What’s Right about Social Justice?

What if libertarians and classical liberals were wrong and the free-market system actually did make the rich richer and the poor poorer? Would that change their support of those ideas? Professor Matt Zwolinski expects that it would. This implies that most proponents view how the poor fare under free-markets as more than just an attractive selling point for the free-market system. It is a crucial element in justifying market-based policies.

Who ends up with what in terms of money, jobs, or opportunities is affected by the legal and social rules under which people operate. We have rules defining and enforcing property rights, rules of contract, taxation, and so on. Prof. Zwolinski says, “Rules like these don’t determine exactly how any particular person in society will fare compared to anyone else, but they do affect the overall patterns of distribution in society.”

The famous egalitarian John Rawls said that “a just society’s rules tend to work to the maximum advantage of the least well off classes.” Prof. Zwolinski argues that while we may disagree on the means to achieve this end, free-market proponents can agree with this statement. We can embrace a theory of social justice without believing the state has to do anything to directly promote the welfare of the least well off. Prof. Zwolinski believes that when it comes to social justice, supporters of a traditional concept of social justice and free-market proponents have much to learn from one another.

15 Comments

  1. Greg Gauthier

    I, personally, am much less concerned with how "the poor" will "fare" under a free market, than I am with whether or not it is morally good to threaten someone with theft, assault, kidnapping, and murder, just because I might not like how "the poor" are getting along under a free market. 

  2. libertyiowa

    This video put into words and provided a jumping off spot for issues that I struggled with for some time. 

  3. Damian Gunjak

    Goverment can solve problems, but that is ALWAYS the most EXPENSIVE, UNWIELDY and CUMBERSOME way of doing it. 

  4. Stephen Dincher

    I have to reiterate Greg’s point from below. Libertarians are less concerned with the results of the market as they are with the freedom from aggressive violence perpetrated by the State. Prof. Zwolinski is quite wrong in his assessment of libertarian philosophy. Libertarians believe in the non-aggression principle. Do not use aggressive force to coerce others. Period. If the poor ended up poorer in a free market and the rich richer, libertarians would have NO problem with it so long as the rich are not getting richer by using aggressive violence against the poor. Of course, this is all hypothetical since absent a government monopolizer, the rich cannot get richer unless they provide a good or service that others desire enough to trade for. But the underlying principle that defines libertarianism is the non-aggression principle (and of course the self-ownership axiom, but that was not relevant to this video.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *