Saturday, June 19, 2010


The concept of justice is concerned with the appropriateness of the consequences of actions. This is true regardless of whether one adopts a Lockean natural rights view of justice, or Hobbes’s authoritarian approach. Laws are not necessary to justice. A lawless society is just as capable of just interactions between its members as one that is micromanaged by government fiat. Justice is possible where there are no laws, and in fact the application of certain laws may result themselves in injustice. Not everyting that is legal is just.

The benefit of laws, in particular written laws, is not that they provide for justice, but rather that they provide for predictability. When this predictability is abrogated, the consequences may be far-reaching and severe. Thus, when the minimum wage is raised arbitrarily, without regard to the purposes of employment, jobs disappear and unskilled workers suffer. When the government imposes this tax and that regulation willy-nilly, businesses become wary of regime risk and the economy suffers. When states impose confiscatory taxes on people and businesses, those find other residences, leaving struggling economies in the midst of natural bounty, as in California. When Obama nationalized the auto industry to the detriment of automobile company bondholders, there was little resemblance to justice.

Justice is intimately concerned with consequences. Political pandering and social engineering are intimately concerned with unintended consequences. Thus, when Obama coerces a corporation to relinquish the protection of liability limits in the interest of “fairness,” there are likely to be adverse consequences (loss of jobs in the oil and associated industries, uncertainty as to whether the government can ever be trusted when tempted by political expedience, thus discouraging innovation, etc.) that affect diverse and dispersed people. Getting rid of predictability in the name of justice is almost certain to cause injustice, usually on the politically marginalized.

Knee jerk, sound-bite “justice” is just photogenic injustice.

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