Social justice is about more than redistribution

In a recent book on social justice, former Labor politician Gary Johns argues for “a major reconsideration of social justice as a rationale for the welfare state”. In his essay ‘When too much social justice is never enough’ Johns suggests that social justice is primarily about the redistribution of wealth and income while egalitarianism is the pursuit of a more equal distribution of material resources.

Johns also implies that advocates of social justice and equality are opposed to democracy. As he writes in the Australian: “In a democracy, achieving a just distribution of society’s wealth requires permission to take money from some to distribute to others. Often, those others do not agree to hand over the money.” In his essays and articles Johns misconstrues social justice and egalitarianism as well as the relationship of these ideals to democracy.

People fight for equality when they feel they are being bullied or dominated, writes psychologist Jonathan Haidt. Haidt argues that social justice movements not only urge compassion for the poor and disadvantaged, they also “call for people to come together to fight the oppression of bullying domineering elites”. On this view social justice is not fundamentally about an equal distribution of wealth or income, it’s about freedom.

Philosopher Iris Marion Young makes the same point in her book Justice and the Politics of Difference. Commenting on signs and banners bearing the slogan “Peace, Jobs and Justice” at an American political rally she asks:

What does “justice” mean in this slogan? In this context, as in many other political contexts today, I suggest that social justice means the elimination of institutionalized domination and oppression. Any aspect of social organization and practice relevant to domination and oppression is in principle subject to evaluation by ideals of justice (p 15).

As Young explains in Inclusion and Democracy, the ideals underlying this idea of social justice are self-development and self-determination. Young’s idea of self-development is similar to Amartya Sen’s idea of capability. For Sen what matters is a person’s opportunity to live the kinds of life they have reason to value Freedom plays a central role in the capability approach. In his book The Idea of Justice he writes:

… we have reason to be interested not only in the various things we succeed in doing, but also in the freedoms that we actually have to choose between different kinds of lives. The freedom to choose our lives can make a significant contribution to our well-being, but going beyond the perspective of well-being, the freedom itself may be seen as important (p 18).

While material resources are an important means to self-development they are not the only thing that matters. For example, philosopher Elizabeth Anderson raises the prospect of ‘contract feudalism’ where an employer is able to dictate how employees behave outside the workplace. She argues for “the right to conduct one’s life outside of work independently of one’s employer’s arbitrary will.”

Another example is marginalization. Young writes about the way dependence on the state can limit a person’s freedom:

Being a dependent in our society implies being legitimately subject to the often arbitrary and invasive authority of social service providers and other public and private administrators, who exercise power over the conditions of their lives. In meeting needs of the marginalized, often with the aid of social scientific disciplines, welfare agencies also construct the needs themselves. Medical and social service professionals know what is good for those they serve, and the maginals and dependents themselves do not have the right to claim to know what is good for them (p 54).

When people have no other way to secure an income they are vulnerable to coercion. Single parents, people with disabilities and Indigenous people in remote communities can lose control of their lives when the state ties income support to compliance with mutual obligations.

Violence and the threat of violence can also limit a person’s freedom. As long as social institutions and norms tacitly condone acts of violence and intimidation against groups like women, immigrants or homosexuals, these groups lack freedom. As Young points out: “Violence is a form of injustice that a distributive understanding of justice seems ill equipped to capture.”

For Young, oppression is the opposite of self-determination — the second ideal of social justice: “Persons live within structures of domination if other persons or groups can determine without reciprocation the conditions of their action, either directly or by virtue of the structural consequences of their actions.”

Young defines social justice “as the institutional conditions for promoting self-development and self-determination of a society’s members.” Politically this is a much broader agenda than the redistribution of income. The pursuit of justice is understood not just as adherence to rules and norms established by the traditions and institutions we have today but as a search for better rules and norms. As Anderson writes in her essay What is the Point of Equality:

Positively, egalitarians seek a social order in which persons stand in relations of equality. They seek to live together in a democratic community, as opposed to a hierarchical one. Democracy is here understood as collective self-determination by means of open discussion among equals, in accordance with rules acceptable to all.

There will always be disagreements about what social justice means in practice. But if there is a common thread to demands made in the name of social justice it’s about the pursuit of freedom rather than a more mathematically equal distribution of income.

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John Quiggin
9 years ago

It might be more useful to identify Johns as “IPA hack”

Of course, the fact that he’s long been a shill for the most dishonest lobby group in Australia doesn’t invalidate his logical arguments. But it does mean
(i) the implication in the ID “former ALP politician” that this is someone whose views on social justice have any particular weight is false
(ii) any factual evidence he produces should be assumed false, if it can’t be checked, and selectively quoted to build a case otherwise

Patrick
Patrick
9 years ago
Reply to  John Quiggin

John, your point (i) is pretty indisputable, as a logical truth. But we like to use labels in this manner.
Your point (ii) is a bit of a stretch, even considering that he is a former ALP politician.

