Monday, March 27, 2017
Justice and "Social Justice" Are Two Very Different Things
It wouldn't need the adjective "social" if it were justice
Recently, Harvard political theorist Danielle Allen wrote in the Washington Post of “The most important phrase in the Pledge of Allegiance” — “with liberty and justice for all.”
Allen recognized that justice required “equality before the law” and that freedom exists “only when it is for everyone.” But she confused democracy — defined as progressives “build[ing] a distributed majority across the country, as is needed for electoral college victory” — with liberty, which is very different.
Similarly, she replaced the traditional meaning of justice (“giving each his own,” according to Cicero) with a version of “social justice” inconsistent with it. And her two primary examples of rights — “rights” to education and health care — were inconsistent with both liberty for all and justice for all.
Americans cannot have both liberty and this type of social justice — under whose aegis one can assert rights to be provided education and health care, not to mention food, housing, etc. Positive rights to receive such things, absent an obligation to earn them, must violate others’ liberty, because a government must take citizens’ resources without their consent to fund them. Providing such government benefits for some forcibly violates others’ rights to themselves and their property.
The only justice that can be “for all” involves defending negative rights — prohibitions laid out against others, especially the government, to prevent unwanted intrusions — not rights to be given things. Further, only such justice can be reconciled with liberty “for all.” That is why negative rights are what the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights, were intended to protect. But those foundational freedoms continue to be eroded by the ongoing search to invent ever-more positive rights.
Echoing John Locke, The Declaration of Independence asserts that all have unalienable rights, including liberty, and that government’s central purpose is to defend those negative rights. Each citizen can enjoy them without infringing on anyone else’s rights, because they impose on others only the obligation not to invade or interfere. But when the government creates new positive rights — which require extracting resources from others — these new “rights” violate others’ true unalienable rights. In other words, people recognize these positive rights as theft except when the government does it.
Almost all of Americans’ rights laid out in the Constitution are protections against government abuse. The preamble makes that clear, as does the enumeration of the limited powers granted to the federal government. That is reinforced by explicit descriptions of some powers not given, particularly in the Bill of Rights, whose negative rights Justice Hugo Black called the “Thou Shalt Nots.” Even the Bill of Rights’ central positive right — to a jury trial — is largely to defend innocent citizens’ negative rights against being railroaded by government. And the 9th and 10th Amendments leave no doubt that all rights not expressly delegated to the federal government (including health care and education) are retained by the states or the people.
Liberty means I rule myself, protected by my negative rights, and voluntary agreements are the means of resolving conflict. In contrast, assigning positive rights to others means someone else rules over the choices and resources taken from me. But since no one has the right to rob me, they cannot delegate such a right to the government to force me to provide resources it wishes to give to others, even if by majority vote. For our government to remain within its delegated authority, reflecting the consent of the governed expressed in “the highest law of the land,” it can only enforce negative rights.
Our country was founded on unalienable rights, not rights granted by Washington. That means government has no legitimate power to take them away. However, as people have discovered ever-more things they want others to pay for, and manipulated the language of rights to create popular support, our government has increasingly turned to violating the rights it was instituted to defend. And there is no way to square such coercive “social justice” with “liberty and justice for all.”
Tim Allen's "it's like 30s Germany" remarks caused a predictable backlash
As “50 Shades of Grey” proved, Hollywood considers nothing to be sin. Wait, there is one thing. In a scenario that smacks of a bad re-run, Tinseltown has again taken aim at one of its own for the unthinkable offense of not being liberal.
Tim Allen, the comedic star of “Last Man Standing” and “Home Improvement,” has gotten a lot of flak for telling Jimmy Kimmel what it’s like to be conservative in Hollywood. “You’ve got to be real careful around here,” Allen said. “You get beat up if [you] don’t believe what everybody believes. This is like ‘30s Germany. I don’t know what happened. If you’re not part of the group — [They say,] 'You know, what we believe is right’ — I go, ‘Well, I might have a problem with that.’”
Twitter went, well, atwitter over the remarks, with some criticizing Allen for the Nazi comparison and others simply blasting him for supposing he’s oppressed despite his millions of dollars.
First of all, Allen’s a comedian and he was making a joke, which Kimmel and his audience thought was funny.
That said, comparing anything that does not involve the mass, systematic extermination of an entire population to Hitler or Nazi Germany isn’t usually a good idea. Of course, that hasn’t stopped the Left from comparing Trump (and every other Republican or conservative) to Hitler early and often. Cher, Ashley Judd, Sarah Silverman and Spike Lee are just a handful of the many Hollywood leftists to compare Trump to Hitler in recent months. And they weren’t joking.
The definition of “Nazi” is not “that person or idea I don’t like.”
More to the point, Allen’s observation regarding Hollywood’s disdain for conservatives is grounded in fact. For an industry that crosses every boundary in its films and praises itself as the god of tolerance, it’s pretty intolerant of anyone who disagrees with the leftist mindset.
