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Social Justice

I saw this graphic yesterday on facebook and it just sort of got me thinking.  I like the graphic for its cuteness, I suppose. I mean, who doesn't like the big kid helping out the toddler so that he can enjoy the game, too?  I also like that it points out that there is a difference between equality and justice.

What I don't like about the graphic is its over-simplicity.  To be fair, this is true of most graphics, if not all of them.  Obviously, the point of these sorts of memes is not to address every nuance surrounding the issue, but rather to make a pointed argument sparing all the detailed implications that the argument makes.

I take no issue with the premise being displayed here.  Being a father of three with children these sizes, I would even encourage my eldest child to willingly give up the box he's standing on for the benefit of the youngest who can't participate without it.  However, while this example works quite well for three children taking in a free baseball game, it doesn't translate to many other real world examples in which people are calling for "equality" and "justice".

Take financial benefits offered by social programs, for example.  These programs are funded by taxes.  Taxes are monies taken by our government from people earning an income, purchasing a product, paying for a service, or for simply owning personal property.  So, apply this scenario to our graphic above.  In place of age, let the size of the individual in the graphic represent his/her contribution towards the general fund of collected taxes.  The proverbial boxes then represent the tax-funded benefits received from the general fund.  Naturally, the largest individual receives nothing from the general fund but contributes the most.  The smallest contributes the least and receives the most.

In the graphic, everything seems fine.  Everyone seems to be equally enjoying themselves.  An equalization has been reached.  So what's the problem?  Well, there are many, in fact, when applying it to the scenario of taxpayer-funded social programs.  Note that the box wasn't willfully given by the largest to the smallest, the box was taken (through taxes) from the largest and distributed to the smallest.  This may have a tendency to create the following:
  1. The largest will: 
    1. Despise the taking of this earned property.
    2. Tend to feel he/she has contributed enough and will cease to give any willful contributions to any other charities.
    3. Feel contempt for the smallest for being a "burden".
    4. Possibly lack motivation to work harder fearing that more success will lead to even more forced removal of earnings.
  2. The smallest will:
    1. Eventually feel entitled to the distributions given him/her.
    2. Tend to feel he/she needs help from others and therefore doesn't have enough to contribute to any other charities.
    3. Feel contempt for the largest for an assumed and projected superiority complex.
    4. Possibly lack motivation to work harder fearing that more success will lead to the removal of  the benefits currently being received.
  3. The government will:
    1. Require much overhead to oversee both the taking and the distribution of these funds.
    2. Be pressured to crack down on those taking advantage of the system which will require more overhead auditing the entire process.
    3. Be limited in its ability to stop individuals from taking advantage of the system due to over-zealous liberal organizations who sue, lobby, and slander.
Don't get me wrong.  I'm not against social programs.  And, I'm certainly not trying to say that the behavior listed above is true of all people.  I'm all for people having help available when they need it.  But, there has to be some safeguards in place with every charitable program.  Every non-for-profit charity knows this.  The only problem is that government-run programs are not at all structured like non-for-profit charitable programs.  And, they make no effort to learn from their successes.  The truth is that government-run charities are presently and historically the least effective and least efficient means to positively impact society and reduce the need.  My implication here goes beyond this fact, though, and delves into the lasting psychological and sociological impact that forced charity (taxes) has in the long term.

I realize that this is a sensitive subject.  It is particularly difficult, as a Christian, to approach a discussion about it.  After all, aren't we supposed to want to help people?  Of course, we are.  And we do.  Religious organizations and members of such give the most to charities.  Presently as well as historically, that has always been the case.

I can't sum up this rant because I'm surrounded by rabbit trails that are beckoning me but, in the interest of time, to close, I'll say that there are many virtues that we all understand to be intrinsically good.  Equality and justice are both viewed in this regard.  However, like our parents told us, the world is not fair.  And, they were spot on.  We are all given different lives with varying degrees of prosperity or lack thereof.  While it may be easy for some to claim that it is not equal or just that some are less fortunate, let me leave you with this question: Up to what percentage of earned income taken from a working individual and distributed to non-working individuals constitutes justice and at what percentage is it no longer just?

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