Social Justice: An Analysis (Part 1)

Below is the first part of a four-part guest essay by Richard Cocks about Social Justice (and also, of course, Social Justice Warriors).

Social Justice: An Analysis

by Richard Cocks

Part 1

Cosmic justice: infantile and nihilistic

Social class, home environment, genetics and other factors all contribute to differences between individuals. People differ in looks, height, income, social status, morality, various kinds of intelligence and athleticism, musical ability, industriousness, discipline, and every other human characteristic. Differences in culture, history, and geography generate differences between groups. Being born into a culture that emphasizes hard work, education, conscientiousness, and thrift is a tremendous advantage.

“Social justice” advocates describe the resulting disparate achievements as “inequalities” with the suggestion that these represent some kind of injustice. Unequal achievement is treated as though it must be the result of discrimination, “privilege” or some other unfairness, while it is in fact the inevitable consequence of differences between individuals and groups. These differences will exist no matter how a society is organized, barring a race to the bottom where the laziest, least talented individual set the bar and every achievement that surpasses that pitiful measure gets confiscated and distributed — removing any incentive to do anything much at all.

Very young children and even some animals[1] have a sense of justice or fairness. In humans this starts out with an intuitive perception, later gets modified by reflection and culture, which in turn influences what gets perceived as just or unjust. Iain McGilchrist describes this as right hemisphere perception, left hemisphere mid-level processing, returning once more to the right hemisphere.[2]

An egocentric child, without prompting, can perceive that receiving a small ice cream while his brother gets a large one is unfair and unjust.[3] However, he is also likely to think that the fact that his older brother has fewer restrictions on what he can do than he does is unfair. Both cases generate resentment. However, only one is justified.

In the second case, being older and thus a little wiser, the older brother does not need as much supervision. He is more capable, self-sufficient and responsible, and therefore has more privileges. These privileges might seem unfair and unjust in some “cosmic” sense, but they are in fact perfectly reasonable.[4] His parents are not being unjust at all. It is merely that age and experience are on the side of the older brother. To harbor resentment at the parents is unreasonable, unfair and unjust. They are blameless. To resent the brother is also ridiculous. There will always be an older sibling as long as siblings exist. The protest is misguided.

Part of the maturation process is learning to distinguish between events that are due to favoritism, attempts to solicit elicit sexual favors, or some other inequity and occurrences that are the result of relevant differences between people. To feel resentful towards someone merely because he is better in some way, such as in looks, status, wealth, or popularity, is in some sense natural. It is also puerile and undeserved. It is a sin in the literal sense of missing the mark. Certainly the envied person is not at fault simply for being superior. The defect is in the heart of the malicious resentful one.

It is true that even a relatively happy, mature person will almost inevitably suffer occasionally from this kind of inappropriate resentment, but he recognizes that the fault lies in his own breast, not in the other person.

By failing to distinguish between deserved resentment and inappropriate hatred towards someone or some group simply for being superior in some way, “social justice” returns people to an infantile inability to differentiate between resentment based on actual unjust treatment, and resentment that is generated simply by the desire to have or be what someone else has or is.

If the universe itself can be considered unjust in some way, due to the unequal distribution of admirable characteristics, it is not the fault or responsibility of man and it is not in man’s power to fix. It is certainly not the fault of “society,” which the phrase “social justice” implies. Justice and fairness appropriately considered enter the picture only with regard to human institutions and rules.

To reject inequalities is to rebel against reality itself. All people bar two are superior to some and inferior to others in any conceivable characteristic. To reject that fact is to renounce the character of existing at all.

One response to existence and Being is to reject it; to decide that it is better never to have lived and then, having lived, to end it as soon as possible. Mass shooters act out the intention not just to end their own lives, but to kill as many as they can in a rejection of Life itself.[5] Social justice warriors are engaged in a similar kind of nihilism. Scapegoating and killing the “kulaks”[6] in the manner of Stalin has no logical end. Since differences of achievement are unavoidable, the logic of social justice is the complete destruction of the human race. By encouraging undeserved resentment against individuals and whole sectors of society, “social justice” activists ramp up intergroup hatreds that promote internecine conflict and, if unchecked, will lead to more horrible violence than simply one individual picking up a gun. Once the scapegoated group is murdered, differing levels of success within the persecuting group remain, and the process will continue.

To reward merit or productivity?

