good – I’m rapidly realising that the government is gaming ordinary folk because they know the banks will just pass on the one percent or whatever it is levy to us. The banks game everyone.

          • Ross says:

            Agreed, Margaret. But the banks carry the blame in the eyes of the public.
            It’s one of the very few politically astute decisions this government has made.
            Some have said that the banks will launch an ad campaign, similar to the mining companies mining tax effort.
            Sadly for the banks, like ‘real conservatives’ , where does the angry citizen park their vote in protest ? They have no major party fighting for them. Ms Hanson has even managed to say….nothing.
            The Banks are friendless (unless you read the Australian and /or Financial Review.)
            I agree with you about the duplicity of our fearless leaders. We will end up paying for it.
            Interesting times.

            Ken Henry (NAB spokesmouth) “It’s not as if the banks are sitting on a great big pile of money.”
            Sometimes laughter can be the best medicine.

      • margaret says:

        The only saving grace with Pratt is that it was a cardboard empire not plastic.

    • tripitaka says:

      Yes indeed Margaret, the idea that equality is everyone having the same stuff and doing the same thing is a stupid furphy that allows some silly people to ridicule the idea that we can have a society that provides or tries to provide equal opportunity for all types of people to grow up to participate in and be valued by their society.

      Raising children in the way that only women in our society do, provides women with the understanding that children are not all the same and that to provide equality of opportunity to all our children we understand that some need more than others to ensure that they all children receive justice.

      • Bryan Roberts says:

        Perhaps you should define your meaning of ‘justice’, because it has no intrinsic meaning at all.

        • tripitaka says:

          Bryan perhaps the word justice has no intrinsic meaning for you because you suffer from the Dunning-Kruger effect? I’d suggest you read up about the Dunning-Kruger effect which is a psychological state of mind that affects some people, particularly silly old men in Western Civilisations who are facing the end of their reign as the default human being and imagine that if they don’t understand something then it must not be understandable by the rest of the human race.

          So the fact that you don’t understand the intrinsic meaning of justice only means that you are lacking in the ability to understand a term that a whole lot of other people do understand.

          • Bryan Roberts says:

            Your failure to address the question shows exactly ow vacuous your opinions and assertions are. Mud-slinging is not argument.

        • margaret says:

          Justice didn’t exist for the children’s welfare that Cardinal George Pell was responsible for.
          There’s plenty of intrinsic meaning there.

      • Boambee John says:

        PSto my comment above.

        While sneering at my comment, you did not seem ti notice that I was pushing the idea that equality of opportunity is the way to go, not equality of outcome.

        Seems that we are on the same side?

        See you at Catallaxy! ??

        • tripitaka says:

          I wasn’t sneering at your comment; I was laughing at your failure to understand what your ‘enemies’ – the social justice warriors – are saying and what they are advocating. I was laughing at the way you and your fellow sad and angry right wing people create straw people to vanquish – straw people and stupid claims such as the idea that social justice warriors want equality of outcome.

          You were not pushing the idea that equality of opportunity is the way to go; you have no idea how to provide equality of opportunity. You were pushing the idea that social justice warriors want equality of outcome and this is typical of right wing people who don’t understand what social justice warriors do want.

          There are no sides; there is a sphere of ideas and in a just world the distribution of ideas would be normally distributed.

          You won’t see me at Catallaxy. I am never able to post more than one or two comments before being banned. Such hypocrites you people are with all the nonsense you spout about free speech.

          Don gets a lot of respect from me for not banning me despite my criticism of his writing and his attitudes. He is so *not* a hypocrite like the moderators at ‘the Cat’ – lol – are. And it is a bit boring there lately; no late night stoushes where the lack of character of the loud mouth ignorant wanna be alpha males is made clear.

          I use some of the comments I find on the site to show my Liberal party voting friends what the right wing loons really think. In particular the hilarious for me but disgusting for many other people, sexist comments about women and what women really need go down well to convince Liberal people how far out and how lacking in good character and Christian decency the far right wing people are.

  • margaret says:

    “Find something more precise to worry about.”

    Here is something quite precise. It’s about the difference in the way the world works/ed for women and men. I had an aunt like this. Highly intelligent, should have gone to university but parents didn’t recognise that, a misunderstanding in a strong romance led to its demise, never married, lonely, highly capable electoral secretary to Sid Einfeld, carer of her mother in old age, misunderstood but difficult to understand. She was not made for her times. Her sister, my mother had an entirely different life, as siblings do but still, at the end, driving her home through the city, she suddenly said “oh I wanted it all!”… and then wryly… “I didn’t get much”.


  • tripitaka says:

    Hi Don, passing by and I read your first sentence and of course found it a bit lacking in rationality and full of the sort of biased assumptions about the way the world works that is very common among men of your age and education level.

