In his book, The Fatal Conceit, The Errors of Socialism (1988), Friedrich Hayek explored the left’s reformation (or rather deformation) of the meaning of words we use to explain economic and political issues. They try to change meanings, substitute new words or add descriptors to obscure some of the negative aspects of the policies they promote. Thus abortion (a messy and deadly surgical operation) becomes a woman’s right to choose (a right that should be protected by the US constitution – but isn’t). A homosexual becomes a gay person, not only substituting a pleasant term to replace a semi-scientific term with negative connotations but also making a word originally defined as “joyous and lively; merry; happy; lighthearted” (New World Dictionary of the American Language) into something irretrievably sexual.
But Hayek saved his worst opprobrium for the word “social” (which he defined as a weasel word) when it is used as an adjective to limit or qualify a noun. In his book, he listed one hundred and sixty nouns that are often combined with “social” such as “social democracy” and “social responsibility.” But he was especially upset by the widespread use of the words social justice as a worthy political cause, as if social justice was morally superior to plain old justice. There is also the implication that anything that is not social justice was social injustice.
But is social justice morally superior? Plain old justice (sometimes called proportional justice) is geared to the individual. Each person is entitled to due process, to constitutional protections. If wronged, a person can seek remedy through the courts. If charged with a crime, the accused is judged by a jury of fellow citizens. Even in an imperfect system (as any system created and operated by human beings must be), the goal is to seek justice for the ordinary citizen. But because people are different and are subject to different circumstances, justice will be different for each individual.
Social justice seeks equality of outcomes for all citizens despite their differences. This is often called distributive justice. People of all stripes, capabilities and motivations are entitled to an equal proportion of the resources and products of society. This type of justice requires a redistribution of resources from the productive members of society to the less productive members of society (or as framed by many progressives from oppressors to the oppressed). Or as Karl Marx expressed it, “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.”
The major difference between the economic theories expounded by Adam Smith (in The Wealth of Nations) and Karl Marx (in the Communist Manifesto) was that Smith was describing a free market economic system based on the inherent self-interest of humans that had developed naturally over time and that was very productive. Marx, however, attempted to use his own brain power to conceive of a superior system that suppressed the natural instincts of human beings and substituted the public interest for self-interest. This socialist system was deemed to be morally superior to the free market economic system that became to be known as capitalism.
The naturally occurring free market economy resulted from millions of economic actors acting in their own self-interest but serving the public interest by providing products, services, jobs and economic growth that benefitted the entire society. The cumulative brain power of millions of people acting in their own self-interest far exceeds the brain power of Karl Marx or even the cumulative brain power of a relatively small group of elite intellectuals. The vastly greater utilization of the human capital of a population in a free market system, far exceeds that of a socialist system, resulting in greater innovation, productivity and prosperity.
The power of the Soviet Union proved that central planning can dominate the economic activity of an entire nation, but central planning could never conceive of all the myriad needs and desires of the people within that nation. So, the people in the USSR had to put aside their petty needs and desires (along with their dreams and aspirations) for the greater good (the greater good as determined by the central planning committee). This is social justice. But it is not just or morally superior.
And not only does the supposedly morally superior social justice of the socialist system limit the economic freedom of people, these progressive concepts poison all other human interactions as well. Economic activity seeps into all aspects of human life and politics, defining our aspirations, affecting our education and our livelihoods. Without economic freedom, a person loses the ability to manage his own fate and that of his (or her) family. Cramming all the complexities of human interaction into the limitations of the five year plan requires a powerful government to force individuals to live within the limitations of such a plan. As such, “social democracy” is nothing more than a jumble of meaningless words, with no objective reality. The actual reality that affects people living in a social democracy with a socialist economy and social justice is nothing other than oppression.
The new woke progressive religion demands fidelity and obediance to the tenets of its belief with the same intensity that generated the Inquisition and the Salem witch trials in previous eras. Karl Marx is famously cited for asserting that religion is the opiate of the people, but Marxism is the opiate of elite intellectuals and academia, it feeds their sense of self-importance and justifies their ever-increasing lust for more power at the expense of individuals.
You have probably seen it numerous times – the L’Oréal advertisement on TV that touts all their efforts to promote diversity, equity and inclusion. The advertisement doesn’t mention L’Oréal’s products or why you should buy them. But they are nice sounding words. How can anyone be opposed to diversity, equity and inclusion. Anyone who is morally superior, that is. Only bad people would be opposed to diversity, equity and inclusion. The advertisement is shameless virtue signaling saying, “we are good people” and “please don’t cancel us.” Don’t worry if you haven’t seen the L’Oréal advertisement, many other companies are doing the same thing.
But what do the words actually mean? The diversity being taught in the DEI training sessions that the advertisement references is the diversity based on progressive identity politics – seeking to make all organizations and institutions “look like America.” But there is no thought diversity. Non-progressive thought is banned from such sessions. And while it is true that people of different ethnicities, sexual preferences and other identities may have diverse ways of thinking, that may not be the case if they all attended Yale Law School. Scott E. Page in his book, The Difference, explains that thought diversity can help provide superior outcomes. But DEI training sessions exclude thought diversity. There is no independent thought. Only progressive thought. Everything else is cancelled.
And equity sounds nice. Equity is sort of like equal, and we all believe in equality. The Declaration of Independence says, “all men are created equal.” And equity is defined in the dictionary as “fairness, impartiality, justice.” We all want fairness and justice, don’t we? But anti-racist equity as defined by Ibram X. Kendi means something very different. Anti-racist equity means equal outcomes between identity groups. If the net worth of white people or Asians is higher than the net worth of black people, progressive anti-racist equity requires that the net worth of whites and Asians be redistributed to black and brown people or whoever the progressives designate as disadvantaged.
Inclusion is more difficult to define. I didn’t really understand what they were trying to say or to accomplish. Apparently, from my research, inclusion is the feeling that members of underrepresented groups have in their work or institutional environment. Feelings are very hard to quantify. So how can you tell if you are being inclusive? It’s very vague. But that fits very neatly within the concept of Critical Race Theory because CRT does not believe in facts or empirical evidence but rather feelings and narratives. Everyone is entitled to the narrative of their own truth no matter what the evidence says.
Diversity, equity and inclusion are, as Professor Hayek noted, weasel words. Virtuous sounding words that are meant to delude rather than inform. These are not words with a goal of making America better, to help America live up to the Enlightenment ideals and principles on which it was founded. No, these are words intended to debase those Enlightenment ideals and principles (and the people that live by them) and replace them with the socialist principles of Marxism. Or worse, the post-modernism of Foucault and others or the anti-racism of Critical Race Theory as expounded by Ibram X. Kendi. These are words intended to hasten the end of America.