… is from page 61 of Carlos Alberto Montaner’s 2000 essay “Culture and the Behavior of Elites in Latin America,” which is chapter 5 in Culture Matters, Lawrence E. Harrison and Samuel P. Huntington, eds. (2000):
But it is a quest for social justice that condemns the poor to permanent poverty – a true case of the road to hell being paved with good intentions.
DBx: This truth is especially important.
Intentions are not results. And, as Hayek argued, justice is an attribute of individual choices and relationships rather than something that society does or doesn’t collectively arrange and dispense.
As commonly used, the term “social justice,” with its lovely connotations and valence, is the name of the whole mix of social outcomes that those who use this term desire. And those who use this term invariably believe that their desired outcomes must be imposed with conscious direction by the state.
Are some workers paid less than social-justice advocates believe these workers deserve? Raise the minimum wage! Are some workers without paid leave? Have government arrange for such leave! Are some people poor? Redistribute income! Is income or wealth inequality too great? Redistribute income! Do some workers lose their jobs because fellow citizens choose to buy imports? Raise tariffs! Are some people unemployed? Have government guarantee employment! Are some people deeply in debt? Have government pay off these debts or simply declare the debts forgiven! Are some corporations currently quite large relative to other companies or relative to what someone’s imagination regards as ideal? Break them up or impose more proscriptions and prescriptions upon their activities! Do some people abuse drugs? Make such drugs illegal!
What could be simpler?!
Such thinking is appallingly simplistic, yet it is commonplace in elite circles no less – indeed, perhaps more so – than in non-elite circles. Such thinking is proudly endorsed by popes, politicians, pundits, and professors – all of whom believe that their good intentions carry the day, and none of whom bother to inquire with any depth into the actual consequences of the state actions that they endorse. These consequences typically are largely ill and outweigh whatever good outcomes are achieved by the state interventions.