Take, for example, the case of actor Antonio Sabato Jr., who has appeared on shows including “Dancing with the Stars,” “The Bold and the Beautiful, ” and “Charmed.” Last year, he shared the rejection he’s faced for his non-liberal political views: “For the last seven-and-a-half years, I’ve seen this country led by a leader that’s made mistakes. I spoke my mind about it. But because I’m in the industry, you can’t talk about that. The media and the liberals act the way they act: They will back up the president until the end. It’s been interesting. I’ve had fantastic directors who have said officially to my agents and managers they will never hire me again. They will never even see me for projects. That’s unfair. It’s just like Communism.”
Stacy Dash, who starred in “Clueless” and “Renaissance Man,” had a similar story: “My acting opportunities have ceased because of my political beliefs. I’m being persecuted in Hollywood. I’ve been blacklisted. My agents have dropped me. I haven’t auditioned in over a year because of my beliefs and what I stand for.”
And Musician Joy Villa has been the subject of numerous attacks for daring to wear a “Make America Great Again” dress to the 2017 Grammy’s.
Even non-Republicans recognize being labeled an “R” has consequences — so much that they’ve seen the need to deny rumors to that effect. As Newsmax reported several year ago, after rumors swirled, “Desperate Housewives” star Terri Hatcher’s attorney told the media, “Please be advised that Ms. Hatcher is not a Republican.” Actress Mandy Moore’s publicist issued an even stronger denial: “Mandy is not, nor has she ever been, a Republican.”
Of course, Hollywood blacklisting is legendary. In the era of McCarthyism, dozens of actors, screenwriters, producers and directors were summoned before the House Un-American Activities Committee. On suspicion of communist sympathies, some lost their careers.
Hollywood today may be more appalled that the mid-20th-century blacklist targeted communists than that it existed at all. After all, finding a communist in Hollywood today is surely easier than finding a Republican. (And heaven forbid Hollywood formally renounce communism — or any other ‘ism’ other than capitalism. After all, they’re tolerant, remember?)
Yet, for all its talk of broad-minded acceptance, Hollywood has hung a scarlet letter around the necks of those who dare voice conservative opinions. It’s little wonder many Hollywood conservatives have gone underground with their political beliefs, congregating with other like-minded industry professionals through the Friends of Abe, a low-profile group where right-of-center Hollywood professionals can speak freely without fear of retaliation.
After all, in Hollywood, as in so many other elitist-populated arenas such as academia and journalism, diversity of thought is a beautiful thing — provided it all looks exactly the same.
The day I was accused of being racist, I saw how sick political correctness had become
A few weeks ago, I observed that Barack Obama’s iconic status as the first African-American U.S. President should not obscure his mixed political record. For that, I was accused by one Radio 4 commentator of peddling a ‘racist narrative’.
As a black man and former chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, you might think I would be surprised to face a charge of racism — but I was not.
For at a time when this country is crying out for frank discussion on issues such as race and sexuality, debate is being closed down because those who find offence in every-thing cry ‘racist’ or ‘sexist’.
The result — as I argue tonight in a TV programme — is that our political and cultural elite seem unable to speak plainly about things that concern many citizens.
While our rulers seem to have all the time in the world to debate who should use which lavatory (in deference to the transgender lobby), they dismiss anxieties about overcrowded schools or doctors’ surgeries as merely a bigoted dislike of migrants.
How has this come about?
Forty years ago, ‘identity’ politics was about trying to end discrimination. It led to revolutionary legislation on gender, disability and race. But recently the recognition of diversity has grown into a cancerous cultural tyranny that blocks open debate.
In higher education, it has spread like wildfire. Efforts to keep real racists off university platforms have been perverted so bans are imposed on, for example, speakers with unfashionable views on transsexuals.
Harmless academics are falling prey, too. Sensible people are appalled at the way Nobel Laureate Sir Tim Hunt was hounded out of his post at University College London for a weak joke about women crying in laboratories.
Hardly a day goes by on campuses without a demand for a statue to be removed or for ‘safe spaces’ where sensitive students can be sheltered from robust views in a cultural debate or sexual violence in a classic literary text.
But how is a young person to understand how precious are the freedoms we enjoy today without learning what the world was like before them? Should I not tell my children about the agony and struggle for liberation of their own ancestors, who were once slaves on sugar plantations?
Unfortunately, this thin-skinned refusal to engage with the challenging realities of life is not restricted to academia.
There is no hiding place from the language police, even if you belong to a ‘vulnerable’ group.
Ten years ago, I suggested Notting Hill Carnival had become an international event and outgrown its roots in the West Indian community — hardly a deeply provocative observation.
In response, the then Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, opined I had become so Right-wing I really belonged in the British National Party.
Sometimes the pressures to conform are subtle and insidious but no less powerful.In 2009, several Labour MPs, including some ministers, mounted a private campaign to get Prime Minister Gordon Brown to dismiss me from the chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).
My principal sin, I think, had been to support the appointment of a leading black evangelical Christian. I thought the thousands of black and Asian Christians who are reviving our churches should be represented.