Don Arthur
Don Arthur
9 years ago

John – Gary Johns is just an example of someone who takes this view. The post is about social justice.

Any thoughts?

Nicholas Gruen
Admin
Nicholas Gruen(@nicholas-gruen)
9 years ago

I was recently asked to comment on some IPA piece by a journo. I said to him “you mean the IPA that sponsored Lord Monckton to tell us about the evils of the carbon and resource rent tax in Australia? Don’t you think that by importing such disreputable people a body like that loses its credibility. After all the CIS as I understand it refused to participate in the trip”. He was quite flummoxed by this and said that it seemed a bit extreme to judge them by something they’d done.

On the substance of the point, it’s a tricky one. I’m sympathetic to what you’re arguing Don, but then he who pays the piper calls the tune. The community (somewhat reluctantly) subsidises single mothers, and they want to do so on terms they regard as ‘fair’ to themselves and socially constructive. They don’t want to fund irresponsibility. And so they impose conditions – mutual obligations – which are quite coercive. The ideal that this should be non-coercive may not be such a good one in its ultimate effects.

Don Arthur
Don Arthur
9 years ago
Reply to  Nicholas Gruen

Nicholas – On the issue of welfare. In Haidt’s terms what you have is tension between the fairness foundation and the liberty foundation.

john walker
john walker
9 years ago
Reply to  Nicholas Gruen

“said that it seemed a bit extreme to judge them by something they’d done. ”

Did they really really say that!

Nicholas Gruen
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Nicholas Gruen(@nicholas-gruen)
9 years ago
Reply to  john walker

I was trying to find a way to put it charitably. I’m not sure of the precise words, but he didn’t challenge for a minute that Monckton was as I’d characterised him – sufficiently disreputable as to discredit anyone who went out of their way to associate themselves with him. He said that it was on another topic. From memory he’d rung me for some comment on the budget and asked me to respond to some entirely predictable thing the IPA had said. I asked him why he was quoting the IPA at all on the subject – what was their special expertise? – and he said they he was quoting their view because he wanted to quote someone to represent that side of the debate. I didn’t ask him why he didn’t just make up the quote – but I could have.

In any event, when I raised Lord Monckton and I surprised myself with how bold I was (one doesn’t normally immediately go ‘meta’ on a journalist when they’re just trying to get a quote from you, I think I surprised my interlocutor too!) he said something like “But that’s in climate change, not the budget”. But the whole interaction and the way he said it made me pretty confident that he would have rung them for climate change comment too, if he’d wanted a quote on that side of the fence. I doubt I changed his behaviour, but at least he got some pushback.

john walker
john walker
9 years ago
Reply to  john walker

Politics really has become a sort of cross between a farnarkling team sport (which club do you barrack )and a Condottieri style spectacular.

Jim
Jim
9 years ago

Its funny because the IPA did not sponsor or have anything at all to do with Mocktons visit, Nick.

Nicholas Gruen
Admin
Nicholas Gruen(@nicholas-gruen)
9 years ago
Reply to  Jim

Thanks for the clarification. Someone on the CIS told me that the IPA sponsored the trip. If that’s wrong I apologise. What’s your source.

The IPA certainly have plenty of Monckton on their website.

Greg Lindsay
Greg Lindsay
9 years ago
Reply to  Nicholas Gruen

Nick, we at CIS knew who brougt Monckton to Australia and it wasn’t the IPA. After all, we do read the papers and there were endless articles about the whole venture.

JMB
JMB
9 years ago

Thankfully, this thread is not ultimately about the IPA. They get far too much exposure already.

My thanks to the author for this succinct analysis, which has assisted somewhat my own efforts to balance thoughts of social democracy Vs (for example) inheritance taxes. It is easy (lazy?) to simply consider inheritances to be either a right or a non-right.

A parent may put aside treasure for the benefit of his/her child’s future. Another may choose instead to spend this on lifestyle, travel, education and trinkets to share with the child in the present.

Putting aside for the moment the extremes of feudal lords, inherited titles and dynasties worth squillions, we have the vast majority of humankind with nothing or not very much to hand on as inheritances. Do the principles of social justice apply here? Or of equality?

I, for one, am pretty sure that Australian current practice with little or no estate taxes is neither fair nor just, yet it is comforting to know that, when my time is up, my three kids will share some of what remains from my time on earth and a little will be directed to nominated others. But why, I could say, should my opinion carry any sway at all? After all, by then I will be gone.