    You say “‘Social justice’ is a term that trips easily from the mouths of politicians and of others on what would be seen as the Left in our society. It is one of those things, like motherhood, that you can’t be opposed to. ”

    But this is nonsense; the word does not trip from the mouths of leftie politicians at all. Do provide some examples of Bill Shorten or any other Australian Labor politician using the term? I can’t think of any. Unless of course you don’t think that Labor are Left? I don’t think they are. So perhaps you mean the Greens? Can you clear up this confusion about those who “would be seen as the Left in our society”? And also can you describe those who you imagine are the people who see Labor politicians as Left? And then could you provide some discussion of the sort of people who divide politics into the simplistic and inadequate to explain what is going on into categories of Left and Right? or perhaps it is Left and Wrong?

    And who are these people who are not against motherhood? There are lots of people who are against motherhood for various reasons some of them women I know. You do seem to live in a very narrow ‘society’ and don’t associate with a diverse range of people so perhaps this explains the simplistic and very ordinary way you talk about the current issues.

    • margaret says:

      I think when Don said ‘trips’ he was calling you back Tripitaka … he doesn’t realise his psychic potential.
      I’ve hung in here doing my best … but usually all I can hear is “lalalalalala” accompanied by fingers in ears.

    • Don Aitkin says:

      Bill Shorten talks a lot about ‘injustice’, Penny Wong talks about social justice quite a bit, especially in connection with gay marriage, Jon Stanhope was honoured (AO) for his work for social justice, and if you search this website (use the magnifying glass) you will find a piece I wrote about him when he he declaimed about social justice being his main goal. I don’t think it’s all that hard to find examples.

      • tripitaka says:

        Yes Don, some Labor politicians do mention justice and the term social justice does come up but that is not what you wrote. I didn’t realise that this blog was an exercise in creative writing. I thought you were using your academic credentials to present an informed and accurate view point so I was surprised by the way you exaggerate the reality.

        Labor has not been left since Hawke and Keating adopted neo-liberalism and demonised people who could not find a job during the series of recessions we had to have.

        If Shorten is talking about justice now, it is for the same reason that Turnbull is talking so much about fairness. People are waking up to the fact that neo-liberal policies do not lead to a good society in which everyone gets what they deserve or are paid what they are worth.

        Hayek, although he was too blinkered by his lack of understanding of human psychology, was actually talking about what neo-liberalism leads to, it leads to Serfdom.

  • Chris Warren says:

    Trying to avoid social justice by calls to “value freedom more” is vexatious.

    In fact, history demonstrates, you get more social injustice when some have less freedom than others.

    If everyone has the same level of freedom, then how can any social injustice arise and survive?

    How does freedom relate to social justice if your level of social justice is determined by your income?

    As we live in a commercial, capitalist, merchantile society, an individuals income is not determined by “freedom” but by economic forces that are strongest when freedom is minimised.

    In such regimes, as Hayek says, social justice is a nonsense term. And that’s just they way they like it.

    • margaret says:

      That’s certainly the way CEO’s and senior execs like it and it all started with ‘greed is good’. It all began late last century before “mammon or millennial Eden”.
      Once again mammon won.

      From Forbes – why CEOS earn so much money.

      “The big change happened in the 1990s. In 1965 the multiple was 20, and by 1978 it had risen only to 30. The next decade, going into 1990 saw the multiple rise to 60. But then from 1990 to 2000 it jumped from 60 to well over 300 – where it has averaged since. So it was long ago that large company CEO pay made its huge gains, and such compensation has now become the norm.
      But this does rile some folks. After all, when a hired CEO makes more in a single workday (based on a five day week) than the worker does in an entire year, justification does become a bit difficult. And when we recognize that this has happened in just one generation it is a sea change.”

      … and we’re all told that above $87,000 is a high income. Well it is I guess if you’re a worker on the minimum wage and you have to live and work in an eastern seaboard city.

      “Social Justice!” she chants. Thank goodness for Sally McManus.

      • margaret says:

        The Centennial Park pavilion in Sydney.

        “The inscription on the sandstone frieze of the Pavilion, just below the dome, ‘Mammon or Millennial Eden’, may perhaps seem a little perplexing to first-time visitors.
        The words are a paraphrase of questions posed in the poem Australia by Bernard O’Dowd, written in 1901.
        The paraphrase was suggested by Professor Manning Clark who believed that the poem reflected the principal obsession of the intellectual community at the time – will Australia become a country of corrupt, ‘ill-gotten’ wealth or will we create a paradise that will last for 1,000 years?”

        I guess we won’t die wondering about that question.

      • tripitaka says:

        Our popular economic wisdom says that capitalism equals freedom and free societies, right? Well, if you ever suspected that the logic is full of shit, then I’d recommend checking a book called The Invention of Capitalism, written by an economic historian named Michael Perelmen, who’s been exiled to Chico State, a redneck college in rural California, for his lack of freemarket friendliness. And Perelman has been putting his time in exile to damn good use, digging deep into the works and correspondence of Adam Smith and his contemporaries to write a history of the creation of capitalism that goes beyond superficial The Wealth of Nations fairy tale and straight to the source, allowing you to read the early capitalists, economists, philosophers, clergymen and statesmen in their own words. And it ain’t pretty.

        One thing that the historical record makes obviously clear is that Adam Smith and his laissez-faire buddies were a bunch of closet-case statists, who needed brutal government policies to whip the English peasantry into a good capitalistic workforce willing to accept wage slavery.