In thinking about economic success, Thomas Sowell recommends simply jettisoning the notion of merit. He argues that “the concept of merit brings an insult to misfortune and arrogance to achievement.”[7] It is impossible to separate how much achievement is the result of talent, for which a person can take no credit, and how much is the result of industriousness. On the face of it, hard work seems meritorious. However, even industriousness tends to be highly affected by familial and cultural influences; an unearned advantage. This means that it is not possible to assess merit. What can be rewarded — what is known how to reward — is productivity.

Rewarding productivity creates an incentive to be productive, and all tend to benefit. They benefit because rewarding productivity encourages using the latest technology and most effective methods, raising the quality of products while reducing their cost. Simply rewarding effort would not be optimal for that reason.


Asian Americans are the most successful group in America. They outperform all others in educational and occupational attainment. They are in no position to discriminate against anyone, being a small minority, and neither are they the beneficiaries of racial preferential treatment; quite the reverse. This means that an expectation that each identifiable social group will find itself represented in the workplace or educational institutions at the proportion to be found in the general population as a whole is erroneous. Differences of result are not evidence of a nefarious, evil conspiracy. Certainly, no one has ever provided evidence of an Asian plot, or even imagines one to exist.

In practice, SJWs reserve their hatred to be used in the scapegoating of white males; this despite the fact that the order of success as groups in the US is Asians, Jews, whites and blacks. The irrational arbitrariness of this is worth thinking about. It points to the social justice movement as a sacrificial cult. Such cults are a way of achieving social cohesion via shared hatred. If scapegoating white men and bonding in shared hatred were banned, subjects such as women’s studies, black studies, and post-colonial studies could not and would not exist. They would be unrecognizable if they became instead devoted to the positive celebration of women’s, blacks’, and post-colonial cultural and economic achievements.

Identity politics encourages exclusive concern for intragroup well-being, and intergroup hatred and “social justice” are inextricably bound up with it. The world is divided between the saved and the damned and the latter are regarded as irredeemably evil. The moral obnoxiousness of this becomes apparent when white people engage in identity politics which becomes white supremacy or white nationalism. White men in particular, as the scapegoated group, might start to feel the need to bond together out of some belated sense of self-preservation. White male liberals are forced to hate themselves as male, and white, oppressors, regardless of their personal behavior, and self-hatred is no basis for a healthy and productive approach to life.

Many white people’s jobs and social standing are now dependent on social justice and identity politics, particularly in education, government and the media. Hatred thus becomes their bread and butter and the end of hatred would terminate their careers. Many politicians base their election prospects on scapegoating whites and depicting themselves as saviors, and are thus invested in reinforcing sacrificial attitudes.

Logically, some kind of John Brown-inspired rebellion seems an appropriate response, with all white people, men, women and children being murdered. If any whites were to protest that they are some of the “nice” white people, this would hold about as much water as a slave owner claiming to be one of the good ones. There is no such thing. The whole point of identity politics is that individual virtue or lack of it is irrelevant. It is race-, class- and gender-membership that determine where a person stands in the moral hierarchy; an overtly racist, misandrist and classist taxonomy.

If people were instead to be judged solely on the basis of their character, then race, class and gender would be irrelevant — but that of course is the only legitimate way of judging anyone.

Sacrificial thinking and scapegoating is the default mode of human organization. René Girard argues that Christianity properly understood instituted a unique moment in human history when the scapegoat mechanism was revealed for the first time. Jesus’ disciples risked their own immolation by defending the innocence of Jesus — the victim of a lynch mob. The crucifix centers attention on the fact of the innocent murdered by the mob and stands as an injunction not to repeat sacrificial behavior. For the first time, the religious story takes the point of view of the victim against the mob.

Many serious thinkers have correctly claimed that mankind arguably seems incapable of living an entirely non-religious life.[8] People want something to worship and a larger meaning in their lives.[9] By rejecting Christianity and its prohibition on scapegoating, many people revert back to the “natural” perspective — namely, the point of view of the mob; the many against the one. In this way, the social justice movement is a religious one and returns us to pre-Christian modes of behavior. Social media facilitate the mob by providing an instantaneous means of rapid mob formation and an easy way to promote intergroup hatred.

