Saturday, October 27, 2012
Freedom and Entirely Just Outcomes: Impossible
It is with some satisfaction, some “Aha!!” said aloud, when I rarely discover some succinct words which state what I have myself have believed (as stated in my usual 10,000 words or more). I saw such a succinct statement in the Wall Street Journal this Saturday morning.
The Journal article was a book review, actually two reviews, of books by economists espousing one economic theory or another. The reviewer of the books was Kenneth Monogue, professor emeritus at the London School of Economics. In his review, professor Monogue makes a statement about two concerns of many --- myself included --- in this country today: our freedoms and our desire for economic justice.
These are his words:
“There is no doubt that freedom on the one hand and entirely just outcomes on the other are (however judged) impossible to combine. Yet believing that we have such immense powers over nature, we yearn to be able to create a society that guarantees the happiness and contentment that would result from the universal satisfaction of human needs.”
I found that first sentence to be exactly what I believe, but could not so succinctly state. We have freedom in this country, and we so desire just outcomes, yet in a democracy those two things cannot be perfectly combined. It is impossible. The desired perfect happiness, totally just outcomes, here on earth is beyond man’s ability to accomplish. There are always those who will desire unjust things, but think them just. There will always be those who will not be able to overcome their own pride and greed, and put themselves first. Man is imperfect. In perfect freedom, there are many good men who would do many good things, but never all men, and never all good things.
Jesus said: “The poor will always be with you.” Yet there are many people, even in this country, who would think they can prove Him wrong.
I’m aware how some would answer Professor Monogue. They would say: “We don’t want perfect justice, we just want better justice.” But Professor Monogue, looking back at history, notes that even with the advances made in social justice, it is never enough for some elite intellectuals. “Better” must be made even better.
Professor Monogue goes on to state that he worries “that state authority would be used despotically for redistribution in the name of justice” --- exactly what is being attempted by many in our government today. But those are the failed ideas of Marx and Lenin.
The Journal article references a new book by Professor Monogue, The Servile Mind: How Democracy Erodes the Moral Life. If he proves as astute in his moral evaluations as his economic analyses here, you may be reading a review of his here at some point in the future.