The use of the term social justice is very common today, especially among politicians and special interest groups. It is so popular because it sounds so righteous. Everybody wants to live in a society that is socially just.
But are the policies and programs advocated by those calling for social justice actually socially just? Do they meet the foundational standard of Catholic social teaching? Do they really uphold, affirm and elevate the dignity of all persons in society? Do they even uphold, affirm and elevate the dignity of the people they are supposed to be helping?
The answer is yes and no. Programs run by charitable organizations have proven very effective and beneficial to society. They have also proven to be very efficient and responsive to the changing needs of a community. Government programs, on the other hand, have proven to be very inefficient and non-responsive to the actual problems of society. In fact most governments programs have actually compounded the social problems they purport to solve.
Now, before someone has an aneurism, let me insert here that I know that I am speaking in general terms. There are examples of a small number of individual success stories through government programs. There are always exceptions to every rule. Please hear me out before you totally reject what I am saying.
A system in which the government is expected to solve all social inequities is called socialism. With almost one hundred years of history in the books we can now say with absolute certainty that socialism/communism does not work. It has never worked. It will never work. It cannot work because it is founded on a lie. It is a socio-economic philosophy from hell. It cannot exist anyplace where there is individual or religious freedom. There is not enough space here to delve into the historical failure of socialism. I recommend the following article by Rev. Robert Sirico, “The Great Lie: Pope Benedict XVI on Socialism” as published at InsideCatholic.com for a concise historical overview of socialism as well as commentary on Pope Benedicts XVI”s encyclical Spe Salvi.
Socialism is not evil because it is a bad system. It is a bad system because it is evil. It is rooted in atheism, which denies the existence of God. This places socialism in direct opposition to the teachings of the Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us in paragraph 27 that “The dignity of man rests above all on the fact that he is called to communion with God.”
Socialism should be opposed at every turn because it attacks and destroys the dignity of a person. The basics of socialism require the taking of property, possessions, or means of production from one person or group and giving this property, possession, or means of production to another.
As stated earlier in a previous posting “Social Justice and Human Dignity… (Part two),” the third element of human dignity is “the dignity humans earn from the fruit of their labor.” Socialism attacks this element of human dignity because it takes, by force of the government, from the fruit of a person’s labor, i.e. part of their dignity. It then in turn redistributes part of this thievery, ostensibly for the good of the less fortunate. I say “part” because it always keeps part for itself. This basically amounts to trying to buildup the dignity of one person by taking away the dignity of another.
This is very different from the Christian idea of charity. In Christian charity, a person is called to freely share as much or as little of his “dignity” as he feels led to do by God. In doing so, his dignity is replaced and/or protected by God Himself, thereby allowing him to uphold, affirm and elevate the dignity of his fellow man without diminishing his own dignity or that of his neighbor.
However, most social justice programs and policies today are really nothing more than socialism trying to repackage itself in better clothing. This is not a condemnation of those that support such programs. I am of firm belief that most people, especially those that are Christians, who support the call for “social justice “ programs, do so from the very best of intentions. They see the inequities that exists in our society and feel tremendous compassion for the less fortunate and downtrodden.
However, those social justice programs that call for the redistribution of wealth (property, possessions, or means of production) through the coercive power of the government, do not really bring about social justice. One only has to look at the results of the trillions of dollars spent since the inception of President Lyndon Johnson “War on Poverty” and the “social justice” programs it fostered. Again, there is not enough space here to delve into the details but suffice it to say, these social welfare programs have almost destroyed the African American community and are steadily eating away at all the lower income families in America.
(As a brief example I cite the following report: “…And Baby Makes Two“, by Emily Yoffe.)
The most recent danger posed by those the call for social justice programs is the attack on the greatest healthcare system the world has ever seen. I realize there are some problems with the current healthcare system in America. I do not pretend to be smart enough to say I know how to fix all these problems. I am smart enough to know what will not work, and that is the socialization of our healthcare system. It has not worked anywhere in the world.
Sure, some countries claim that everybody within their borders has health coverage. But having coverage and receiving care are two different things. I see very few people of means traveling to countries with socialized medicine to receive healthcare. The best doctors and hospitals in the world are located in the US for a reason. The current system has treated more people with far better care than any other system in the world.
As for the “millions” without coverage, that does not mean they do not receive care. Tens of thousands of people without health insurance are treated by doctors and hospitals everyday in this country. In many states it is illegal for an emergency room to turn away a patient, even if they don’t have any insurance--even if they have no money. Thousand of those that are in this country illegally receive some of the best healthcare in the world, with hospitals receiving only a fraction of what it cost to provide the service in return, and this at the expense of taxpayers who have to pay double (higher taxes and insurance premiums) while waiting in longer lines to receive their own health care.
This problem will only grow if the socialization of our healthcare system is allowed to expand. There is a very good argument that a large proportion of the problems in the current healthcare system are the result of government interference. Increasing the amount of government intrusion will only increase the size and scope of the problem.
The social problems facing our society cannot be solved by government. Government as it grows larger does not seek to serve the people but only serves itself. To quote Thomas Paine, “Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.”
I want everyone in the world to receive the best possible healthcare. I want everyone to have plenty of food, shelter and clothing. I want everyone to live in peace with God and their neighbor.
I also believe that the best way for these goals to be achieved is for everyone to have the most individual liberty possible. It is through the propagation of individual liberty and freedom that the dignity of a person finds its greatest potential.
A truthful examination of history will prove my point. There has never been a more upwardly mobile society than the United States. No other country has had the religious freedom that has existed in our great land. Maybe that is why we have such a charitable heart. Maybe this freedom and the inherit understanding of the dignity that it provides compels us to share more of that dignity with our fellow man.
Maybe it is this heritage which leads Mississippi, our poorest state, to lead our nation in per capita charitable giving.
As we are challenged to solve these social issues, let us correctly identify the problems and offer solutions that not only sound good but that actually work and uphold the dignity of all people.