Social Justice and Equality of Opportunity

Lyndon B. Johnson argued in the 1960s that “you do not take a man who, for years, has been hobbled by chains, liberate him, and bring him to the starting line of a race, saying, ‘You are free to compete with all others,’ and still justly believe you have been completely fair.”[10]

The reference to chains and liberation by LBJ is presumably an allusion to slavery. Slavery was truly, not “cosmically,” unjust, because it was a human institution that violated “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” which is based on reciprocity and fairness. LBJ seems to have been trying to play on white voters’ feelings of guilt, getting them to agree to new rules for a special target class of people, even though all the participants in the institution of slavery were dead.

Sowell points out that one feature of the quest for cosmic justice is to treat people as group abstractions rather than concrete individuals. Only in this way does it make sense that a harm done to certain concrete people can be rectified by doing a good to some other group of people. With affirmative action, actual people who have not participated in discrimination will be discriminated against to benefit members of another group who also were not the victims of past discrimination.

This means people who did no wrong pay a penalty for something they did not do, based on their skin color and ancestry, and people who have not been wronged themselves will be compensated, again based on skin color and ancestry. Since relatively few black people in the US have no white ancestry, this further complicates the situation. In those cases, part of them is mad at another part of them.

Correcting historical injustices requires a time machine. They cannot be rectified. Attempting to do so just creates new injustices against living people who are guilty of no wrongdoing.

If the idea of restitution is to make up for past historical wrongs by putting descendants of that group of people in an economic situation that they would have been in had slavery not existed, then this class of “victims” should be returned to economic conditions of the African country that they would now be living in which would most likely be worse than their current level of prosperity.

With regard to LBJ’s reference to “chains” hobbling a person’s chances of success, the evidence suggests that the residual differences between the white and black population are not in fact related to slavery.

In 1920, for instance, black marriage rates were slightly higher than white; black unemployment was lower than white, and black poverty rates were steadily declining up through the beginning of the 1960s.

Percent of those never-married among 35 and older by sex and race, 1890 to 2010. SEHSD Working Paper Number 2012-12: Diana B. Elliott, Kristy Krivickas, Matthew W. Brault, Rose M. Kreider (US Census Bureau).

The Racial Unemployment Gap in Long-Run Perspective: Robert W. Fairlie, William A. Sundstrom, The American Economic Review, Vol. 87 Issue 2 (Papers and Proceedings of the Hundred and Fourth Annual Meeting of the American Economic Association) (May, 1997)

The decline of black marriage rates and the marked increase in black crime and incarceration came after changes instituted in the 1960s. If black employment and marriage rates were actually higher closer to the time of slavery, then the remaining differences between blacks and whites as groups must be due to something other than racism, unless racism is imagined to be getting steadily worse for the last hundred years and especially after the 60s. See “Thomas Sowell in Intellectuals and Race.”

It cannot be that simply because some kind of disparity exists between people, real equality of opportunity does not exist. An inferior athlete loses the race. Just one person wins. That is not a reason to initiate a commission of inquiry or start a witch hunt. Each athlete does not bring to the event the same level of talent and dedication to training. However, so long as the same rules apply to both, the event is fair.

One way of characterizing the demands of “social justice” is the requirement not for equality of opportunity, but equality of result.

Kurt Vonnegut’s satirical novel Harrison Bergeron depicts a dystopian future in which equality of result is rigorously enforced. Any person caught thinking at a level beyond the mediocre is blasted with a deafening sound until his thought pattern is disrupted, the beautiful must wear masks and the athletic are loaded with weights. His point is that “equality” is an impossible nightmare, not a desirable reality.

Just having an interest in a physical activity, an area of study or artistic endeavor will produce differences of achievement. Any benefits that result from this interest would thus become illegal in a world of forced equality.

Social justice and the free market

Nassim Nicholas Taleb writes that “of the 500 largest U.S. companies in 1957, only 74 were still part of Standard and Poor’s 500, 40 years later.”[11] Given how hard it is to stay in business, irrational behavior is likely to be terminal.

Currently, some are claiming, [12] for instance, that companies that have boards that include women are more competitive than ones without them. There is even a claim of 66% higher returns. This has become part of a social justice campaign. However, if this were true, [13] there would be no need to campaign for anything. Companies without women board members would simply cease to exist as they failed to compete in the marketplace. Competition is cutthroat. If businesses were to continue as usual without changing the sexual composition of boards, then the SJWs were wrong. Likewise, if businesses made irrational hiring and promotion decisions based on irrelevant criteria, such as skin color or sex, they would tend to fail. No company needs to be perfect. It just needs to be less irrational than its competition. This economic natural selection process will have a ruthless effect over time.

