*Planning how to improve water access in a remote Iraqi village, Diyala Province.
Economic justice. A very good, very, very smart friend used that term today and, unknowingly, spurred me to feverish mental activity. Not sure any of it will be any good, but feverish!
Economic Justice (EJ) is a loaded term for those who pay passing attention to politics. It implies you have come down on one side of the political spectrum and wholly embraced the Left wing philosophies, redistributionist rhetoric and Occupy Wall street philosophies of modern progressivism. Now, rarely does any one individual wholly subscribe to all of any party or groups doctrine. The vast majority of people self-identify with a group because they agree with enough of their doctrine to be getting on with and just living with the bits they don’t agree with. This kind of compromise is essential if you’re going to operate as more than a party of one.
EJ is a term adopted by modern progressives, it’s use does a couple of things. It self-identifies a user as part of the “in” crowd for other progressives. In that sense it is like many other terms taken over by modern socialism around the globe. By owning the terms and symbols and corrupting and re-defining historical terms they can confuse and mislead the majority of folks who are simply going about their lives only mildly engaged in politics. Take EJ as a perfect example, it has little to do with either economics or justice. for the progressive left it simply means that there is inequality in income distribution (thus violating the rule “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need” or, if they are playing to a Christian audience in violation of the early Church communalism model). The solution for an EJ user is to have the organs of the State re-distribute that income to level the economic playing field. The usual bogeyman for the EJ user is capitalism.
And this is why terms are important. Like communism, there is now, and never has been, an example of capitalism being executed in any society. True, Libertarian free-market capitalism is as much a fiction as Marxian Communism. To use the term communist for any system or person shows a complete ignorance of what communism is. It is as ignorant as thinking that the current western economic model has anything to do with the capitalism of Hagel or Bastiat or Mises.
I traveled for three weeks across the then Soviet Union in the summer of 1991 as part of an exchange program. I visited with soviet families, stood in line in their stores and even attended an underground church. As preparation for that trip I studied in some depth Communism and all its bastard children. What was practiced in the old USSR, along with most of their allies, was a form of socialism. EJ if you will. One group of elites replaced another group of elites who had been organized along a feudal hierarchical model. The new group organized along a “classless” system that left some pigs more equal than others and then stratified into a ruling elite dedicated to utilizing a planned economic model to redistribute the wealth of a nation to level the economic playing field. The communist theory is that once that income has been re-distributed sufficiently, a form of enlightenment will occur, the perfect Soviet Man will emerge and the more equal pigs will voluntarily step down from their more equalness and a form of Utopia will have been reached. Of course it’s so much stuff and nonsense as once the more equal pigs have their perks they have no intention of ever becoming enlightened enough to give them up. And, with the reins of State firmly in their hands, why should they?
Of course, the idea that America follows a capitalism model is equally false. Here, we threw out the feudal elites and set ourselves up a nice, new Republic. And, promptly had it taken away from us, often enough with our help, by another group of elites who began gathering and using the reins of State (see all the similarities?) to create not a capitalist Utopia (though that idea worked well to sell the masses on) but a mercantilist state that, technically, can’t be called anything but fascist.
The old Soviets fell apart, and for a time it looked like their people might have a chance at grabbing a large chunk of Liberty for themselves. That hope is now fading as the former elites use their ties and money to re-gather the reins of State. It won’t matter much which ideology they follow, follow the money trail and you will see where the power lies. The pressures in our society are building up to the point that we will most likely soon see some sort of effort to remove the current crop of elites. One of two things will happen. We will hang most of them in the streets and usher in a new crop of elites who will then begin gathering the reins of State for their own ends while selling the masses one form of pap or another or we will see “reform” of one sort or another that doesn’t usher out the current crop of elites but eases the economic pressure enough that most people’s pool water isn’t uncomfortable enough for them to make much of a fuss.
There really isn’t much the average Joe can do about all this. It is a rhythm as old as society. I think Christians have always had the answer to this, but it became less obvious the more we adopted the mores of society (thinking we were converting the society and forgetting that Jesus died for individuals, not groups). The early Church model of voluntary collectivism is a good example to follow. It promotes community over self, re-focuses ones energy from amassing goods to amassing relationship in order to survive hard times and provides the maximum latitude for the exercise of Freedom and Liberty within the group because the individual, based on his relationships, self-limits some behavior out of respect for others rather than fear of consequences.
The current western economic system is incredibly productive, but incredibly fragile. To properly address that fragility without killing the productivity requires some things to happen that probably won’t until we can kill off, figuratively or literally, the current crop of elites. It requires a societal re-awakening to the importance of relationships. It requires a re-ordering of priorities away from a work hard, save, retire model to a live well and passionately now and rely on the community to support you in your dotage clan model. It requires a turning from consumptionism and pop-culture dreams to respect and adoration for those who can make creatively or at least productively. It requires an abandonment of the current regulatory structure where someone who violates another’s person or property pays “society” through fines or prison to a direct, to the offended party, payment method. This would, at a stroke, eliminate 90% of the State’s purpose for existence and radically pump up the economy but would require an almost complete restructuring of the judicial system as well.
All that to say, if you really are bothered by EJ in this day and time, and you are looking for the reins of State to come to your rescue, you are part of the problem, not part of the solution. You have been duped into believing that if only OUR group of elites were in power they would make it all better. If you really want to see poverty reduced, focus on making those in poverty more resilient. Usually, that involves a whole lot of one on one relationship stuff that has very little to do with how they earn their living. If more and more of us became resilient, the power base of the elites would be eroded. Neither the State nor the Corporate elites have a solution for how to maintain their power, if the population is focused on becoming locally resilient, other than force. And, the use of force in the face of popular opposition tends to eventually end with the elites swinging from lamp posts. Who knows, if we had that kind of revolution among a people who were dedicated to becoming personally and locally resilient, maybe we would forget to put some new elites in charge of the reins of State this time!