Mike Pepperday
Mike Pepperday
9 years ago

JMB

I have always wondered about the justice of inheritance but let me say first that I agree with your opinion: such unearned advantage ought to be taxed heavily. I think estates are not taxed in Australia because the states got into a sort of bidding war with each other.

Years ago I read a piece by Ayn Rand on inheritance (I think in “The virtue of selfishness”.) and remember feeling a sense of anticipation when I came across it. Surely she would be dead against anyone being subjected to the corrupting influence of unearned advantage. I wondered how she would balance this against the fact that, for us as for the chimps, the whole purpose of striving to get ahead is to help our kids.

Alas, she squibbed it. She just insisted that one has the right to do whatever one likes with one’s legitimately acquired property.

Patrick
Patrick
9 years ago
Reply to  Mike Pepperday

That was the first writing if hers that you read presumably, if you were expecting a different conclusion.

It’s that subtle difference between should and must, should not and cannot, lefties never quite seem to ‘get’ it, which is yet another reason for libertarians to find the right a far lesser evil.

FDB
FDB
9 years ago

I wondered how she would balance this against the fact that, for us as for the chimps, the whole purpose of striving to get ahead is to help our kids.

Alas, she squibbed it. She just insisted that one has the right to do whatever one likes with one’s legitimately acquired property.

Tee hee.

A “libertarian” who argues for inheritance is an economic eugenicist.

hc
hc
9 years ago

Johns is right that people don’t like having money unilaterally taken away from them. But I think many of the wealthy are comfortable with the fact of an overall redistribution from all the well-too-do to those less well off. People often don’t mind this type of socially engineered compliance.

There is an optimal degree of inequality. We don’t want a winner-takes-all society and we don’t want a society where incomes are equal since work and other incentives suffer and we may all lose. There is some experimental evidence on where the interior optimum lies.

Jim Rose
Jim Rose
9 years ago

Hayek points out that much has been written about social justice without ever offering a definition of it. The minute one begins to define social justice, one runs into embarrassing intellectual difficulties.

It is the function of social justice to blame somebody else, to blame the system, and to blame those who control it.

as for capability approach, Pogge noted that you can read thousands of pages of their writings without finding any hint about how compensation is to be financed.

HT: http://www.leaderu.com/ftissues/ft0012/opinion/novak.html

Jim Rose
Jim Rose
9 years ago
Reply to  Don Arthur

see http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/83f15422-9528-11e1-ad38-00144feab49a.html#axzz1ukuEarf6 for a review by samual brittan who looking forward to hailing the book as the most important of its kind for several decades but in the end could not.

Sinclair Davidson
Sinclair Davidson
9 years ago

Excellent chapter on taxation in the Johns book.

Julie Thomas
Julie Thomas
9 years ago

That review of Tomasi’s book by Brittan is pathetic; it provides no real argument against Tomasi’s ideas, but it does show again – as if we need any more evidence – that conservative libertarians just don’t want to change their ideology – just like Christians – they have found their faith and there is no questioning to be done. The elephant is in control; not the rider and it’s following the path of self-righteousness.

All the conservative libertarians seem to be able to do is stick their fingers in their ears and repeat ‘we have the truth’. LOL, the absence of any debate about these new ideas over at Catalaxy is deafening, but not surprising?

There are some great discussions on Tomasi’s site although there is much abuse and agro but this seems to be typical of right wing sites; obviously one of their personality characteristics that we just have to get used to if there is to be any debate?

Anyway, David Friedman’s response http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2012/05/david-friedman-on-social-justice-and-utilitarianism/ at least provides some real objections to the idea of social justice that one can address with some factual rebuttal.

Friedmans objection goes like this:

“Further, insofar as you are going to put any content into your idea of social justice, I continue to find the idea of judging a society by how well off the worst off people (or some subset thereof) are unconvincing. It’s a good thing to help badly off people get better off, but it’s also a good thing to help people who are living pretty good lives to live much better lives—I don’t see why one would want to make a distinction of kind between those two, which I think talk about social justice does.”

But it’s clear to me that from all we know about the way people ‘are’ – as distinct from the way libertarians would like to believe people are – that those who do well in this society do not need any help to do even better. Why would you divert resources to those parts of the family that have shown that they do fit in with this society.

These are the resilient people, those well-endowed with those feel good brain chemicals and determination – those who are able to make the most of their opportunities because of their genetic inheritance and that can’t be taxed.

Taking responsibility for one-self is not a choice that people make; it is a capacity that people learn through their upbringing and it is something that is learned more easily by people with the above type of brain chemistry. Some of us are unlucky enough to choose parents who provided us with brain chemicals that mean we are more inclined to respond to negative events with depression/anxiety.