In this way, the business world has very little room for falsehoods. Eric Gans has called the free market a truth generator. Of course, marketing is mostly erroneous and intentionally manipulative, but thanks to the internet, it is easier and easier to get reasonably high quality information about most products and services.

However, the three areas of modern life most permeated by notions of social justice are impervious to reality and truth. These are education, the media and politicians.

Søren Kierkegaard commented that journalists see it as their jobs to tell the public what to think, not to neutrally inform it of the facts, and Taleb comments in Antifragile that academics, journalists and politicians typically pay no price whatsoever for being wrong. They have no skin in the game and being wrong costs them nothing at all. In fact, if political correctness and social justice are morally wrong and based on confusions and lies, then denying reality becomes a matter of career survival. A good rule of thumb espoused by Scott Adams, the writer of “Dilbert”, is not to trust any opinion, including scientific ones, when there is a stiff political, social and/or economic price for not upholding it.

Taleb would like to see any economist or financial advisor have to act on his own advice and predictions. If he advises buying stocks, then he must buy them, too. If money markets, government bonds, or putting money in a bank account are the recommendations, then that is what the person must do. Taleb’s suggestion would align the prognosticator’s words with his actions, and therefore his interests with those of the people listening to his opinions.

If it is claimed that companies that have large numbers of women on their boards do better, then the person or institution making this assertion must invest only in those companies and withdraw funds from companies that do not conform to this notion. If they have no money to invest and therefore no skin in the game, they should be ignored.

Journalists who wrongly predict the outcomes of elections, for instance, are still asked for their opinion on the next one. Economists who failed to see the housing crisis coming and who even said it would not happen are then asked to give an analysis of why it occurred.[14] Journalists who have contributed to misinformation that leads the country to an unnecessary war, such as the second invasion of Iraq, still have their latest opinions published in venues such as the New York Times.[15]

In natural circumstances, Taleb comments that being wrong leads to an exit from the gene pool. Mistaking a bear for a rock might be the last error someone ever makes. But talking heads who do not actually do anything but merely talk can be wrong forever. This is particularly true when nearly everyone colludes in the falsehood. It even pays for someone to contradict himself over time, because when confronted with his errors he can point to the publications where he made the opposite claim.

Coming up in Part 2: Tough love vs. mother love

Richard Cocks is a commentator whose work has been published by Orthosphere, Sydney Traditionalist Forum, and University Bookman.


1., Capuchin monkey fairness experiment.
2.   Iain McGilchrist The Master and His Emissary, Ch. 3.
3.   Notice this is still egocentric. The brother with the larger ice cream is unlikely to complain on the other child’s behalf, just as the capuchin monkey getting the grapes continues on obliviously.
4.   Thomas Sowell equates social justice with what he calls “cosmic justice” in his book The Quest for Cosmic Justice upon which major portions of this discussion are based.
5.   Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules for Life, p. 147.
6.   Kulaks were comparatively affluent Russian peasants. Characterized as leeches, they were exterminated by the millions. Killing anyone productive enough to be able to afford to hire other workers is economically ill-advised.
7.   Sowell, The Quest for Cosmic Justice, p. 26.
9.   On a trivial level, some who reject Christmas as religious, embrace the Winter Solstice, or New Year’s Eve instead, apparently not realizing their religious origins. Even if they did recognize it they would be likely to prefer anything pagan to something Christian without realizing that their preferred celebrations would have historically involved human sacrifice.
10.   Sowell, The Quest for Cosmic Justice, pp. 11-12.
11.   Taleb, The Black Swan.
12. — They do not actually claim causation — just correlation.
13. — It seems richer companies hire more women. Women are not why the companies are richer. In fact, evidence suggests they make no difference or that they hurt performance.
14.   “Joseph Stiglitz, with two colleagues, the Orszag brothers (Peter and Jonathan), looked at the very same Fannie Mae. They assessed, in a report, that “on the basis of historical experience, the risk to the government from a potential default on GSE debt is effectively zero.” p. 387.
15.   E.g. Paul Krugman.

