Recorded on June 10, 2009
Location: The Heritage Foundation's Allison Auditorium
Social justice has become a rally cry to action. Just what
kind of action, however, is not always clear. Is social
justice primarily an agenda for government to pursue, or for
individuals and their interactions together in community?
Social justice, rightly understood, is about exercising "the
elementary skills of civil society," says Michael Novak. It
involves cooperating with others to accomplish things for the good
of society as a whole. Social justice is best pursued not
through the bureaucratic state, which tends to be expensive,
impersonal and even counterproductive. Indeed, this can be an
injustice. F. A. Hayek and others have roundly and rightly
condemned such notions of social justice.
There is a better way, says Novak: to practice the virtue of
social justice through rebuilding civil society. Social
justice demands the nurture of the individual and community habits
and the social, political and economic institutions that sustain a
free society. Only through attention to these concrete means
can we hope to achieve the ideals of liberty and justice for
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