It is not an adaptive response to demand that we, the weak and easily led, pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. The weak or (meek) have always been part of the human species – Jesus had the right attitude toward them. Ostracism and punitive attitudes do not work with the majority of the depressed and anxious; we tend to become even more dysfunctional and obstreperous as it becomes more difficult to live up to the requirements of a society that doesn’t value what we do well.

john walker
john walker
9 years ago
Reply to  Julie Thomas

Julie are you really saying that you “the weak and easily led” want me to tell you what to do and what to think?

Julie Thomas
Julie Thomas
9 years ago
Reply to  john walker

I’m not sure why you would assume that I want anyone to tell me what to do. I am saying that from my perspective of someone who had NFI about what it was all about, what I needed when I was a young unwed mother on social security was someone to tell me what goes down out there in the real world. I had no idea, no plan for life and no way of learning what normal families did, coming as I did from a non-typical family. We were not a welfare family; we had a small manufacturing business, but we definitely were not a ‘normal’ family; socially isolated, mental health issues etc.
My ‘rescue’ came when during my usual interactions with ‘social security’ back in the ’80’s, I was lucky enough to encounter a social worker – hairy legs and a print dress the whole stereotypical social worker thing – who was able to explain to me about ‘society’ and ‘my role as a part of it; about how I had a responsibility to make it a better society for my children and my actions would determine what happened to my kids. I think she explained social justice for me and it was something about society helping me so that I could develop the self-respect and capacities that I needed so that I could contribute whatever it was that I had.

Something like that anyway.

john walker
john walker
9 years ago
Reply to  Julie Thomas

I assumed that by “we” in your words “we, the weak and easily led,” you were including your self.

Personally exclusive vanity is more my kind of sin …

Somebody once asked Evelyn Waugh why it was that despite being a very devout Catholic , Evelyn could at times be such a hard bastard , Evelyn replied “you don’t know what I would be like without it[faith]”

Julie Thomas
Julie Thomas
9 years ago
Reply to  john walker

I definitely include myself in the weak and easily led, even more so when I was young. You have no idea how many garden paths I walked up because I was so trusting; I see now that my problem was having an inadequate cheater detection module in my brain.

And still, I am weak and easily led – but I don’t take this as an insult, we can’t all be heroes and I have things I can be vain about lol. But I know even now, that I shouldn’t make major decisions by myself, but I have grown-up children, who are more ‘normal’ than me and they are invaluable for clarifying my financial – and other – choices so I do better these days but my reasoning always seems to be out-of-kilter with the wider society.

Again, I’m quite sure that it was only because there was a type of social security back in old days in Australia that actively helped dysfunctional people, like me, get their lives on track, that I have children now who are not on welfare; have paid their hecs off and are participating. My youngest son has yet to manage this but I am still working on him; he had some weird idea he could get a job as a musician but he’s over that now!

I do agree that we need to be hard on people sometimes but the hardness only works when the person who is being the disciplinarian has the best interests of the other person – the one being weak – at heart. In a traditional family there are two parents to work this trick; usually but not always the dad is the enforcer and mum explains to the angry child that dad has to do that because he wants you to be a better person.

In an even more traditional family, there are aunties and other relatives who feel entitled to have a say about the child’s behaviour. And in tribal societies everyone has a say about how young people grow up once they reach puberty.

This is how that scenario works best, no?

john walker
john walker
9 years ago
Reply to  john walker

Yes …

john walker
john walker
9 years ago
Reply to  john walker

Mind “doing all the dumb things” is a important part of life, no?

Tel
Tel
9 years ago

These are the resilient people, those well-endowed with those feel good brain chemicals and determination – those who are able to make the most of their opportunities because of their genetic inheritance and that can’t be taxed.

As soon as making the most of opportunities manifests in some physical form it can be taxed. If you don’t manifest it into the physical, then I’d say the opportunity has been lost.

The weak or (meek) have always been part of the human species – Jesus had the right attitude toward them.

Give them plenty of metaphorical stuff after they die… hmmm, is that going to raise my taxes?

By the way, how do you go about discovering what society does value? I mean, you could go around asking people, but the only answer they can give is their own individual values… and if society’s values are identical to the individual values within that society then why not just call it “individual values”.

Patrick
Patrick
9 years ago

That’s a great piece Don. I half-believe that if you keep on chipping away like this you may even shift the debate somewhat!

Certainly I am always very interested to read your thoughts on this kind of thing.