37 thoughts on “Social Justice: An Analysis (Part 1)

  1. The left really has gone crazy. These sjws such as Sharpton, Waters, etc all live in million dollar homes yet say they are in touch with poor people. Do they not realize that there are poor white people also who can only eat via food banks but these idiots say whites are all privileged and should share their wealth, give up their homes all for social justice.

    I’ve just patented my first ever product which will hopefully make me comfortable in the future which will, in turn, help my kids and grandkids.

    If these so-called warriors think I or anyone else who has risked everything and become successful [are privileged] then they are deluded.

    • Innovator capitalists invent something useful.
      The left declare it a human right.

    • People like Sharpton and Waters have made an industry out of victimhood of the people they represent. They {Sharpton, Waters, and others) know the truth, they are not idiots. Their power is keeping their political base angry, resentful, wasting their lives and time hating people living better than they. They are not interested in advancing society they are only interested in their political power and the money they can extort from what they paint with a broad paintbrush as the “white” ruling class. If you are white you got what you have because you’re white, not your education, drive, work habits, family upbringing, or work ethic. This is why Asians do so well when they immigrate to America they have all these things held high in their social upbringing.

      • The portmanteau victimoguery fits Sharpton, Waters and their ilk. It’s too bad it is a rarely used label since its implications are fairly clear. Perhaps you’ll consider using it.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting astuga.

      Later parts of the essay address how “social justice” relates to men and women. Sweden seems to be badly messed up at this point. Thanks for the link.

  2. Spot on!!! This is what’s going on, has been going on since 1945, since 1989, left-wing ideology is false, twisted, perverse and sickeningly evil!

    The group[s] that have been poisoned (radicalised) with this marxist poison must be removed from this world.

    It seems to be currently about 45% of society has been poisoned by the left.

    These left wingers are the same as the brainwashed “jihadi suicide bombers”,

    Soon they’ll also be wearing explosive suicide vests to blow us up.

    Sjws, leftists are hateful, evil, we must fight to the death against marxism, socialism, and commies.

    • The group[s] that have been poisoned (radicalised) with this marxist poison must be removed from this world.

      That is a Marxist solution; it won’t work in an open society.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting Morpheus.

      I’m sure SJWs think of themselves as proponents of peace, love and understanding while actually being scapegoating vigilantes.

      Like a mother bear who “empathizes” with her cub, she will tear the “threat” to pieces in the most vicious manner – save us from such “compassion.”

  3. A very good essay.

    Unfortunately state is founded on the notion of the collective. That is to say that in viewing itself as the sum of its people, it will also view its people in terms of their sum… or the sum of their different sums . It is only a small step between upholding a cause in the name of the greater good for the all (but knowingly not for some), towards trying to turn the different sums into a single equal sum.

    That is the very nature of centralised power, an all inclusive ideal that uses dictate by law to create its reality, or an endeavour of a reality, where none may criticise it for being different towards one or the other.

    However as individuals we are all very different.

    Due to state being a historic entity, that is to say its power being based on tradition alone as there is no single human embodiment that represents and is accountable to “its” people, its own hypothesis may and must therefore seek to redress any own historic injustice, so as to make itself equal to all.

    This clearly does not fit with, may have negative consequences on, the current framework of society which has busily adapted itself to the paradigms of the day by its own natural efficiencies.

    Clearly politics has also become a business, a self rewarding seat, which looks to create agendas to justify its own existence, to justify its own power, to justify its position of redistributor of justice and wealth, never thinking or exposed to the true consequences of its actions. In short it trends towards irresponsible, always.

    Which is why strictly limited government is a very good idea.

    One reason I don’t vote is because my act of voting automatically endorses the above reality, and I knowing that I will have no true actual say, but instead be subjected to whatever say is invented in the name of all who voted, no matter who they voted for, because that is the meaning of fair to some.

    I don’t enjoy being in a school where the whole class gets punished every time for the mistakes of a few, it’s stupid and counterproductive.

      • Do you need a vote to act ?

        So when is responsibility your own ?

        People are able to, and surprisingly do, make their decisions by simply discussing, informing themselves, and then acting.

        I let you get back to your comittee, but if it is a closed one that does not listen and take into account the myriad of individual voices, then I feel that it will be both shortsighted and oppressive, but who knows maybe successful to its own ends after all. Personally I will not be part of it though.

        Must you now silence dissent also because you have silenced your own voice by agreeing to follow a vote ?

        It would not be fair on you for me to keep speaking I fear.

