THE Global Justice Movement Website

THE Global Justice Movement Website
This is the "Global Justice Movement" (dot org) we refer to in the title of this blog.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Problem of Social Justice

Taking a break in our series of postings on the laws and characteristics of social justice, we thought we’d look at what many people presume to be the task of social justice: creating a perfect society here on earth, instead of one that is just for as many people as possible.

Henri de Saint-Simon
To many people, however, “social justice” means nothing less than the perfection of human society by any means necessary — the stated goal of one of the founders of “Christian socialism,” Henri de Saint-Simon (1760-1825).  As his fundamental principle is expressed, “The whole of society ought to strive towards the amelioration of the moral and physical existence of the poorest class; society ought to organize itself in the way best adapted for attaining this end.”
As Dr. Julian Strube of Heidelberg University has characterized this overriding principle of the socialist movement from the earliest time, there is an obsession with creating the “Kingdom of God on Earth.”  No other consideration is to have any weight whatsoever.  Individual rights, traditions, customs, laws, traditional religions, even God must go down before this one principle that justifies everything.
That is what “social justice” is all about to the socialists, and why social justice and socialism are equivalent terms.  That is, unless you’ve been reading the blog series on the laws and characteristics of social justice, or dipped into CESJ co-founder Fr. William Ferree’s pamphlet, Introduction to Social Justice (1948).
Henry George
While it might seem paradoxical, the modern understanding of social justice came out of the theories of the agrarian socialist Henry George (1839-1897), who strongly influenced the thought of Monsignor John A. Ryan (1869-1945) and the founders of the Fabian Society.
Briefly — which is all we have time for this fascinating subject — the influence of the Fabian Society continues to be pervasive down to the present day.  Aiming at the revision of traditional Christianity as part of its program of uplifting society, Fabianism is an offshoot of the New Age “Fellowship of the New Life.”
Founded in England in 1883, the Fellowship of the New Life was part of the greater New Life movement that evolved out of the “New Christianity” of Henri de Saint-Simon and other early socialists.  Reflecting a distorted understanding of human nature, the group sought to attain “the cultivation of a perfect character in each and all” in this life through pacifism, vegetarianism, and simple living. (Colin Spencer, The Heretic's Feast: A History of Vegetarianism.  London: Fourth Estate Classic Publisher, 1996, 283)
Edward R. Pease
Soon after the founding of the Fellowship, members wanted to begin using the power of the State to transform Christianity and bring society around to their views; “Christianity and Socialism are said to be convertible terms.” (Edward R. Pease, A History of the Fabian Society. New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., 1916, 25.)  There was also a desire to get away from the subordination of the material to the spiritual that, as they saw it, characterized traditional concepts of religion and interfered with progress. (Ibid., 39.)
The Society was inspired in large measure by the shared enthusiasm of co-founders Edward Reynolds Pease (1857-1955) and Frank Podmore (1856-1910) for the theories of Henry George, and skepticism about spiritualism. (Ibid., 28) After a number of organizing meetings, members of the Fellowship founded the Fabian Society as their political arm on January 4, 1884. (Ibid., 28-33.) As Pease related,
To George belongs the extraordinary merit of recognising the right way of social salvation.  The Socialists of earlier days had proposed segregated communities; the Co-operators had tried voluntary associations; the Positivists advocated moral suasion; the Chartists favoured force, physical or political; the Marxists talked revolution and remembered the Paris Commune. . . . George recognised that in the Western States political institutions could be moulded to suit the will of the electorate; he believed that the majority desired to seek their own well-being and this could not fail to be also the well-being of the community as a whole.  From Henry George I think it may be taken that the early Fabians learned to associate the new gospel with the old political method. (Ibid., 20-21.)
Frank Podmore
George shared with the Fabians “a desire to explore the possibilities, within existing economic theory, of using legislation to regulate the economy for the general good.” (George H. Sabine, A History of Political Theory, Third Edition. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1961, 693; cf. Harold G. Moulton, The New Philosophy of Public Debt.  Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution, 1943, 71-89.)  As Sabine commented, “Fabian economics was for the most part not Marxian but an extension of the theory of economic rent to the accumulation of capital, on lines already suggested by Henry George.  Fabian policy was based on the justice and the desirability of recapturing unearned [i.e., non-labor] increment for social purposes.” (Sabine, A History of Political Theory, op. cit., 740.)
Within this framework, ultimately nothing matters but the material welfare (as defined by those in power or who wish they had had power . . . over others) of the greatest number . . . of those who qualify for beneficiaries of that welfare (as defined by those in power or who wish they had had power . . . over others).
Msgr. Ronald A. Knox
As for the rights of others?  No need to concern yourself about the lives, liberty, or private property of those whose consciousnesses have not been raised.  They are of the unenlightened, the ungodly (regardless what those in the know worship as God) and may safely be ignored or treated as the legitimate prey of the godly or the enlightened.  As Msgr. Ronald Knox explained,
To be born again makes you a new creature; the seed of grace, ransomed from a drowning world, must not be confused with the unregenerate; they are (so to say) a different kind of animal.  They alone, and not the ungodly, have legal rights. (Msgr. Ronald Knox, Enthusiasm: A Chapter in the History of Religion.  New York: Oxford University Press, 1961, 584.)
The problem, of course — actually a couple of problems — is that this belief violates the first principle of reason by assuming that some people are somehow inherently better than others.  It also implies that God is at the service of man instead of the other way around, as Fulton Sheen explained in his first book God and Intelligence in Modern Philosophy (1925).
All in all, it seems that there is a basic misunderstanding of the social tool of the State and its proper role . . . which boils down to the meaning and purpose of life . . . which we will look at next week.