However, I noticed that the conclusion got a bit caught up with your own piece:

But if there is a common thread to demands made in the name of social justice it’s about the pursuit of freedom rather than a more mathematically equal distribution of income.

Perhaps a common thread to sophisticated philosophical demands made in the name of social justice? I reckon that ‘social justice’ is invoked in favour of ‘more money’ about 10 times as often as it is in favour of ‘more capacity’, and even then most of the time that people talk about more capacity they mean things like: ‘make welfare un-conditional’, ‘increase self-determination of remote aborigine communities (with unconditional money)’, etc.

Others go down the path of thinking of ‘the rich’ as effectively a cash goat (cows actually do require care) to be milked and perhaps occasionally thrown a bone but otherwise fundamentally able to just keep on trucking. Ayn Rand was so effective in part for her choosing to focus on this particular absurdity of collectivism (at its most broad).

If one took the UK, circa 1700, would the most progress have been made through focus on the commercial classes or through focus on the poorest? We say things are different now with glib ease (who in 1700 imagined our lives today???), but to compound the absurdity we rarely hesitate to say it about even India or Indonesia as well.

Julie Thomas
Julie Thomas
9 years ago

I agree with this Patrick, that money often is invoked as the only social justice needed, and I never understood why ‘the left’ kept banging on about giving poor people more money.

We don’t always need money, we need to know how to use money and how to make money or alternatively, if we could move away from the currrent social acceptance that wealth is the best ‘good’ and the only measure of a person’s value, we could develop a society that did have some respect for other things that the poor might be better at; like looking after old people. Not many rich people want to look after their old people; they want to pay people to do that.

But this insistence that disadvantage is always to be ameriorated by money seems to be ubiquitous; we see nurses unions advocating for more money when that is not what they really want – not what the many nurses I know and speak to want anyway. It seems that it just isn’t possible to ask for what they really want which is more nurses on the ward and better conditions for the patients and of course, more respect for their contribution. But it all comes down to efficiency measures that rely on zombie economics.

Perhaps Ayn Rand was so effective for some of us, because of the simplicity of her arguments but it was just this simplistic thinking that turned a lot of the other type of person off all of her thoughts.

Pedro
Pedro
9 years ago

It must be Agree-with-Patrick day. I had the same thought about the final paragraph. If social justice is not about money then why does it so often seem that money is the main solution to the social justice problem?

I also agree with Hayek that social justice is hyperopic. This thread is yet more evidence for the claim that the right does a better job of understanding the left than vice versa.

Nicholas Gruen
Admin
Nicholas Gruen(@nicholas-gruen)
9 years ago

Julie,

Thanks for your comments above.

I think the whole ‘punish’ or ‘encourage’ question is a really interesting one. Yet at a personal level people feel the pull of reciprocity very strongly – all except psychopaths that is. That means you can do a lot with encouragement and for me anyway the pendulum swings towards that as the main modus operandi – though we’re not saints and you usually have to show some steel in the mix as well. (I’m think of being a parent, or a friend or whatever). The intriguing thing is that – as shows like Dr Phil endlessly emphasise – and they’re right about this – we’re often trapping ourselves in negative and mutually destructive patterns of behaviour when there are much better opportunities. I plead guilty to this as much as anyone.

At the level of grand government systems the pull of reciprocity is there, but it’s much much weaker. This is one of the great conundrums of civilisation it seems to me – and maybe that’s not so terrible or we’d all still be back in Pharaoh’s Egypt. But it means that acts of generosity by government often simply get taken advantage of. We could increase government support for the unemployed. There’s a pretty good case for that given how low we’ve let the unemployed benefit fall, but since most unemployed people are not unemployed by choice it would be fair to pay them something close to the average wage – or at least 100% of their last wage. But that wouldn’t work. People wouldn’t think “gee that’s generous, in return I won’t rip the government off by falsifying my previous income, and I’ll keep working away to get a job”. Before long it would be an entitlement and they’d respond to it in kind.

I remember in Tom Uren’s autobiography the ignominy he and his mother felt when – I think during the depression – she was given the once over as someone who might be ripping off the system in drawing some payment. Of course she wouldn’t have dreamt of doing such a thing and it’s degrading for her to have to prove that she’s not ripping the system off. It also degrades the social capital that she contributes to the society by that attitude – undermines it. Yet there are people who will rip off the system – many more today than there were then. And that’s the tension.

john walker
john walker
9 years ago
Reply to  Nicholas Gruen

There is an interesting twist to the history of public health and welfare in Australia in the twenty’s and thirtys.
Just prior to WW1 Australia had a relatively generous pension and health system. Because most were hard working and Australians were famously healthy it was not a big problem .
About 200 thousand volunteers went to WW1 in Europe ( proportionally a large slice of the pop) . Of the 150 thou who made it back most had been exposed to long lasting poison gas , many were mentally scared , quite a lot had VD and some were addicted to morphine and cocaine . The sudden appearance of a huge number of men (ANZACs) in the prime of life with chronic conditions more typical of old age created both a allocation of funding crisis and the foundations of Australia’s medical welfare system.