        • I can see an argument that voting is ineffectual most of the time. The choices are usually between total destruction and complete annihilation. However, I did see the last election as a rare exception.

    • Thank you for reading and commenting, Anon. I particularly like the part where you say “Clearly politics has also become a business, a self rewarding seat, which looks to create agendas to justify its own existence, to justify its own power, to justify its position of redistributor of justice and wealth, never thinking or exposed to the true consequences of its actions. In short it trends towards irresponsible, always.

      Which is why strictly limited government is a very good idea.”

      As a professor I see that every attempt by the administration of the college or the administrators in Albany who oversee our administrators to “improve” something about classroom teaching, relations between the sexes on campus, etc., just makes things worse. It is an excellent lesson in the counter-productive behavior of bureaucracies and top-down compulsion. I know of nothing that the Dept. of Education has done that is an actual benefit to anyone, but, as you say, like politicians, they need to justify their own existence. The latest sally is the appointment of a chief diversity officer who will be paid a huge salary and MUST do something to justify it.

      • Jordan Peterson’s idea to set up on-line, accredited courses (college-level) is long overdue. He’s been working on this for some years, but now has the crowd-funded financing to build a fine network. This is the future of education…just as the ossified Catholic Church caused the Reformation, the ossified, indulgence-selling charlatans in the “humanities” will bring on new, de-centralized learning.

        • Hi, Dymphna: reform would be truly great at this point. Thanks for reading and commenting. I like Peterson too, obviously.

    • Tip O’Neill said all politics are local. In a sense, all government is local: it is a bureaucracy composed of individuals trying to maximize their own power and rewards.

      But, government is a necessity, required by the externality that there are other governments, or tribes, waiting to encroach on your territory. The founders of the US Constitution agreed with your notion of strictly limited government, trying to achieve a balance between the power needed to protect the territory and state, and the power to enslave individuals.

      Unfortunately, such a government is inherently unstable. The internal elements are using their positions to unceasingly plot and manipulate so as to preserve and increase their own power. But, without a government, your own territory will be taken over by foreign governments in a short order.

      Funny enough, the last season episode of “The Vikings” showed this. **Spoiler Alert** The long-banished brother of Ragnar, a powerful lord in France, or what passed for France in the 11th century, interjected himself and supplied troops in an internecine fight for power in divided Norway. It is more than obvious that the French troops, once the battle is won and both Viking sides exhausted, will stay and claim the territory for France. This is exactly the situation the Constitution founding fathers wanted to avoid with federalism.

      I actually think we’d be far better off if the Confederacy had been allowed to exist as a separate country. As with Canada, the Confederacy would have shared values with the US, and undoubtedly would have supported it in external wars. But the governments would be smaller, and more responsive to a particular population.

  4. These are exactly the people Yuri Bezmenov is referring to when he talks about the process of demoralization.

  5. “familial and cultural influences; an unearned advantage”

    I disagree. It’s not unearned.

    My grandparents had elementary school education (it was the mandatory level at the time where they lived). They started working early. My grandfather worked in a factory. After they got married my grandmother stayed at home. She made dresses in her spare time and sold them (she would be considered an entrepreneur today).

    They had 2 children which was very low by the standards of those days but it was the number they could provide for. Thanks to that my father and his sister didn’t have to start working age 11 (which was common in those days). They studied and finished college. They got good jobs because they had higher qualifications than most people in the country.

    My father met my mother (which has a similar background) and me and my siblings were born. We have a better life because of the hard work, planning and intelligence of the previous generation.

    If my grandfather wasted his money at the pub and my grandmother wasted her evening watching soap operas while having 7 kids we will not be as financially stable as we are.

    As for cultural influences it’s as earned as the familiar influences, just more generations play along. Africa has more natural resources than Europe yet Europe developed much more. Culture must have something to do with it. I am not at fault because my ancestors in the last 1000 years were smarter, more ingenious and hard working than people from other cultures.

    • Zé Manel Tonto – I understand the impulse to feel proud of your grandparents and parents. You have been the beneficiary of their hard work. You likely have inherited their judicious and industrious habits. But you could have inherited a lousy, lazy and spendthrift attitude instead. The point is that you are lucky to have such relatives; you didn’t earn this boon.

      It seems harsh to say so when industriousness by definition involves a lot of effort, but you can’t take credit for what people did before you were born or for your parents’ contributions. You got lucky and more power to you!

