Thursday, 19 October 2017

Social Justice

Here's my response to this quotation: "How do you respond to this Walter E. Williams quote, 'But let me offer you my definition of social justice: I keep what I earn and you keep what you earn.'"


You want to start a business. Fine. I offer you a place to start your business. It’s got plumbing and electricity. There’s a security system and a guard on call. If you have any questions about the regulations in this place, we’ve got someone with the answers you can call. This is a great place to get your business off the ground. We really hope you make a success of it.

But, you do know that all that infrastructure comes with costs, right? And the security isn’t free. And someone is paying for the staff to give you the information you need. Even the money you earn has value only because of a system that you didn’t establish, but benefit from. So what share of the money you earn belongs to the people who built and ran the place, guaranteed the security, and set up the systems? It’s got to be more than nothing, right?

Now, the roads, the water, the electricity, the laws, the courts, the government, the schools that train up the kids to make them worthwhile employees for you, the hospitals that patch them up when a work-related accident happens so they can go back to work…what’s your share of that? Because you’re sure not paying the full cost.

And if your business fails, but you don’t starve, not because of the kindness of this neighbour or that one, but because there’s a whole system we’ve collectively voted for and collectively pay for to make sure you and your family don’t starve, should you pay into that while you can? Or is it something you’ll turn up your nose at because the system is, at the moment, keeping someone else from starving?

A lot of what each person earns is owed to this “public thing” that allows us to earn. And the Latin for “public thing” is “res publica.” We often shorten it to “republic.”

No comments:

Post a Comment