Jim Rose
Jim Rose
9 years ago
Reply to  john walker

the Commonwealth began to pay age pensions in 1909.

see http://www.aihw.gov.au/australias-health-2010-data-tables/?id=6442475636 for life expectancy at birth in 1910: not yet 60, and just past 65 at age 25.

john walker
john walker
9 years ago
Reply to  john walker

If your interested this is not bad . The last third of the book is is made up of individual cases from the time…. moving

Dark Pocket of Time, The: War, Medicine and the Australian State, 1914-1935

Kate Blackmore

What is the meaning of war to those who live through it? How do most of us, as outsiders, understand the reality of their lived experience? What happens once soldiers are home? And what of their sicknesses, their injuries, even their death? These are just some of the questions that The Dark Pocket of Time explores.

Many veterans have lived through unspeakable experiences. Then, on return home, they must deal with unwieldy bureaucracies. This has remained a constant from World War One until the present. Kate Blackmore examines the soldier’s war on the Western Front in detail, looking in particular at trench warfare and the medical conditions it spawned. She then investigates the origins of the present veterans’ system: how medicine became integral to cost-containment; how a particular attitude became entrenched in the repatriation bureaucracy; and how both of these factors profoundly affected the lives of veterans during and after the ‘Great War’.
Many things have changed for the better over time in Australia. Arguably, some things have not changed at all.

ISBN: 978 1 921013 19 5
Format: Paperback 240 x 165 mm, 276 pages, black and white illustrations, bibiography, index
Price: $39.95

john walker
john walker
9 years ago
Reply to  john walker

Jim
It needs to be remembered that about half of the UKs potential conscripts were so rickety and unhealthy at twenty something that they were classed as unfit for service.

Julie Thomas
Julie Thomas
9 years ago
Reply to  Nicholas Gruen

Nicholas Thanks for your questions; they are worthy of a more considered reply than I am able to do for a while – my first grandchild, only 6 weeks old is coming for a visit from Melbourne and I have to come up with lots of advice for his parents lol.

Seriously though, I think that the role of grandparents in the development of culture (and the perhaps the development of an idea of social justice that can be widely understood?), has not been sufficiently appreciated. http://www.pnas.org/content/101/30/10895.long

But I am working on a response.

Julie Thomas
Julie Thomas
9 years ago
Reply to  Nicholas Gruen

Hi Nicholas
Hard or soft welfare? It is a huge question and, the only thing we can do is what you are already doing; tinkering with the system we have, nudging it toward some point in between hard and soft or some combination of both of these positions, that works. Although I was never a ‘real’ psychologist – the sort who helps people face to face – I’m ‘psychologist’ enough to believe that therapy – self-directed or professional or even Dr Phil lol – is part of the solution to all the human problems, ‘going forward’.
With my reductionist and idealistic glasses on, the thing to do as a society, is prevent the ‘dysfunctionality’ that creates both welfare dependence and welfare fraud, and the only way to prevent dysfunctionality is by giving all children an ‘ideal’ upbringing.
I had been going to pontificate further about what an ideal upbringing would be like with the parents modelling hard-working, self reliant people, etc, and then I thought of Gina, yeah that Gina. She is surely a self-reliant, hard-working woman, and must have provided a good example for her kids. Not that I’m saying there is anything wrong with her kids or suggesting that they would be on welfare if they weren’t rich, but I am wondering if it is self-reliant to take your mum to court for more money?
But anyway, it’s probably a lot harder for some people to raise decent citizens, or are we raising self-reliant individuals? Maybe all kids, welfare kids and rich kids,, need a variety of role models?

Nick
Nick
9 years ago
Reply to  Julie Thomas

Julie, I’m unfamiliar with those terms “hard and soft welfare”. Can you explain them to me?

“I am wondering if it is self-reliant to take your mum to court for more money?”

As I understand it, that money rightfully is “the kids” — not Gina’s, who didn’t earn it to begin with either, though she certainly capitalised on it.

Her behaviour was to treat them like kids. You may be all grown up, but I’m still the parent. I know better. This is for you/the family’s own good.

Your grandfather left you a car in his will? I’m not going to hand over the keys, and since I like it so much, I think I’ll just keep driving it myself. You can have it when I die. Maybe you’ll truly appreciate how to drive a car by then. In the meantime, here’s a nice bike each. I even left the training wheels on for you so you can’t fall over.

