Protectionism vs Redistribution

Protectionism vs Redistribution

Well, it’s time for another post deconstructing the “social justice” experiment at Bleeding Heart Libertarians. In question: this recent post, The Libertarian Critique of Distributive Justice, by Matt Zwolinksy.

I’ve written a number of long posts detailing the problems of “social justice,” particularly with respect liberal social contract theory. Here’s the summary:

Substitute “preference” for “justice,” which is a loaded term. So instead of “social justice,” we are actually talking about “social preference.” But to be more precise, we are actually talking about law as an instrument of social preference. Yet, for even greater reduction–since law is force–we actually mean force as an instrument of social preference.

Social Justice=”force as an instrument of social preference.” Obviously, this equation introduces some pause, as it should. In the end, what “social justice” really means is the legitimization of force via claims of normative social preference.

I’ve authored quite a few posts discussing the problems of normative theories of social preference, particularly with respect to the social sciences–i.e, “social choice.” What we are actually talking about is a set F of outcomes or choices with a “preference ordering(ranking)” defined over F for each agent. If we make a reasonable assumption that the set F is multi-dimensional, that is agents do not have single-peaked preferences over the outcomes or choices in F, then the Arrow Impossibility applies. That is, there is no preference aggregation rule that that yields a single ranking for the outcomes or choices in F that is pairwise independent, rational, Paretian and non-dictatorial.

In other words, there is no rule for a “social welfare function.”

You can’t overcome this problem with appeals to moral philosophy constructs. For example, version 1.0 of Rawls, who attempted to use the “Veil of Ignorance” as a normative demonstration of Kantian categorical imperatives. You can, however, overcome this problem with appeals to filtering choices from the set F so that those that remain follow a single-peaked pattern for all agents. This, for example, would be the position of Amartya Sen and John Rawls(version 2.0 and 3.0). This position more or less relies on an institutional framework to constrict allowable choices. But, of course, it is also a position that requires protectionism to preserve the necessary(or sufficient) institutional framework for such a restricted domain of choices.

So, our final reductionist definition of “Social Justice:”

“The necessary(or sufficient) protectionism for the legitimization of force via claims of normative social preference.”

Obviously, I don’t think this is something that libertarians should have much of a commitment towards. And really, my walkthrough of Social Choice more or less brings us back to Bastiat’s essay regarding “the Law.” Protectionism is the ultimate foundation of distributive justice, which is why libertarians should reject it.

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