We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

In 1976, the Nobel-prize winning economist, F.A. Hayek, published The Mirage of Social Justice, the second volume of his magnum opus Law, Legislation and Liberty. Despite being widely regarded as the definitive critique of social justice, today one would be lucky to find advocates of social justice in the academy who are familiar with the name ‘Hayek’, let alone those who have read him. Among classical liberals, libertarians, and conservatives alike, Hayek is one of the most important thinkers of the twentieth century whose The Road to Serfdom represents one of the most powerful arguments against socialism ever written. But those in the academy who have perpetuated socialist ideas since the 1980s have practically ignored it. In this article, I will argue that this unwillingness to engage with the ‘other side’ is not only endemic in the radical intellectual schools that have overtaken literary studies, but also that it is symptomatic of their entire way of thinking which, being hermetically sealed and basically circular in its argumentation, has no language to deal with critics beyond reactive moral condemnation.

Neema Parvini

27 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Snorri Godhi

    today one would be lucky to find advocates of social justice in the academy who are familiar with the name ‘Hayek’, let alone those who have read him.

    Indeed, but i’d think one would be lucky to find any such advocate (SJW) who is familiar with ANY name that they should be familiar with*; except Marx and Rawls, and maybe Rousseau; and i doubt that SJWs read much of even those authors.

    * the expression “they should be familiar with” does not imply that “they should agree with”; because they shouldn’t.

  • Mr Ed

    There is no Nobel Prize for Economics. Alfred Nobel’s will made no provision for one. There is a cuckoo in the nest, still officially the memorial prize in honour of Alfred Nobel or something. It is a latecomer, nay, imposter, funded by the Swedish Central Bank, so there is an obvious appearance of bias (ex parte Pinochet) in the Prize.

    So when you hear talk of Nobel Prize-winning Economists, you are being misled. Hayek is almost the exception that proves the rule. The entire profession is skewed towards the Fraud Keynes, an early admirer of the Third Reich, and proponent of Arts subsidies.

    It’s much easier to ignore than refute.

  • Tedd

    Popper and Deutsch would be impressed at this example of pseudo science. Parvini’s eight premises are unfalsifiable hypotheses that result in infinitely variable ‘explanations.’ No wonder the people who believe in this model are so adamant about enforcing it. So long as you remain within it’s safe space everything is ‘explained.’

  • Johnathan Pearce (London)

    I remember some time ago, when a person at some sort of discussion evening raised the term “social justice” in a positive way, look utterly baffled when I pointed to Hayek’s argument about how “social” is a weasel word. The bafflement was, I am sure, genuine. This person literally had no idea that their worldview, or meta-context as we say around here, was something that could be challenged.

    The other day I put up that SQOTD quoting Robert Nozick on why egalitarianism, certainly in terms of the idea of equality of outcome, is rarely actually argued for. And he was right: it is often just taken as a starting point that equality of outcome, of human sameness, is good. At least with equality before the rule of law, there is a connection to notions of freedom, restraint on power, etc. But the assertion that we must all have equal slices of a pie is utterly meaningless as there is no single or pre-exiting “pie” that “we” in some sense have in the first place. It is of course closely linked to the zero-sum “uncreatable wealth” axiom that Brian Micklethwait has pinpointed as a defining piece of collectivist mindfuckery.

  • JohnW

    Social Justice is already a dominant principle in law, economics, politics and the social sciences.
    Intersectionality is even an accepted principle in ‘The Lancet.’

  • Paul Marks

    One error in the work is Hayek’s praise of John Rawls – a mistake that was used by the “Bleeding Heart Libertarians” to pretend that Hayek supported Social Justice. If one examines the text Hayek says that he has NEVER READ “A Theory of Justice” by John Rawls (the main work of Rawls published before “The Mirage of Social Justice” by Hayek).

    My late friend Antony Flew had to undertake the serious examination of Rawls and other such (in a series of works ending in “Equality: In Liberty and Justice”) as the start of Robert Nozick’s “Anarchy, State and Utopia” (in many ways a very GOOD work) was spoilt by praise of John Rawls as some sort of great philosopher. It must be pointed out very strongly (without sickly sweet praise for Rawls) that John Rawls and the rest of the “academic mainstream” were and are HACKS, and that their work is WORTHLESS.