        Francis Hutcheson, from whom Adam Smith learned all about the virtue of natural liberty, wrote: ”it is the one great design of civil laws to strengthen by political sanctions the several laws of nature. … The populace needs to be taught, and engaged by laws, into the best methods of managing their own affairs and exercising mechanic art.”

        Yep, despite what you might have learned, the transition to a capitalistic society did not happen naturally or smoothly. See, English peasants didn’t want to give up their rural communal lifestyle, leave their land and go work for below-subsistence wages in shitty, dangerous factories being set up by a new, rich class of landowning capitalists. And for good reason, too. Using Adam Smith’s own estimates of factory wages being paid at the time in Scotland, a factory-peasant would have to toil for more than three days to buy a pair of commercially produced shoes. Or they could make their own traditional brogues using their own leather in a matter of hours, and spend the rest of the time getting wasted on ale. It’s really not much of a choice, is it?

        But in order for capitalism to work, capitalists needed a pool of cheap, surplus labor. So what to do? Call in the National Guard!

        Faced with a peasantry that didn’t feel like playing the role of slave, philosophers, economists, politicians, moralists and leading business figures began advocating for government action. Over time, they enacted a series of laws and measures designed to push peasants out of the old and into the new by destroying their traditional means of self-support.


        • Bryan Roberts says:

          Yeah, well, how many teenagers do you know who would rush to embrace a subsistence lifestyle? They might march for it, but NONE would volunteer to live it.

          • tripitaka says:

            How many teenagers do you know Bryan?
            How many of the smashed avocado eating 20 somethings do you know?
            How did we get to have these ‘snowflake’ young people who can’t even cook for themselves and have to have everything new in their huge houses?
            What happened to our Australian way of life where we made the best of what we had and when we regarded people who valued wealth over a good life as money grubbers?

          • tripitaka says:

            And Bryan, the term is sustainable lifestyle, not subsistence lifestyle. You do need to try and read without your biased glasses on if you are to understand what is happening all around you and why right wing people are so angry and unhappy and so obsessed with defending Trump, and delusional about how many ‘shy Tories’ there are in the Australian population.

            There is, in reality a growing number of people who do want to lead sustainable lives and realise that the aspirational lifestyle with constant growth that we have now in which people are ‘forced’ by constant propaganda to work at jobs they don’t enjoy, to buy things they don’t need, to impress people they don’t like – the ponzi scheme that is Capitalism – is not the way to the good life.

            You might not realise how many of these people there are and how the numbers are growing because you are part of a minority who remain delusional about the possibilities of a life in which co-operation and caring for your neighbours and your society is the guiding principle rather than the dog eat dog world that we have had for the past few decades in which people are demonised and bullied for being lesser beings.

            Many of the people like you, who mistakenly believe that most Australians are right wing and who hanker for a US style system are quite delusional and refuse to look around and see the reality that this is the country of the fair-go. There was a brief surge of anger and hate when Tony Abbott was elected a few years ago but that was not evidence of the real Australian character; it was a brief burst of nastiness whipped up by the Murdoch press and it’s all over now baby blue.

            I think the evidence that you and your right wing delcons are not talking about moving to the US and the Captialist paradise it will be under Trump is a clear demonstration of the hypocrisy that is typical of your type of right wing person. Sad. 🙂

          • Bryan Roberts says:

            “There is, in reality a growing number of people who do want to lead sustainable lives” … and want them supported by the state.

            Most Australians are socially conservative, and want to live their lives free of government meddling. Many are people who HAVE to balance their own budgets, and cannot see why their ‘rulers’ can spend without restraint. The problem you have is that these people vote, and about half of them vote for people you detest. That is not their problem, that is YOUR problem.

          • tripitaka says:

            “Most Australians are socially conservative, and want to live their lives free of government meddling.” and the rest are stupid and lazy peasants who want to suck at the teat of government? lol Bryan.

  • margaret says:

    “In short, ‘social justice’ is best avoided unless you are chanting.”

    But ‘social justice’ is not a chant.

    The term ‘social justice’ is an umbrella under which all the moral issues in the link below shelter.


    Surely they deserve both chanting and addressing.

  • Chris Warren says:

    So I assume that Francis Hutcheson’s point that;

    ”it is the one great design of civil laws to strengthen by political sanctions the several laws of nature. … The populace needs to be taught, and engaged by laws, into the best methods of managing their own affairs and exercising mechanic art.”

    is contrary to notions of “freedom” that are suggested are somehow more important than achieving social justice.

    In fact, any populace being politically sanctioned can hardly be considered to be free and are likely to be victims of social injustice.

    • margaret says:

      The punishers and the straighteners …

      “The possession of a cow or two, with a hog, and a few geese, naturally exalts the peasant. . . . In sauntering after his cattle, he acquires a habit of indolence. Quarter, half, and occasionally whole days, are imperceptibly lost. Day labour becomes disgusting; the aversion in- creases by indulgence. And at length the sale of a half-fed calf, or hog, furnishes the means of adding intemperance to idleness.”

  • […] Margaret May 19, 2017 at 10:08 am […]

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