Equality versus Justice?

Equality vs Justice

You may have seen this picture floating around Facebook or Twitter. Every time I’ve seen it posted it receives a bevy of positive comments and “likes.” But is it an accurate representation of justice? Most attempts to boil down complex issues to a bumper sticker or a meme fall short and this is no exception. There’s too much we don’t know about the scenario. I think by answering a couple of questions, we can show this is not a good example of injustice being rectified:

Where did the boys get the boxes?

How did the box redistribution happen?

First of all, where did the boys get the boxes? This matters. Resources don’t just appear out of thin air. Did they earn them (or buy them with their earnings)? Did someone give them to them? Were they already there? If the boys worked to earn the boxes, how is it unjust for them each to have what they worked for? Say they earn the equivalent of a box an hour at some job and each boy worked an hour – then each boy has received justice, what he was owed. If someone gave them the boxes how is it unjust for each of them to have what their benefactor provided at no charge? If the box fairy wanted one or more of them to have an extra box he could have provided that but he was under no obligation to do so since the boys did nothing to earn them in the first place. Finally, if the boxes were already there, again, the boys did nothing to earn them. None of them had a claim on any of the boxes, much less more than one of them. The boxes belong to someone else so they, in fact, have no rights to them at all.

Secondly, how did the box redistribution happen? Did the boys decide among themselves to share the boxes? Did someone force them to redistribute them? If the boys decided among themselves to share the boxes that’s great, but that’s not justice, that’s charity. Justice is giving what is owed, generosity is not. Forced generosity is an oxymoron. I pay taxes every year not because I have compassion for the federal government or am generous towards a bloated bureaucracy but because if I don’t they’ll put me in jail. Which brings us to the other possibility. If the boys were forced by someone bigger or stronger than themselves to redistribute the boxes that’s not only not justice, it is injustice. And depending on how the boys got the boxes, it might also be theft or extortion.

Bottom line, all the boys wanted to see the game but they did not all have the resources to do so. That’s not injustice. That’s just life. Not having enough boxes to see the game is no different than not having enough money to buy a ticket to see it. Is it unjust if one of the boys has enough money for more than one ticket but chooses not to give the extra money to his friend who is short of funds? Of course not. He may be ungenerous or stingy for not buying his friend a ticket (or he may just need that money for something else) but he’s not being unjust.

It’s great when we do things for our fellow man, sharing with them out of the abundance of the blessings God gives us. We should do that. However, let’s not confuse that with justice. Justice is getting what is owed me. If I work 40 hours for an employer who promised to pay me for those 40 hours, justice is getting what I earned at the end of the week. If I rob a liquor store at gunpoint, justice is the judge meting out the sentence I’m owed for that crime. However, in the normal course of life, I’m never entitled to the fruit of someone else’s labor. Again, I’m not saying it’s not right and good to share our resources with one another. But if we insist that equality of outcome be the measurement of a just society (which is what this meme is suggesting), we need to realize the only way that can be achieved is through forced redistribution, usually at the hands of government. And history has shown us that never works as promised unless the promise is that most people will be equally poor.

One final thought:

How is it just for three kids to see the game for free when everyone on the other side of the fence had to buy a ticket? These boys have cheated the players (if they’re being paid), cheated the owners of the ballpark and cheated their fellow citizens who spent hard-earned money to buy a ticket.

10 Replies to “Equality versus Justice?”

  1. Whenever a conservative looks at a disadvantaged person, the conservative’s first impulse is to blame the victim. You’re poor? Oh you must be lazy. You’re killed by the police? It must be because you are a criminal. Likewise, conservatives attribute their own privilege to working hard. “I’m wealthy because I earned it”. Okay. Sure, you earned it. You “earned” being born to a privileged family. You “earned” being born with a skin color that does not make people distrust you. You “earned” being able to go to college. And you “earned” all these things while someone who was born a minority in the inner city (which, by the way is the way it is largely because of racist “white flight” to the suburbs, abandoning resources from the city) who is discriminated against in every way and has to work a minimum wage job… didn’t “earn” it. What a bunch of bull. Victim blaming bull. You’re going to say that poor people don’t work hard. They work harder than you. They work harder than you and get paid less. What a privileged, ignorant, insensitive post.

    1. Criticize conservatives for painting with a large brush by painting conservatives with a large brush. You’re so legit! Poor people are poor because they choose to be poor. They do not do the work required to be middle class. They didnt get the education, they didn’t work hard to acquire a skill. They didn’t finish high school to join the military. They didn’t find a way out. Meanwhile, all the well meaning liberals say they want to take from the rich and give to the poor, but always end up taking from the middle class and turning them into the poor, meanwhile the poor are still poor.

      You want social justice? Give people the tools to dig themselves out of poverty. Free education and job training. Simply handing people a pile of money and free services does not bring them out of poverty. It keeps them dependent and in poverty.

  2. Hello Larry,

    I am an Atheist and I totally agree with what you have to say. The modern day leftist retards don’t seem to understand life very well. Not surprised that life’s getting more and more complicated as people seem to be moving away from common sense and towards retarded interpretations of equality and justice!


  3. The meme is a fallacy because it’s pre-loading the terms “equality” and “equity” based on one specific implementation of them in a hypothetical that is not representative of what we would all know to be equal for the scenario where the goal is that all three people be able to see the ballgame.

    Giving only the short person two boxes is actually a form of favoritism and an artificial market interdiction by an outside force.

    The Equality panel, if accurate, would show all three people receiving the same pair of boxes. What they do with them is up to them. They might all choose to stand atop two boxes if they so wish. The tall person would still retain their natural advantage of being able to see over the other two people, for example.

    The person with the natural advantage, the person that is the median, and the person with the natural disadvantage would all be able to see the game when given two boxes, and the persons with natural advantages would still benefit from them, whether by putting the extra box(es) to other use to turn a profit or by standing atop them for an even better view, rather than being penalized by the box distributor to not receive an equal share of the boxes.

    True equality retains the natural ability of each, without disenfranchising the tall person by not giving them either box and by not giving the average person the second box.

    Also, if we’re looking for economic efficiency here, the smart bureaucrat (no such thing) would calculate the situation and only produce three boxes rather than six, and give each person one box. The tall person can then choose to sell (or give!) their box to the short person since they don’t need it to see over the fence. Now we have efficient production AND we encourage commerce.

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