The Declaration of Independence, in its first paragraph, boldly asserts that America should be a separate nation based upon “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” In the very next paragraph, the text posits, as a self-evident truth, that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,” including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
No place in our nationâ€™s founding documents is the phrase “social justice” to be found. Nowhere is it cited as a divinely endowed right.
In fact, the idea of social justice is an anathema to the concept of unalienable, individual liberty as derived from “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.”
The reason is simple: “social justice” is a concept based on economic egalitarianism through progressive taxation, income redistribution, or even property redistribution. By its very definition, social justice is government-enforced equality of outcome, not equality of opportunity. Philosophically, such a concept is usually predicated on group identity and group wealth or status versus that of another group.
Equality of opportunity is not measured by membership in a particular group, delineated by wealth, or any other factor. Rather, equality of opportunity under law is the lack of government interference with an individual citizen’s liberty to legally pursue his or her own concept of happiness as far as that person’s abilities, desires, and work ethic will propel him or her.
Our founders understood, as does anyone with common sense, that the right to equality of opportunity is, inherently, as much the right to failure as it is the right to success. In other words, the right to liberty is not the freedom from the consequences of choices made when that liberty is exercised.
Adults may choose to drop out of school and join gangs. Likewise, one can choose to engage in unprotected sexual activity without marriage. The liberty to pursue happiness with these activities does not mean that such will achieve happiness. On the contrary, statistically, such choices are far more likely to achieve poverty, disease and misery.
Nonetheless, social justice advocates would oblige the government to attempt to rectify poverty, disease, and misery that result from freely made but unwise choices. To finance this mandate, these advocates demand the coercive surrender of wealth through taxation from citizens who used their liberty to make better choices. Government transferring the wealth of “ants” to benefit “grasshoppers,” or, perhaps, robbing “Peter” to pay “Paul?”
It has oft been quipped that governments which “rob Peter to pay Paul will always have Paul’s support.” However, while a humorous observation, enduring and serious questions underlie it.
First, did “Peter” truly consent to having the government rob him? Second, how much of his God-given pursuit of happiness was Peter forced to forego because the government robbed him? Third, is this justice for Peterâ€”social or otherwise?
“We, the People,” created constitutionally limited government to establish justice for the individual citizen, not social justice for groups. Furthermore, the intent of that Constitution was, and remains, to “secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity,” not redistribute wealth.
Thomas Jefferson’s writings noted the sum of good and just government lies in very few principles: First, government should be frugal with those monies it collects from its citizens. Second, government “must restrain its citizens from injuring one another, but, otherwise, leave them free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement.” Finally, he observed that good government does not “take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.”
Anyone see “social justice” among Jefferson’s principles of good government?
Rep. John Ragan, an Oak Ridge Republican, represents the 33rd District, which includes most of Anderson County, in the Tennessee House of Representatives.