Beyond any U. S. President, in his demagoguery on the fairness/inequality issue, Barack Obama has employed the pursuit of egalitarianism and the politics of envy to an extreme degree, to the point where we are rapidly becoming what Bill O’Reilly has called the “grievance nation”. America has never been susceptible to such notions on a large scale, but the premise that this is an oppressive, unfair, bigoted, racist, sexist society has been fanned very effectively by Obama and his fellow travelers in the media, and the effect has been exacerbated by the failed economic policies of this administration over the past 5 1/2 years.
Early in his first term, in his speech on Abraham Lincoln’s birthday in Springfield, Illinois, Obama noted that “justice and fairness–the sense of shared sacrifice and responsibility for ourselves and one another”–is “the very definition of being American”. That may be Obama’s take on it, but it wasn’t Lincoln’s definition of justice, which was thoroughly grounded in the rule of law, not outcomes. In fact, he noted many times that the chief curb on power was not “fairness”, but law, and that injustice is not corrected by displays of well-intentioned power, but by strict adherence to law. And he knew that the genius of the American system was opportunity, not “fairness”. As he said, “Inequality is certainly never to be embraced for its own sake” and it should be no sanction for “the pernicious principle that no one shall have any, for fear that all shall not have some”.
My use of the term “cosmic justice” is from the title of Thomas Sowell’s book, The Quest for Cosmic Justice, which was a follow up to his classic, A Conflict of Visions, an essential analysis of the ideological origins of contemporary political struggles. In it, he describes cosmic justice (the type of social justice contemplated by Obama) as being of a much higher order, requiring vastly more knowledge and much more concentrated power than traditional justice. The great danger of this pursuit, according to Nobel economist Friedrich Hayek, is that it undermines and ultimately destroys the concept of a rule of law. Sound familiar?
Shortly after receiving the Nobel Prize in 1976, Hayek wrote this: “I have come to feel strongly that the greatest service I can still render to my fellow men would be that I could make the speakers and writers among them thoroughly ashamed ever again to employ the term social justice”. He and his protege Tom Sowell have made a valiant effort but, unfortunately, thanks to the current administration, this deeply misguided concept is making a comeback.