    Praising the academic “mainstream” did not gain F.A. Hayek anything – as Neema Parvini points out, his work has been shoved down the Memory Hole. Nor did Robert Nozick’s praise of his Harvard colleagues gain him anything – on the contrary he was frozen out of their life till he (de facto) recanted, or at least stopped opposing them.

    The praise is unwarranted – Rawls and the Social Justice writers were and are worthless trash, and the praise of them gains us nothing. We should stop waiting for them to “engage” with us (as likely as my own doctorate turning up from the University of York – it has not appeared in the last 20 years and it never will turn up). These people, the Social Justice supporters, are not fellow seekers after truth with whom we can discuss political philosophy – they are ENEMIES who want to destroy us, destroy us utterly. Their aim is no less than the destruction of civilisation – which they call “capitalism”, their “justice as fairness” (i.e. all income and wealth being ASSUMED to rightfully belong to the collective and to be “distributed” by wise rulers) is a weapon for the task of killing civilisation.

    They, the Social Justice supporting education system – and those it successfully “educates”, are the enemy – they are not misguided friends. And they must be treated as the enemy.

    The “education system” must be “defunded” (the Social Justice supporters denied both tax money and legal special status) or civilisation is doomed.

  • NickM

    Let us call a spade a spade here. I studied physics, astrophysics and maths at University. I did all sciences at A-Level and no huge-manatees at GCSE (other than French, German and English). We can nit-pick all we like about the “academy” and all that but if you chose to study sociology or something and then complain about your shit sandwich being full of shit then you shouldn’t have ordered a shit sandwich in the first place. Frankly for libertarians etc to complain that the soft “sciences” are full to the rafters with terminal wank is like Sam Gamgee saying, “This Mordor is a bit evil, isn’t it, Mr Frodo?”.

  • Runcie Balspune

    how “social” is a weasel word

    It’s more to do with how “society” departs from it’s constituent parts and becomes a separate entity, sort of god-like, to which us mere mortals are enslaved to it’s needs and desires (as channeled by the socialist priesthood), and how it deals out “justice” (via the hands of it’s slavish warrior-monks).

    Consider the latest ominous slogan “for the many not the few”, almost as if “the few” have undergone a excommunication by Pope Jezza, cast adrift from society for the crime of funding most of it, and, of course, we know they day will come when “the many”, don’t quite compromise the majority anymore.

    Society and “social” exist and are valid, just don’t lose sight that “there are individual men and women and there are families.” ((c) another great person expunged from the minds of the left everywhere).

  • Laird

    If you put a modifier in front of a word it necessarily changes the meaning; that’s the entire function of modifiers. In this case, “social” absolutely reverses the original meaning. “Social justice” is inherently a contradiction in terms and bears absolutely no relationship to true “justice”.

  • Clovis Sangrail

    @Runcie Balspune
    I hear “for the many, not the few” as “we believe in the dictatorship of the majority, but it’s OK because we’re only going to put a “few” people in death camps”.

  • Eric

    NickM, unfortunately it matters, because people are indoctrinated in these programs and go on to positions of influence. You’re not going to find a lot of physicists at the BBC.

  • Tedd

    However, it is not simply a matter of which thinkers are taught, but also how they are taught.

    Adam Smith being a great example. Many people who’ve been to university know who he is, and most of them know the caricature of his arguments that has been promulgated by academics and intellectuals for centuries. But I don’t think I’ve met anyone who has read his work or understands what he actually said.

  • Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray

    A T-shirt slogan I’d buy- “To Hayek with Keynes!”
    That gave me a great idea! Could we buy stickers that go on average T-shirts, so we can make up our own slogans instead of putting up with what is on there?

  • RRS

    There are answers to Hayek’s famous question.

    Justice is the performance of obligations.

