Hayek argues that the term “social justice” is “empty” and lacks “any meaning whatever”- at least within the context of a society affirming traditional liberal values. He compares a belief in social justice to a belief in witches or ghosts. Because of its effectiveness as a cloak for coercion, Hayek asserts, “the prevailing belief in ‘social justice’ is at present probably the gravest threat to most other values of a free civilization”. To talk of justice in terms of social justice is “an abuse of the word”. According to Hayek, “the term is intellectually disreputable, the mark of demagogy or cheap journalism which responsible thinkers ought to be ashamed to use because, once itc vacuity is recognized, its use is dishonest.”From Free Market Fairness by John Tomasi
To give the concept of social justice any meaning within a free society one would have to completely transform the social order. To make sense of “social justice”, Hayek tells us, we would be required to “treat society not as a spontaneous order of free men but as an organization whose members are all made to serve a single hierarchy of ends” To achieve this transition, central values that formerly governed that society- most notably the value of personal freedom- would have to be sacrificed. Instead of laws taking the form of impersonal rules equally applicable to all, laws would increasingly need to take the form of specific commands issues by authorities on the basis of information only they would be in a position to hold….Distributional justice is not the realization of the liberal promise of equal freedom: it is the betrayal of that promise.
Our system of liberty is based on a distinct and clear set of rules that apply equally to everyone. This equality of opportunity rewards risk and work. To change this dynamic to one of social justice requires that rules are not equally applied. Witness the 1400 exemptions given to select groups after the passage of Obama care.
The fear of a “living, breathing constitution” is that it will betray the equality under the law to create special benefits for distinct groups of people.
One could argue, and many have, that certain institutions are required to promote true equal opportunity- such as quality education and health care. Some social free market economists such as Hayek have agreed. But it does not necessarily follow that these institutions must be centrally run by only government institutions.
Government initiatives into education and health care (and housing) has driven up costs making access more difficult rather than less, and in many cases have caused quality to deteriorate.
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