Archive for March, 2012

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What Justice Means

Outcomes often seem unjust. The poor are in a constant state of suffering, while the privileged are continually extracting wealth from them. This state of affairs has the appearance of a zero-sum game–where one takes, the other gives–and those that have continue to accumulate at an accelerating pace. The poor have no chance at success in these conditions.

I have yet to read nearly enough to justify throwing the name Bastiat around.

The upper class discovered the keys to success long ago. They learned how to manipulate the system, to extract wealth from it, and to use it to enjoy many privileges for generations. The primary tool, of course, is the control of the state and her resources. This is done at the expense of the middle and lower classes. As in all things, however, the example the upper class sets will eventually be mimicked.

They, the masses of the people, imitating the upper classes, cry in their turn for privileges. They demand their right to employment, their right to credit, their right to education, their right to pensions. But at whose expense? — Bastiat

If the poor were to obtain these privileges, who would be left to pay? There are no lower classes to extract from or to ultimately confer the responsibility of payment. Because the upper and lower classes are constantly in a battle over control of the state’s coercive powers, wealth and power are unevenly and deleteriously distributed amongst the people. The wealthy use their vast influence over the state to sate the desires of the poor–at the expense of long term outcomes–in an effort to reduce their desire to gain influence.

We could always turn the tables on the well-off; the privileges the poor seek could be easily gained from them through taxation. But, and this goes for all classes,

If we wish to preserve a free society, it is essential that we recognize that the desirability of a particular object is not sufficient justification for the use of coercion.–F.A. Hayek

Wealth and resources are not obtained and distributed in zero-sum fashion. Value can be created, and in a level playing field, sans the coercive resources of the state, all classes of people can be free to obtain and create without issue. This is justice: freedom from coercion.