But it happens that many of these evangelicals take a dim view of homosexuality. I don’t agree with them, but I felt the EHRC had to respect and reflect all points of view.
Some government ministers saw things differently. They also wanted to see a black commissioner appointed — but only one whose views echoed their own in every way. Without the intervention of Harriet Harman, Brown would probably have sacked me.
Yet by striving to appease special interests, even well-intentioned ‘equality warriors’ lay themselves open to the charge that they value diversity only as long as it serves their political purpose.
Take the recent decision by John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons, to try to ban President Trump from speaking in the Palace of Westminster because of his supposed Islamophobia.
There is no systematic persecution of American Muslims by their own government, yet in other countries Muslims fear for their lives.
Uyghur Muslims in China are forbidden from practising their religion if they are civil servants.
In Myanmar, thousands of Muslims have fled abroad to escape rape and murder at the hands of the country’s Buddhist majority.
And India’s Supreme Court ordered an investigation into prime minister Narendhra Modi’s complicity in the 2002 Gujarat riots in which more than 700 Muslims died.
Yet China’s president Xi Jinping, Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi and India’s Modi have all been afforded the honour of speaking to both Houses of Parliament.
The new tyranny is also threatening the study of what really makes the world tick, even if that research might help to reduce inequality.
For example, we still have no proper explanation for the stunning academic success of pupils of Chinese heritage across the Western world.
My attempts to promote such research were resisted by academics, who claimed it would belittle other ethnic groups.
The real losers in this refusal to tackle race and gender issues honestly are, ironically, women and ethnic minorities.
A business leaders’ think-tank, the Centre for Talent Innovation, found that many female and minority executives in the U.S. complained their bosses were too afraid of being accused of racism or sexism to talk to them honestly about their performance. They only found out they had been failing professionally when they were fired.
Hypersensitivity about offending minorities has also stopped us having a grown-up debate about migration.
Last week, Tony Blair, in his speech on Brexit, said ‘immigration is the issue’. Whatever you think of him, most polls show he was right about that.
Yet since last June, most politicians have tried to pretend the Brexit vote had little to do with the cultural impact of immigration.
The Right fear sounding like racists; the Left won’t discuss it because their celebration of multiculturalism as a blessing makes them seem metropolitan elitists.
And when conventional politicians try to tackle the issue, they make a hash of it.
The hapless Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, recently called on Dutch Muslims to ‘be normal or be gone’. And he leads something that describes itself as the Liberal Party!
One Left-wing newspaper has denounced my TV film on political correctness as ‘unhelpful’. Unhelpful to whom, I wonder?
British rape reforms are wrong and unjust
The UK justice secretary Liz Truss has announced plans to allow rape complainants to give evidence via pre-recorded video. Rape complainants are already able to give portions of their evidence via video. Since 2009, they have been able to give their ‘evidence in chief’ – which is where they give their side of the story – on a video that is recorded almost immediately after they make their initial complaint. Truss’s plan is to allow pre-recording of their cross-examination, too. This is the part of the case in which their account is challenged, and the defendant’s version of events is put to them.
Of course, giving evidence about a crime you have been a victim of is deeply distressing. But Truss’s plans are terrible, for a number of reasons. First, they increase the inequality between the defendant and his accuser. Going to court as a defendant can also be extremely distressing, especially if you have been falsely accused. The fact that complainants will be afforded rights that are not afforded to defendants means their experience is uneven; it damages the ideal of legal equality.
In 2009, the Coroners and Justice Act introduced the giving of evidence in chief via video. The 1999 Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act created ‘special measures’ for vulnerable or intimidated witnesses, including a right to give evidence from behind a screen. So our justice system already treats the evidence of complainants as more worthy of protection and security than the evidence of defendants. This is a dangerous trajectory, heightening the possibility of miscarriages of justice. Truss’s plan will make things even worse.
There are practical problems here, too. The cross-examination process is when the defence’s case is put to the complainant. If the complainant says something new when she/he is giving evidence, then the defendant must be able to challenge this new evidence and put his own case. But if the cross-examination is pre-recorded, then the ability of the defendant to respond to evidence will be severely limited. The defence case will be incapable of adapting or changing in light of what is said by the complainant.
Truss’s proposals will make things worse for rape victims, too. Pre-recording all of a complainant’s evidence means the jury will never see the complainant in person. They will see the defendant only. I imagine these proposals will be unpopular with prosecutors, who appreciate that having a witness in front of the jury, live, helps to make their case more believable. Judges will no doubt have to direct juries not to disbelieve a complainant merely because they have not seen her in person. But juries might well be reluctant to convict someone when they have not heard from the complainant directly, in the court. We should not be surprised if the conviction rate for rape actually goes down if Truss’s plan comes to fruition.
Sadly, prosecuting rape has become a deeply politicised issue. Liz Truss is the latest in a long line of politicians who see rape reform as a way of generating favourable headlines, with little thought to the impact they might have on the justice system. These proposals further erode the principle that a defendant and his accuser are equal before the law, and they make it more difficult for the justice system to deal with rape effectively. Scrap them.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.