    Social orders may generate facilities (instrumentalities) for cooperative (even collective) performance of obligations to certain of their members. That would be seen as a “social” performance; and could well be taken as Social Justice.

  • Alisa

    Social orders may generate facilities (instrumentalities) for cooperative (even collective) performance of obligations to certain of their members. That would be seen as a “social” performance; and could well be taken as Social Justice.

    And yet, justice is by definition individual.

  • Alisa, in this Hayek-oriented thread, I would very slightly qualify your remark above.

    Hayek regards justice as innately social by definition – so that to demand ‘social justice’ (as somehow more than mere ‘justice’) is literally meaningless and thus intellectually confused (in some) and fraudulent (in others):

    “a dishonest insinuation that one ought to agree to the demand of some special interest that can give no real reason for it.”

    Therefore he regarded ‘social justice’ as

    “a concept that does not belong to the category of error but to that of nonsense.”

    Since the unplanned, unintended and unforeseen interaction of many choices and accidents cause the outcomes that a ‘socially just’ person wants to ‘correct’, any attempt to achieve ‘social justice’ means working for

    “the atrocious principle … that all rewards should be determined by political power”

    since only then can the outcomes, being now planned, intended and foreseen, be either just or unjust.

    Hayek well knows, of course, that in real life the actual outcomes imposed by such means will be unjust, but that is secondary: to Hayek, the accumulation of power required to make the term ‘social justice’ meaningful is evil in itself; the observed corruption in states that take that path is merely a predictable side-effect.

    (I recommend Thomas Sowell’s “A Conflict of Visions”, which analyses the process-orientation of Hayek versus the result-orientation of e.g. Rawls. Hayek was extremely courteous to his adversaries – who, as is sadly usual with lefties, did not return the favour, quite the reverse – but his courtesy towards Rawls, noted by Paul above, did not mean agreement.)

  • Alisa

    Niall:

    so that to demand ‘social justice’ (as somehow more than mere ‘justice’) is literally meaningless and thus intellectually confused (in some) and fraudulent (in others)

    That was exactly what I meant.

    Hayek regards justice as innately social by definition

    Of course, but only to the extent that individuals are innately social –
    and if/when they are not, the concept becomes meaningless indeed. I think I should have originally clarified that it is the application of the concept of justice that is individual by definition (whereas the concept itself is in fact social in its nature).

  • Snorri Godhi

    Hayek well knows, of course, that in real life the actual outcomes enforced by any state so totalitarian as to be able to effect this will be unjust, but that is secondary: to Hayek, the massive accumulation of power required to make the term ‘social justice’ meaningful is evil in itself

    This is an important point. To underscore its importance, let me rephrase it:
    Hayek believed that it is not enough to be free from coercion;
    it is also important to be free from arbitrary power (power of coercion, that is).

    Actually, I have not read any of Law, Legislation, and Liberty, but Niall provides a quote from Hayek that supports this interpretation:

    the atrocious principle … that all rewards should be determined by political power

    For more enlightenment and historical context on the distinction between freedom from coercion and freedom from power, see Quentin Skinner’s essay:
    A Third Concept of Liberty.
    (Paul Marks should enjoy it, since Skinner casts Hobbes as the villain.)

  • Snorri Godhi

    Hayek was extremely courteous to his adversaries – who, as is sadly usual with lefties, did not return the favour, quite the reverse

    I used to think of Chris Christie as the prototypical polar opposite of Hayek, in style of argument; now i think that Trump is a better prototype, and more effective than Christie.

  • bobby b

    “In this article, I will argue that this unwillingness to engage with the ‘other side’ is not only endemic in the radical intellectual schools that have overtaken literary studies, but also that it is symptomatic of their entire way of thinking which, being hermetically sealed and basically circular in its argumentation, has no language to deal with critics beyond reactive moral condemnation.”

    If you read the history of any area, you come across tales of war. You read of armies overrunning other peoples’ areas, and encountering walled and defended enclaves – cities – full of enemy fighters and weapons and strength.

    The foolish invaders battled each enclave before going on towards their goal. They lost time and resources and people in each fight.

