Our society tends to equate the notion of fairness with that of justice; treating them as though they are interchangeable concepts. While this may be true if their definitions are carefully and clearly asserted, in practice, they most often do not mean the same thing. In fact, they usually express opposing ideas. One is objective, the other subjective. One deals with universal principles that apply equally to all societies and which do not change with time; the other deals with popular sentiment and is subject to change between societies and times. One is subject to reasoned correction; the other is subject to emotional manipulation. One is a foundational principle of liberty; the other is an enemy of liberty.
Justice is the impartial application of the law as derived from the principles of Natural Law. It is rooted in universal principles that apply to all people, everywhere and at all times. These principles do not change with societies or time. They are founded upon the first principle that the individual owns his own will. Justice recognizes the equal claim every individual has in this first principle and in the rest of their Natural Rights. It protects the individual from encroachment upon these individual rights so that the individual can be secure enough to exercise liberty. Should someone encroach on the rights of another, justice provides a means of restraining that encroachment and making restitution when necessary. And, should a law be made that violates the principles of Natural Law, justice provides a path of reasoned correction to put the law back in harmony with those principles.
On the other hand, fairness is a biased assertion of individual opinion. It is rooted in assumptions that change with societies and over time. These assumptions are not fixed; they change frequently, even within a given society. They are founded primarily on the notion of what ought to be as opposed to what is. Fairness subjugates the rights of the individual to the enforcement of these notions of how things should be. Fairness provides no protections to the individual, nor does it provide for a reasoned path of correction. In fact, fairness admits to the ‘right’ to make law as necessary to further the purpose of whatever it is believed should be as opposed to what is.
EXAMPLE: justice upholds Natural Law whereas fairness most often undermines it. The battle between a free market and Marxism is the perfect example. The free market (not ‘Capitalism’) is the Natural Order of economic exchange among free men. Marxism is the subversion of this Natural Order in order to establish the Marxist ideal of how men should conduct their business. The free market is based on the objective principle of merit and free exchange between individuals. In such a system, justice seeks to insure a level playing field where every individual can compete without having their Natural Rights encroached upon by others. Laws are written to insure this ideal and, when a law is violated, it is enforced equally and consistently, regardless to the socioeconomic status of the violator. Marxism is based on the subjective notion that fairness requires all people to be equal in material terms, in which case, justice is perverted to the enforcement of whatever is thought necessary to enforce material equality. Such a system will naturally favor those thought to be victims, while being directed more harshly at those thought to be exploiting the victims. The proof that the free market is the Natural Order came during the Communist Revolution in Russia, where the Communists were forced to return to free market principles to keep the nation from starving. Justice seeks to protect the individual; fairness seeks to enforce an idea. As such, they are not equal, they are opposites.
This post is among the most read on the Road to Concord — and most disputed. Consequently, I have added the following to expand upon the distinction I tried to make in the original post.
When I speak of justice, I am referring to the manner by which the legal system of a given society is applied. We often hear referred to as “The Rule of Law.” ‘Justice’ is the impartial and consistent understanding and application of a society’s laws. It applies both to the way the laws are understood and applied. In a just society, the laws must first conform to Natural Law. Then, they must be consistently and impartially understood and applied. In other words, the same understanding of a law, and consequences for breaking it, must be applied to everyone who is accused of violating a given law regardless of the accused person’s socioeconomic status int hat society. If a government leader is accused of theft, they must be tried and — if convicted — sentenced in the exact same way as a beggar would be were they accused of an equal crime.
‘Fairness’ is more a measure of what one believes is just regardless of what the laws say. In the above example, some might think that it is unfair to treat a government official in the same manner as a poor beggar. In some cases, a person might seek to excuse the government official because of their perceived importance to society, while seeking to be harsh with the beggar for the same reason. But another person might believe it is ‘fair’ to excuse the beggar because or some perceived harm the government official has done to the poor man, and thus, seek to be harsh on the government official. We often see this dichotomy when we speak about ‘social justice.’
In fact, ‘social justice’ is a perfect example of how justice and fairness often work in opposition to each other. If we seek justice, then we do not think in terms of ‘fairness.’ We simply look to the law, evaluate it to determine whether or not it has been violated and, if it has, apply the prescribed punishment to whomever is determined to have broken the law. Who you are and how much material wealth you have is never a factor in this consideration — not in a just society, anyway. In this way, ‘justice’ is not only blind, but it is impartial. It is merely a process, and that makes it objective (by definition).
But ‘social justice’ is based upon an unjust assumption. It is based on the assumption that ‘justice’ is based on the amount of material wealth each member of society possesses. Consequently, laws are either written or ‘interpreted’ so that they favor those who are assumed to be ‘victims’ at the expense of those ‘assumed’ to be exploiting the presumed ‘victims.’ But notice, there is a presumption of guilt and innocence based not on the law, but on material possessions. This is the negation of ‘justice,’ because it is not only based on a false assumption, but it punishes those who have done nothing wrong while often rewarding those who have. This is an arbitrary process and that is why it is a subjective system (by definition). It is why all systems based on ‘fairness’ — as it is most commonly asserted today — are subjective. They are just the imposition of one person;s will upon another.
I’ll close with another illustration designed to make my point by shocking the reader’s sensibilities by intentionally incorporating an emotionally charged issue. Many people argue that it is only ‘fair’ to provide every member of society with free healthcare. Healthcare is not a material thing, but a service. Service implies the labor of another person. This is directly connected to Natural law through the notion of free will. But this is slavery: the forcing of one person to work for the benefit of another. In order to provide ‘free’ healthcare to all, money has to be taken from one person to pay for another, or healthcare personnel must be forced to work for free. Either way, the government is forcing someone to work for the benefit of another. These are not ‘opinions:’ they are definitions (and Constitutional definitions, at that). But the people who think free healthcare is only ‘fair’ will not see it this way. So, let me ask the question in another way: “When did slavery become ‘fair?'” And if it is ‘fair,’ then why is it acceptable to wage war on white people in this country today for something that is now considered to be ‘fair?’ Is it because it is ‘fair’ to attack whites but not blacks? If that’s true, then how are blacks (and those who join with them) not the racists today? And to those who would argue that it is ‘fair’ for whites today to pay for the supposed ‘sins’ of the past, how? If it is ‘fair’ to force people to pay for your healthcare, why was it not ‘fair’ to force blacks to work for whites and blacks in the past (yes, blacks owned black slaves in this nation — even in the South)?
Do you see the mess that is made when we think in terms of ‘fairness?’ There is no standard by which to measure anything other than a person’s ‘feelings,’ therefore, what is ‘fair’ in one case may be deemed ‘unfair’ in another when they are — in fact — the exact same thing, only in different forms. Slavery in the past is no different from forcing people to work for the welfare of others today. it is still the forcing of another persons labor and will, and that is a violation of Natural law. This is why ‘fairness’ is not ‘justice:’ because — as we think of it today — fairness is lawlessness, and lawlessness is the negation of justice.