Sounds more like the opposite of self-determination and self-reliance to me…

JB Cairns
JB Cairns
9 years ago

There are two different ideas.

Equality of opportunity which I think most people believe in.

The other is helping people who are in need. Whilst people on the ‘left’ and ‘centre’ would agree with this some on the right believe the poor are not deserving of help.
The other ‘problem’ is that a progressive taxation system means those who have more contribute more.

Sinclair do not be gutless. Openly criticise Nicholas here as you have at Catallaxy.
You will not do this because then you would have to acknowledge Nicholas has acknowledged his mistake.
Given you couldn’t even acknowledge you got the word predecessor wrong at one time ( we won’t mention the current confusion at Catallaxy about the NBN being off-balance sheet) you are being somewhat hypocritical

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[…] Nick Gruen keeps digging. Having been shown up on his “IPA sponsored Monckton” claim, he tries to the blame the CIS. Thanks for the clarification. Someone on the CIS told me that the IPA sponsored the trip. If […]

Nicholas Gruen
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Nicholas Gruen(@nicholas-gruen)
9 years ago

Thanks for your clarification Greg, (the new format doesn’t run to ‘replies’ to ‘replies’.)

Looks like my mistake. As a matter of fact I don’t keep in touch with these things in the papers. They’re pretty predictable and partisan affairs and it’s not very entertaining wading through it all. But obviously that doesn’t excuse me for making an allegation that is wrong, so I hope you accept my apology. On the basic substance however I was suggesting that a ‘think tank’ that associates itself with someone like Monckton should suffer in the court of public reputation.

Do you think the IPA should have given Monckton a platform as they have in the past? Would you give him a platform at the CIS? A quick Google search of your website discloses just one mention. That’s certainly not the case with the IPA.

Jim Rose
Jim Rose
9 years ago
Reply to  Nicholas Gruen

few benefit from associating with people who are their own worst enemy. Monckton has too much baggage.

Jim
Jim
9 years ago
Reply to  Nicholas Gruen

Oooh, the old “wrong but I was right” excuse. Classy, Nick.

Nicholas Gruen
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Nicholas Gruen(@nicholas-gruen)
9 years ago

On ‘social justice’ I’ve always been sympathetic to Hayek’s idea that it’s an odious term – though from memory I guess his central charge was that it was just meaningless. But ‘social justice’ is so high blown. So grandiose. I fancy ‘equity’ as a lower key term.

Jim Rose
Jim Rose
9 years ago
Reply to  Nicholas Gruen

is the term supposed to mean something or is it just a secret handshake to signal like-minded outlooks?

economists have a lot of trouble in bringing practical meaning to applied welfare economics and constitutional political economy.

Pedro
Pedro
9 years ago

Homer, there’s no lack of different understandings of “equality of opportunity” and the amount of money that has to be transferred to provide it.

I think I could confidently say virtually nobody on the right is against helping the poor, but there are lots of different ideas about how to do it fairly and sensibly.

NG, is its really good policy to exclude people because they sometimes host liars and fantasists (not that I know whether that is true of Monkton)?
http://search.abc.net.au/search/search.cgi?query=pilger&sort=&collection=abcall_meta&form=simple

Nicholas Gruen
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Nicholas Gruen(@nicholas-gruen)
9 years ago

Pedro, this is the old ‘censorship’ canard. Of course the IPA should do whatever it wants. But in my opinion as a think tank it should be jealous of its reputation for not peddling shonks. That seems to me to be an extraordinarily important thing in the market for information. It’s why firms with brands bust a gut to make sure they don’t besmirch their reputation. It’s also why the market for information is so poor. It’s a market in which there are a lot of lemons, or as Gresham said in the sixteenth century, bad money drives out good.

Especially in an area like climate science this is particularly important. If we’re not to have a dialogue of the deaf, we need credible sceptics. I for one won’t be particularly surprised if a lot of the scaremongering turns out to have been unjustified at least in hindsight. People can get themselves whipped up into a lather in groups. But that’s precisely why it’s important for there to be a good ‘market’ in the reputation of climate deniers – because one of them might be right. Monckton is a Terry Thomas style entertainer, a kind of Sam Newman for latte sipping righties.

As for Pilger, I can’t stand the guy. I think he may have done some good journalism from time to time, but he’s so biased I assume he’s lying or spinning when I hear him speak.

Pedro
Pedro
9 years ago

I just meant that we all keep bad company sometimes. I won’t dump the ABC for Pilger and you shouldn’t think the IPA all bad for covering Monkton. From what I can see he’s no worse than Flannery or Gore. Granted the importance of reputation and seriousness, but in relatively new and controversial fields it is hard to sift. You know I’m a sceptic, but I try and keep and open mind. It’s not always easy.