    The smart invaders simply surrounded each enclave, and then left them to stew in their own protective bubble, leading the bulk of their forces onward immediately. They expended only those resources needed to keep the enclave contained, and did not attempt to engage it otherwise.

    It’s the same thing. It represents a tactical decision that you can fight out an unending string of costly battles on the way to the main fight, or you can bypass those fights, expend as little of your strength as necessary to roll past them, and not only get to your ultimate target faster, but have most of your resources left to fight with once you get there.

    This “unwillingness to engage” isn’t laziness, or fear, or ignorance. It’s a rational decision that they can skip these fights without cost, to greater profit later. Why worry about winning the national debate over “facism”, for example, when, by skipping it, you increase your chances of being the ones who will write the history of that debate?

  • George Weinberg

    I don’t consider it to be one of Hayek’s better books, because he makes the key point on page one, and it’s an obvious one. When one calls a state of affairs “socially just” or “socially unjust”, one is simply expressing personal approval or disapproval. There really isn;t much more to be said on the topic.

  • RRS

    Alisa:

    And yet, justice is by definition individual.

    Without cavil to that, how individuals perform (or avoid) obligations (thus attempting Justice or avoiding its burdens) whether in concert with (or even opposition to) others or entirely autonomously (very difficult in complex social groupings – hence “congregations”) may include a commonality of efforts sufficient to be seen as ” Social Justice.”

  • JohnW

    What Paul Marks said.

    Plus, the difficulty in defining the concept of “justice” is that it is predicated on the solution to some hefty philosophical problems – for example, is “true” justice to be found not in this world but only the next? What should we allow as evidence if our senses deceive us? What is “good” and what is “evil” and do we have any choice in the matter?

    To my knowledge, the best description of the correct methodology for defining the concept “justice” comes in the section on definitions in Ayn Rand’s massively underrated “Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology:”

    What fact of reality gave rise to the concept “justice”? The fact that man must draw conclusions about the things, people and events around him, i.e., must judge and evaluate them. Is his judgment automatically right? No. What causes his judgment to be wrong? The lack of sufficient evidence, or his evasion of the evidence, or his inclusion of considerations other than the facts of the case. How, then, is he to arrive at the right judgment? By basing it exclusively on the factual evidence and by considering all the relevant evidence available. But isn’t this a description of “objectivity”? Yes, “objective judgment” is one of the wider categories to which the concept “justice” belongs. What distinguishes “justice” from other instances of objective judgment? When one evaluates the nature or actions of inanimate objects, the criterion of judgment is determined by the particular purpose for which one evaluates them. But how does one determine a criterion for evaluating the character and actions of men, in view of the fact that men possess the faculty of volition? What science can provide an objective criterion of evaluation in regard to volitional matters? Ethics. Now, do I need a concept to designate the act of judging a man’s character and/or actions exclusively on the basis of all the factual evidence available, and of evaluating it by means of an objective moral criterion? Yes. That concept is “justice.”

    Naturally, all the above is counter to John Rawls so it’s little surprise that Rand loathed him:

    The new “theory of justice” [of John Rawls] demands that men counteract the “injustice” of nature by instituting the most obscenely unthinkable injustice among men: deprive “those favored by nature” (i.e., the talented, the intelligent, the creative) of the right to the rewards they produce (i.e., the right to life)—and grant to the incompetent, the stupid, the slothful a right to the effortless enjoyment of the rewards they could not produce, could not imagine, and would not know what to do with. – Ayn Rand “Philosophy Who Needs It?”

  • Thailover

    SJW’s are useful idiots. The reason they resort to “reactive moral condemnation” is because they HAVE NO ARGUMENTS at all. Theories yes, arguments no. “Reactive moral condemnation” is nothing more than a diversionary tactic and an attempt to stifle a free exchange of ideas.

    THEY KNOW that they’re lowlifes. (Not to be confused with genuine young novices who are just starting to learn about economic/social systems and are currently enamored with the Leftist BS.)

  • Julie near Chicago

    It seems to me that there is a spectrum of “SJW-ism” along which the SJWs are distributed. On that spectrum, there are three major collection points (conceptually analogous to statistical “modes”). In real life, of course, most people probably dwell somewhere not exactly at the “modal” points.