      • If I understand Sowell correctly the man who designed the wheel deserves no credit because his engineering talent was a gift from his ancestors. And though he worked hard with stone tools and built wheels and axles and attached them to a cart he deserves no credit there either because his industriousness was also a gift. Only when he begins transporting goods throughout the village and creates economic productivity should he be rewarded.

        OK, I suppose an economist might look at it in that narrow way. But I don’t think economics is the only way to look at that achievement. The man who invented the wheel is also teaching his children what it means to be part of a society.

        His talent and industriousness was handed down from his ancestors, it was unearned. So what? He took all of that unearned human capital and then rolled up his sleeves and got to work. I suppose we could call him “lucky” but I’d say he was a hard working man who saw a way to improve life in his village. He was doing his part. If I was his son I’d be proud of him even though I had nothing to do with it.

        That’s not me taking credit for what he did. That’s me admiring what my father did. And what my grandfathers did. They set a standard for me to respect and aspire to. That’s not luck. That’s fathers raising their sons to be hard working, industrious men. If someone views that as luck then for that person everything in life is luck. They might as well move to Vegas then.

      • I accept people may say that is being lucky.

        What I don’t accept is people trying to level the playing field. The playing field is not leveled due to hard work from previous generations. The playing field should not be leveled and the government providing anything besides good quality education is unfair to those who work harder.

        I don’t accept the lie the left keeps saying that people who are better off due to previous generations actions somehow don’t deserve it. Even if the wealth comes from centuries ago the point of working saving and investing was always to get their descendants a head start
        I have yet to meet a leftist that doesn’t believe in evolution, so I always tell them this is just natural selection working (and this really gets them angry because they have no answer).

        The problem nowadays is that people want everything immediately with no effort.

        People want to be better off today even though they may not have any formal education, skills or work ethic. That doesn’t happen. People have to realize that coming out of poverty is a 3-generation project.

        • Dear Zé Manel Tonto – I am categorically with you on all that you have said. I will be making a similar point in a later part of the article. You are perfectly entitled to benefit from the hard work of your ancestors. NOT permitting such a thing would put a damper on achievement in general and ALL would suffer. So you are correct. It can’t be a case of “back to square one” for each new baby.

        • Intelligence has a high heritability.

          Likely, character also has a high heritability, although the effect may get lost in the measurements within a single racial group.

          In any case, my being intelligent to a very large degree, and industrious to a significant degree, is due to factors out of my control. However, I have changed significantly in my lifetime, from being somewhat irresponsible to being very disciplined and organized.

          Am I more virtuous than a black criminal, born with an IQ of 85, never having known his father, “raised” by a mother or grandmother on welfare, sitting home all day watching TV, and going to a gang-infested school where the only values taught are to take what you can right now?

          I don’t think so.

          But, we have to act as if I am.

          A criminal who has little choice is just as destructive as a criminal who has the opportunity to be an ethical lawyer, but blows it in shady deals. A mentally-retarded mass killer is as deadly as the highly-intelligent Ted Bundy.

          So, I give myself a pat on the back for my self-discipline, and occasionally reward myself by buying an item sophisticated far beyond my real needs. But, I can’t credibly maintain a sense of superiority to the black criminal. I support incarcerating him, and if the crime is serious enough, executing him. But, I’m just playing defense. I’m maintaining the quality I have, without passing too harsh a judgement on those who have to be removed, or kept out, of society, if the society we know is to be maintained.

          It sounds like a theological argument: “We are all sinners”; “There but for the grace of God go I”. But, it’s a live-or-die situation. Ethical and work values may motivate me; they do not motivate everyone. I should accept them on their own terms, but follow through to the consequences. Their existence and mine are not compatible, and I choose to maintain my own existence.

          • RonaldB – thanks for commenting. It seems like you have a pretty nuanced take on this.

            Sowell comments that once you start reducing prison sentences because of hard luck stories things really deteriorate. Reward productivity and punish criminality otherwise you create incentives and excuses for all sorts of bad behavior. These points will be addressed in detail later.

            A foster child who neither goes to jail nor burns down the foster home may actually represent some kind of moral victory and some child of a super-performing family may not actually have lived up to his potential but such determinations of praise and blame should probably be left to God. It’s a fool’s game to try to incorporate such things into public policy, criminal sentencing and the like.

