America since its founding has been all about political justice. To this end the founding fathers established the democratic foundations of this country. Since FDR, however, there has been a fundamental shift in the nature of justice. Liberals have been pushing hard for economic justice, and they have been willing to sacrifice the pillars of our democracy to pursue it. In essence political justice is now being sacrificed for “economic” justice.
Economic justice for liberals means redistribution of income and wealth. For them it is not right that some should have more material wealth than others. They are uninterested in who creates wealth and of the nature of economic growth; they are solely interested in the distribution of wealth. For liberals this is economic justice. It is not justice that people get what they contribute to the economy and in meeting the needs of others which is the notion of economic justice created by our founding fathers and which is embedded in our market oriented economy. For liberals someone who does not want to work and is a drain on the community should get rewarded out of the fruits of the labor of others.
In talking about the redistribution of income to help the poor, it is important to understand what we mean by the poor. It is recognized in this country, unlike in most of the world, that in talking about the poor we are not talking about people worried about survival. They have food, shelter, and health care. Almost all also have television sets and many other modern conveniences. What we are talking about then is not survival, but rather seeing to it that most everybody has the same level of wealth and material well-being. We are talking about relative, not absolute, wealth and well-being. Where does this stop? Should everyone have a Mercedes, a mink coat, a house? Of course, it is the latter, the attempt to see that everyone would have a house which caused the financial crisis of 2008, but this of course does not divert the liberal from his course. The massive damage done even to those they purport to trying to help does not seem to register.
For liberals the government should deliver economic justice through taxation, public spending, and regulatory action. Government can impact both vertical and horizontal equity; that is it can lead to redistribution away from higher income earners to lower income earners, and can also shift income and benefits between people of equal economic status. Regarding horizontal equity, government intervention has favored public sector employees over private sector employees, and those who willingly do not work and act responsibly. You have public sector employees deliberately underperforming on the job and overusing sick leave, because they know they cannot be fired. You have people deliberately dropping out of the labor force to collect unemployment insurance. You have people in the underground economy receiving their income in cash and evading taxes, while at the same time collecting benefits and financial assistance from the government.These problems of inequity between people of roughly the same economic status should cause liberals to wince, but one does not hear concern from this quarter.
Liberals are only concerned about vertical equity; you never hear them complaining about horizontal equity. Liberals do not complain about this, perhaps because they do not want to draw attention to the shortcomings of government and also because they do not want to risk offending some their constituents, the takers or parasites on society who game the system out of selfishness. Moreover, to the extent that this kind of inequity helps grow the government, this is to the liking of liberals who are bent on growing the power of the State and the ruling class.
Taxation for the purpose of income redistribution can be considered as a theft of a person’s labor. In paying taxes most of us are in effect working several months out of the year for the government. Does the State own me or do I own myself? Do I have a right to the output of my own labor or does the State? Most of us would argue that we own ourselves and likewise are entitled to the product of our labor. If the State can’t take one of my kidneys or one of my eyes to help someone who in their judgment needs them more than I do, why can it take the product of my labor to give to someone else?
The record for liberal efforts to impose economic justice has been dismal. Liberal anti-poverty programs have been a well-acknowledged failure. Horizontal equity problems have been significant and cannot be justified. Economic growth and prosperity have been adversely affected. And the threat to liberty from massive government intervention is a clear and present danger to our democracy.