    .

    1. Probably most people really mean “fairness” when they think of “social justice,” and they are not too firmly wedded to hard SJW-ism except as regards certain particular issues that they care about. “Social justice” means things like “we oughtn’t to discriminate against ‘blacks’ — it’s just so unfair.” Or “It’s not fair to deny people X just because they can’t afford X.” We learn this idea of fairness (and of sharing) as very, very young children, long before school. “It’s mine!” we yell (aloud or not) when someone takes something that we feel we’re entitled to. From there, “It’s not fair that Throckmorton should get more than me!” And many of us learn to develop a sense of what is or isn’t “fair” as a matter of “equal parts for all.”

    That would constitute a fault-line in our hypothetical person’s practical ethics, but such people aren’t what I would call “evil” as a condemnation of their whole selves. They’re SJW-lite, and they can do a lot of damage, but it’s the cumulative effect that’s really dangerous. And the point is, they’re not (mosstly) acting out of any kind of malevolence. They simply have conflated the concepts of fairness and justice. Surely if it is not fair, it cannot be just!

    And, of course, sheer ignorance plays a big part in this.

    .

    2. There is the more serious SJW type, who has worked out (or purchased from the likes of Mr. Rawls, aided by the likes of M. Piketty) a “theory” of Social Justice which is supposedly applicable across most of the range of human activities, although I suppose that a lot of these people recognize that not everyone can be Caruso or Horowitz or Michael Jordan. But they think, especially when it comes to financial wealth, that it really isn’t fair that only a relatively few should have heaps and scads of dough while others have to show up every day at a job they hate just to feed themselves and their families.

    Such people aren’t much moved by the observation that “It may not be fair — life isn’t fair — but it’s perfectly just.” Then, if you are lucky enough to be talking with somebody who’ll sit still for it, you get to try to explain why it’s just even if the rich guy is a Trust Fund Kiddie or the winner of the latest MegaTrillion PowerBall Lottery, and hasn’t worked a day in his life.

    Also, among these people are many of the Rescuers, who go in for Rescuing with other people’s money, or time and effort.

    .

    3. Then there are the hard-core SJWs who basically have a hate on for the world in general. These people come in three subtypes: the truly ignorant, who haven’t the capacity to deal with theory; the intelligent, who have found a theory that will let them act out their hate; and the psychopathic thief, who doesn’t care what he has to do to whom, as long as it increases his finances or his power over others, or both.

    These are the ones who are most deserving of the “evil” characterisation, although I think that generally they are truly psychologically damaged. I think of Lenin as one of these. Also, I know someone who I am sure is thus damaged.

    Sometimes Rescuers end up here.

    .

    4. (This is not a “type” so much as a subtype, so pedants persnickety about numerical precision needn’t pout.) Among the 1’s and 3’s there are also the out-and-out sheeple, who’ll buy practically anything as long as it gives them a feeling of being acceptable, of being presentable, of belonging.

    Of being Safe.

    They may be perfectly intelligent, by the way, but this area of thought just doesn’t tempt them to ponder.

    Or … they sense that “excessive pondering” might be seriously unsafe. Cambodia and China come to mind for some reason.

    .

    In sum, I just don’t think it’s as simple as “they’re all bloody *bleeps*.”

    . . . .

    Actually, “reactive moral condemnation” can give a huge adrenaline rush. Who wants to deal with rational arguments when there’s such a great high to be had — and it’s FREE !

  • Julie near Chicago

    D-UH!!! I see I let a huge blooper through, above. No no no, Rescuers are NOT usually found among the mostly-Type-2’s. Some are Type 1’s and some are Type 3’s, but by (my) definition they don’t give theory all that much thought, so by def they’re rarely Type 2’s.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Speaking of how “justice” ≠ “fairness,” here’s what Dr. Always-extremely-careful-in-his-use-of-words Peterson has to say. Starts around 1:45.

    UToob .com/watch?v=pLbdaiqVhlU

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