Peter Patton
Peter Patton
9 years ago

Back in my day – the 1990s – we came right out said what we wanted – “SOCIALISM”! When did all this noncey “social justice” malarky start? Hayek is right. It is incoherent gibberish said by people who don’t have the stones to say ‘Socialism”.

JMB
JMB
9 years ago

Peter P, you are really saying suggesting that “social justice”, which is a term which is difficult or impossible to define and is thought by some to be meaningless should be defined as socialism (or Socialism?), which is a term that has been loaded up with so much nonsense and unspoken emotionalism that it is now meaningless unless specifically redefined for each audience.

For example, my Eastern European father-in-law, usually no slouch in the brains department, used the terms socialist and communist interchangeably and, despite rising at one time to the position of Secretary of a state registered trade union in NSW voted for Menzies and his successors till the day he died. I have no doubt that his definition and understanding of “socialist” was not as an alternative to “social justice”.

The two, whatever they mean, are certainly not interchangeable.

Yobbo
Yobbo
9 years ago

Monckton is a Terry Thomas style entertainer, a kind of Sam Newman for latte sipping righties.

More like an Al Gore. Why can’t have the right have their own one of those?

JB Cairns
JB Cairns
9 years ago

It may be yipps but when looks at the last comment you can end up in the middle of the comment section.

Very disconcerting

Nick
Nick
9 years ago

Don, I think you could possibly argue that ‘social justice’ is just self-determination.

Do unto others. Walk in another man’s shoes. All those really old laws we’ve been taught to live by that are more or less instinctual anyway…

This situation you’re in right now: think of the other person, not yourself.

Learning those lessons is how we evolve. How we have evolved.

Self-development as you described it seems to pretty much reduce down to the same thing?

Julie Thomas
Julie Thomas
9 years ago

Nick there was no reply button on your post; the reply buttons seem to run out.

You are right; I was talking through my hat about the Gina and her kids issue and I do apologise to her children – I am blushing now – for my comments. It is a very unfortunate circumstance and perhaps it would more accurately reflect what I really think, to ask Gina ‘who’s fault is it that your kids aren’t up to the job’. Is that a better question? Again thanks for pulling me up there.

The idea of hard and soft welfare comes from the rambling comments I made earlier in the thread about whether people or ‘humans’ I suppose, do need some ‘hardness’ in their lives and so welfare shouldn’t be too ‘easy’ to get.

Ken Parish
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Ken Parish(@ken-parish)
9 years ago
Reply to  Julie Thomas

The system only allows three levels of comment “nesting”.

Nick
Nick
9 years ago

Julie, the Rineharts are a great example to work with! I’m glad you brought them up.

It prompted me to think more about my comment above.

Self-determinism would seem a lot to do with anarchical relationships (treat one another as equals)

Self-development would seem a lot to do with hierarchical relationships (mentorship, the imparting of knowledge and information)

Gina’s kids should have grown up to be her greatest allies. They shouldn’t despise her…

Julie Thomas
Julie Thomas
9 years ago
Reply to  Nick

Nick “Gina’s kids should have grown up to be her greatest allies. They shouldn’t despise her…”

Yeah that is the part that I was wondering about; it probably isn’t even the money; it’s about respect? Who really knows.

Family dysfunction goes back generations and if a person wasn’t raised well, how do they learn to raise good kids. The unjustified assumption here that I am making, is that good kids will want a good relationship with their mother.

Nick
Nick
9 years ago
Reply to  Julie Thomas

Julie, believe it or not, at this point I want to have a go at writing a 1960’s style ethics scenario entitled “The Rinehart Paradox: Why Too Much Money Is Never Enough”. “There’s a very rich woman who has four children… should she a)… or b)…or c)…” Then I’d like to turn that into a catchy danceable song about a robot civilisation in the future trying in vain to decode the paradox long after humans have disappeared from the universe. Said robot civilisation is having its own problems with an oncoming apocalypse, and is wondering how the humans would have felt and responded, so that it can program itself how to feel and respond. I’ll let you know if I ever get anywhere with it :)

Julie Thomas
Julie Thomas
9 years ago

ROFL I was there in the ’60’s Nick and apparently there were no millionaires in Australia, http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/the-return-of-the-australian-magnate-20120501-1xwpv.html

I’m so going to learn how to embed links one of these days.

I’m using the situation as a koan – a zen term for something for which there is no rational solution. Because, there has to be somebody to blame here and I can’t work out who it is!