Hayek on social and distributive justice: there is justice on individual acts

Member of the Academic Council of Libertad y Progreso.
PhD in Administration from the Catholic University of La Plata and Professor of Economics at the Faculty of Law and Social Sciences of the UBA. His research has been collected internationally and he has published books and scientific and outreach articles. He has served as Rector of ESEADE and as a consultant for the University of Manchester, Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, OAS, IDB and G7Group, Inc. He has received awards and scholarships, including the Eisenhower Exchange Fellowship and the Freedom Project of the John Templeton Foundation.

Martín Krause’s blog – «Social» justice (or, sometimes, «economic» justice) was seen as an attribute that society’s« actions »should possess, or the «treatment that individuals or groups received from the same. As primitive thought generally does when it first observes some regular processes, the results of the spontaneous market order have been interpreted as being directed by a rational mind, or as if the benefits or harms that different people received from that order they were determined by acts of will and could therefore be guided by moral rules. This conception of “social” justice is thus a direct consequence of that anthropomorphism or personification with which primitive thought tries to explain all processes of self-ordering. Our immaturity is shown by the fact that we have not yet abandoned these primitive concepts, and that an impersonal process is still demanded that produces a satisfaction of human desires greater than that which can be obtained from any deliberate ordering that conforms to the moral precepts that them. men have developed as a guide to their individual actions.

The use of the term “social justice” is relatively recent, as it seems to go back a century or so. This expression was used from time to time in older times to designate organizational efforts aimed at observing the rules of right individual conduct; At present it is sometimes used in scholarly discussions to assess the effects of the current institutions of society, but the sense in which it is usually used today, and to which it is constantly resorted in public discussions and which will be analyzed in this chapter, it is essentially the same in which the term “distributive justice” was used for a long time. Apparently, it began to become common in this sense at the time when (and perhaps in part because) John Stuart Mill explicitly treated both terms as equivalents in statements such as:

Society should treat equally well all those who have deserved it equally, that is, those who have deserved it equally at all. This is the highest abstract degree of social and distributive justice, towards which all the institutions and efforts of all virtuous citizens should be brought together as much as possible; O well:

It is universally considered fair that every person gets (both for good and bad) what he deserves; it is unfair that someone who does not deserve it has to obtain good or suffer evil. Perhaps this is the clearest and most emphatic way in which the idea of ​​justice can be conceived. Since it implies the idea of ​​moral merits, the question arises as to what these merits consist of.

It is significant that these two quotes are in the description of one of the five meanings of justice that Mill distinguishes, four of which refer to the norms of right individual conduct, while this defines a factual situation that can but it need not have been caused by a rational human decision. It seems, then, that Mill did not realize the circumstance that by this meaning he refers to situations completely different from those to which the other four apply, or that this conception of “social justice” leads directly to a socialism. in full rule.

Such statements, which explicitly associate “social and distributive justice” with the “treatment” of individuals by society according to its moral rites, clearly demonstrate the difference from simple justice, and at the same time the cause of the emptiness of the concept. The demand for “social justice” is directed not to the individual but to society – but society, in the strict sense, that is, as distinct from the government apparatus – is incapable of working for a specific purpose, and the demand for “social justice », Therefore, becomes a demand addressed to the members of society so that they organize themselves in such a way that they can assign certain quotas of social production to different individuals and groups. The fundamental question, then, is whether there is a moral duty to submit to a power that can coordinate the efforts of the members of society in order to obtain a particular distribution model, considered fair.

If the existence of this power is taken for granted, the question of how they should distribute the means available to satisfy needs becomes a question of justice, even if it is not a question to which current morality provides an answer. It seems, therefore, that the assumption from which most modern theorists of “social justice” start would be justified, that is, that it would be necessary to assign equal quotas to all unless particular considerations demand not to apply this principle. However, the main problem is to establish whether it is moral for men to be subject to those powers over their actions that should be exercised so that the benefits obtained by individuals can be significantly defined as fair or unfair. “