In our previous post we discussed the heat in discussions of social justice. Today we want to answer the question, Where does the heat come from?
In a word, the heat comes from different sacred belief systems.
One’s paradigm of choice between an open system or a closed system will determine how social justice is defined, what policies are established, and which programs implemented.
Most people who argue for social justice occupy the top half of our diagram; they believe that we live in a moral universe and thus, as we have seen before, have a responsibility to seek justice. But some do not acknowledge the left column, i.e. an Open System of reality.
An open system is derived from the reality and existence of a Transcendent God. The God of the universe stands outside of creation and thus the system is open to intervention and to the Creator’s involvement. The universe is also open to the activity of angels and to imago Dei – humans. A closed system is the illusion of atheists who assume there is no God, that nature is all there is, and no God or angels exists to intervene in the system, and human beings are simply a cog in the machine of the universe.
Two of the quadrants in our diagram are self consistent, two are inconsistent. The upper left quadrant is consistent with the reality of God’s existence. We live in a moral universe and an open system. The bottom right quadrant is also consistent but with the atheistic-materialistic assumption that there is no God and thus the universe is a-moral and closed.
Many people with a heart for the poor and the moral motivation to seek justice in the world function from the upper right quadrant. But this quadrant, along with the lower left quadrant, is inherently inconsistent.
Those in the upper right quadrant understand the universe is moral, but they begin their reasoning from a closed-system mentality. This is the socialist position that I held for many years as a young adult. Those who function from a moral framework want to help the poor and seek justice and even to do so sacrificially. But because they consciously or unconsciously function from a closed system” of limited resources, their approaches to help the poor are radically different from someone functioning from the theistically consistent quadrant.
The table below indicates how our paradigms drive very different principles regarding social justice.
|The Universe||Open System||Closed System|
|Human Beings||The Image of God||Mouths to feed|
|Resources||Product of human imagination||Physical things in the ground|
|Economics||Positive Sum||Zero Sum|
|Nature of equality||Equal before the law||Equal outcomes|
|Solving poverty||Create wealth||Redistribute scarce resources|
|Government||Internal self government; the state is responsible to free citizens.||The state must be large enough to force its will on the people|
|Property||Private||Belongs to the state|
|Social Justice||Personal and public flourishing||Material equality|
|Poor People||Individuals in the community||A class that only a large government can help|
People who recognize the system is open understand that resources are the product of human imagination and creativity. Wealth may be created. The way to solve the problems of hunger, poverty and injustice is to create an economic and political environment of freedom where people and communities may flourish – creating and stewarding wealth. This leads to a positive sum economic system. The truth is that all human beings are created in the image of God and stand equal before the law. Human creativity and innovation is the source of resource. Private property is to be respected. People are free and responsible moral agents who are to practice internal self government, allowing for small state government. Social justice focuses on personal and public flourishing in all areas of life.
People who believe the system is closed think that resources are physical things in the ground and, by nature, limited. Human beings are the product of an evolutionary process, merely animals: mouths and stomachs. More and more people means more and more mouths to feed. In a world of scarce resources the way to solve poverty is by reducing the number of mouths and/or redistributing resources. This leads to a zero sum economic system. Social justice is defined as equal outcomes. Only a large government with authority and power to redistribute scarce resources can achieve equal outcomes.
This perspective reduces social justice to a focus on the narrow realm of material poverty. Poor individuals are not seen as neighbors to be provided with care and opportunity, they are rather treated as a class which is encouraged to create docking mechanisms with government programs. This leads to dependence and greater poverty. Thus we end with a modern institution of economic and political slavery where the well-intended political class gains power and influence by a compliant poor class, the new dependent slaves.
What we have just described are the two distinct responses – open system vs closed system, to the moral imperative to work toward social justice.
Having said this, it is also important to realize that there are those who, consciously or unconsciously, see the universe as amoral. For these there is no moral imperative to help the poor or to seek justice in any form. These positions are represented by the two lower quadrants of our diagram.
In the lower left quadrant are people who live off a memory that explains how wealth can be created; but by mixing the memory of an open system with an affirmation of an atheistic-materialistic amoral universe they are inconsistent. Their only interest is money. They want to gain as much as they can, as quickly as they can without moral constraint about how they get it or use it. I call these folks consumer, hedonistic, predatory or nihilistic “capitalists.” (I put capitalist in quotation marks because what is described here is not capitalism in its true, original form as envisioned by people who affirmed a moral framework for both the creation and sharing of wealth.)
The second group is represented by the lower right quadrant. These are people who function consistently from an atheistic-materialistic perspective. The system is closed, resources are limited, and the universe has no moral constraints. Such people are interested only in power – after all “nature is red in tooth and claw.” There is only one “law,” the survival of the fittest!
The first group is not interested in social justice, only in the self and the amassing of wealth. The second group cynically use the term social justice to accumulate power. They seek to expand the size of the state or national government to accrue control over the masses. They do this by taxing one group of people, the creators of wealth, to give to the consumers of wealth. The greater number of those consumers of wealth becomes dependent on the government for their welfare, health, education, etc. The larger and more powerful the government, the “smaller” each citizen becomes.
These folks are intentionally creating institutional dependency to accumulate political and economic power for themselves. The result is a modern form of slavery, an economic and political plantation where the poor are enslaved in political-economic programs. In contrast to the physical slavery of pre-Civil War U.S., or the apartheid of South Africa, this is a psychological dependency: “We are poor and there is nothing we can do about it. Our masters, the omnipotent government, will secure food and shelter for us.”
- Darrow Miller with Gary Brumbelow