Few words in the modern political jargon can match ‘social justice’ for either mendacity or stupidity, depending on who uses this pernicious term and to what end.
As I wrote yesterday, words no longer convey their real meaning. Vindicating Talleyrand’s bon mot, they conceal it.
Hence, following the turmoil embroiling the Tories, everybody’s talking about our lack of social justice, as if we were short of something valuable. In fact, social justice is the last thing those people – including the newly martyred and beatified Iain Duncan Smith (IDS) – want.
My dog-eared Chambers Dictionary defines justice as “the awarding of what is due”. If our semi-literate population, corrupted into chronic idleness by the welfare state, were indeed awarded its due, a third of it would starve to death.
Yet illiteracy has been used as a weapon of mass instruction for so long that few cringe when served up ‘social justice’. In fact, ‘social justice’ is nothing but levelling, which is about as opposite to justice as one can get. Economic levelling isn’t economic justice; social levelling isn’t social justice; political levelling isn’t political justice. They’re all, however, aggressive weapons in modernity’s war on custom and decency.
Astonishingly for an ex-leader of the Conservative Party, IDS seems to believe that levelling, otherwise known as ‘social justice’, is an essential function – nay, duty – of government.
Sorry about insisting on using words in their real meaning, but the state robbing an industrious Peter to pay a loafer Paul, thereby increasing its own power over both, has nothing to do with justice.
Nor does it have anything to do with charity, as socialists like to lie. Just as levelling is the exact opposite of justice, so it is the exact opposite of charity.
Charity is an act of individual compassion and mercy that, while helping the receiver materially, also elevates the giver spiritually. The state extracting money from people on pain of imprisonment and then using public funds to create generations of parasites is something else again.
Obviously those who are genuinely unable to work and can’t provide for themselves must be offered charitable help. But this should come from individuals, not the state. What the state should do is use its taxation system to encourage acts of private charity (for example, by making donations tax-free), not discourage them, as it does now.
The state isn’t there to be charitable; that’s what individuals are for, and perhaps the church. The best thing the state can do for ‘the less fortunate’ is to create an economic environment in which there will be few of them.
(‘Less fortunate’ in the meaning of ‘poor’ is another cynical misnomer. The implication is that poverty results from bad luck. Sometimes it no doubt does. More typically, however, people in the West are poor because they don’t work hard enough.)
As has been amply demonstrated everywhere in the world, with absolutely no exceptions on record, the best way the state can create such an environment is to act as a referee in the economic game, not an active player.
That means reducing the tax burden to the absolute minimum required for the state to perform its legitimate functions, which don’t include social engineering and economic levelling.
They do include protecting individuals from external and internal evil-doers, and guaranteeing the security and sovereignty of the realm. It’s in these legitimate functions that our state is manifestly remiss.
What it does well is extorting from working people at least half of what they earn by hard toil. This puts dampeners on the productive elements in the economy, while then rechanneling the money into the conduit of ‘social justice’ that encourages the least productive elements.
The government of which IDS was a member does nothing to create a healthy economic climate, although certain measures proposed in Osborne’s budget suggest he knows what that may involve. But acting on such knowledge by, for example, reducing the state’s take to, say, 25 per cent of GDP, would be politically suicidal.
It would be so because for the better part of a century, certainly since the Second World War, the state has conducted a concerted campaign aimed at brainwashing people into equating profligate government expenditure with morality.
The ploy has been as successful as it has been cynical: most people grumble about being skinned alive by taxes, but few question the state’s right to extort a lion’s share of their income. Doing so would sound tantamount to being crassly selfish and insensitive to the plight of their fellow man.
IDS is a culprit in this morally shabby exercise and, judging by his sanctimonious pronouncements, an enthusiastic culprit at that. For what he singled out for criticism in Osborne’s budget is precisely the measures that hint, from light years away, at what must be done: rolling back the welfare state and lowering the tax burden.
No more than a hint it is, for the budget doesn’t reduce welfare handouts but merely slows down by a whisker their rate of growth – and the same can be said about taxation. It’s a virtual, spivocratic, political budget, and in this IDS is right.
However, one shudders to think what sort of budget he himself would propose given the chance. We’d all die by social justice.