I’m reading Matt Taibbi’s new book “Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap,” and I applaud the author for framing the story of financial winners and losers not in terms of “fairness,” but in terms of “justice” (or lack of justice).
Taibbi writes on p. 208 “For a country founded on the idea that rights are inalienable and inherent from birth, we’ve developed a high tolerance for conditional rights and conditional citizenship. And the one condition, it turns out, is money. If you have a lot of it, the legal road you get to travel is well lit and beautifully maintained. If you don’t, it’s a dark alley and most Americans would be shocked to find out what’s at the end of it.”
That the rich, by and large, get richer and the poor get poorer is a scourge beyond fairness. Fairness connotes equal apportionment, justice connotes, to me, moral law.
Moral law (from Merriam-Webster) means “a general rule of right living; esp : such a rule or group of rules conceived as universal and unchanging and as having the sanction of God’s will, of conscience, of man’s moral nature, or of natural justice as revealed to human reason.” For me, this definition would be strengthened considerably by leaving out “God’s will,” but I can heartily endorse Scottish moral philosopher John MacMurray’s admirably concise and rhetorically sane statement that “Justice is an aspect of morality; it is a restriction I impose on my own power for the sake of others.”
“A restriction I impose on my own power for the sake of others.” There are moral teeth in that definition of justice, however cooly stated. I would wish that to be the law of the land. And it would not be inappropriate for some teeth to be bared in pursuit of it.