  6. A great piece, and I look forward to the rest. It is possible that the invisible hand of the market will sweep away the current silliness, but it is also possible that an economic collapse – more than likely, I think, although I am no economist – will put that possibility into suspended animation.

    • We are actually living in a form of suspended animation, market wise. The only question is if, or how, it remakes contact with reality.

      Will all be reorganised relatively smoothly into new direction, or will it disintegrate due to sheer mismatch between what is proffered and individual, social, and political expectation. Will it, or can it, stay managed to the current degree, and for how long before accumulated error cannot be papered over.

      That is not to mention simple or purposeful miscalculation within the monetary and financial apparatus that blows the existing system .

      As [Jews] get better, more adept, at management, become more centralised, all that happens is that the creative destruction becomes much longer, and much more pronounced. You go from an anchored economy that self adjusted fast and stayed near level with continuous gradual improvement, to larger and larger boom busts.

      The market and money supply is now a political endeavour, the dream is to break free from traditional constraints by socialising the whole into one great progressive managed future. Even the most capitalistic of enterprise is now fully dependent on nationaly sponsored money supply to keep its accounts in balance, for there to be a customer, to avoid the “dreaded” deflation that has been overwritten for so long that it now truly is to dread for any business and household account.

      [Note from the Baron: Don’t use triple parentheses to sneak Jews into the discussion. If you mean “Jews”, just say “Jews”. Next time I’ll just delete the comment; this is irritating.]

      • No, I did not mean Jews, I meant the deep state, high finance, elite whatever “they” is that is imagined to echo through the corridors of power. People say “they” for any unlabled entity and it is not my fault if it is now used often to insinuate Jews, if it is. The (((they))) I used is supposed to be an echo chamber, no more…I am sure you will find jews there as well as of all nationalities and religions, so don’t pick on them unescessarily please, nor on me for (((their))) sake – meaning the sake of the powerful elite. I will not be drawn in to that and I also find it tiring.

        • Well, then stop using triple parentheses. Just about everyone else who uses them means “Jews”. Think of another way to convey the meaning that you intend.

      • …and

        “…the latest evolution for the so-called “echo” that until recently had an anti-Semitic message”

        Unless you agree with

        Which is where I guess we are getting confused. The few places I have read ((( ))) jewishness was not implicit, and in fact I did take it to mean an echo of opinion, and not of jews throughout history as apparently it was most common for. No, I don’t hang around far right sites much.

        So there, they (those most affected most likely – Jews) have adjusted the meaning and you are still propagating the old one !

        But I won’t use it again as a symbol because of the ambiguity that surrounds it.

        • (((I))) would not dream of bringing Jews into the discussion irrelevantly.

          Anyway, I think as a civilization progresses, it becomes more and more bound within its written laws and rules, and less able to adapt. A very significant part of the Jewish community allocates prestige and marriageability on the basis of written study of Torah, Talmud, Mishna, etc, so it is of little surprise that the Jewish community contains a high number of people naturally adept at carrying out symbolic and abstract manipulations, such as banking. You’ll find Jews on all sides of philosophical debates, for the same reason.

          Unfortunately, those people most dependent on abstractions, including a large proportion of the US Jewish community, are following those abstractions in a Siren song leading to their own destruction. The most influential and powerful Jewish organizations are opposing any attempt to make it difficult for Muslims to immigrate or travel to the US. This is fact I can document by links to their websites. This is also a suicidal tact, as the large Muslim contingents in France, Sweden, etc express their religious and national identity by attacking Jews on the street.

          But, it’s reflective of society as a whole. A majority of the population voted for Hilary, who obviously stands for open borders, and the attendant crime and chaos.

    • Thanks, Mark Gullick. I agree about the market as a source of hope if only because it includes a reality principle. Where people are positively rewarded for being wrong, promoted and enriched, such as “community organizers,” there seems no end to it – except death and destruction.

    • I’m tempted to say “Epsilon-minus semi-morons” (“Brave New World”), only I suspect some of them are quite intelligent.

    • Anne-Kit Littler – It does seem hard to imagine a woman thinking they look like great dating or marriage material. (Nice to see a Down Under commenter.)

      • We have lots of readers/some donors in Oz, occasional donors even from New Zealand. There is a strong conservative streak Down Under; it breaks out occasionally, but is pretty much suppressed by the MSM. Andrew Bolt being an exception.

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