Hayek – the Mirage of Social Justice

The reality is that political leaders need to keep the population under control and avoid revolutions. Hayek argues that the moral belief that people should be rewarded for their labor keeps the people working hard, subdued, but it is a lie. We assume that people who work hard should be rewarded, and people who don’t work hard should not get ahead. The belief in just reward allows the powerful to remain in power. In the Middle Ages the powerful were the aristocracy. Today it is the extraordinarily self-righteous executives and bankers on Wall Street, politicians, and educators, overconfident in their own accomplishments.Social Justice is built on the belief in just reward. Society overwhelmingly accepts it today (or at least when Hayek wrote this essay). Social Justice is an appeal to the government, replacing appeals to God for grievances. The claim is that social justice is necessary in order to maintain the market. Otherwise the people will revolt! The alternative is worse. Social justice inevitably results in totalitarianism. Material inequality is an inadvertent consequence of intentional, free choices made by adults in the market. The market requires procedural equality, not material equality. Everyone must play by the rules. No one should be allowed to cheat. Like a game, we expect everyone to play by the same rules, and we accept that part of playing the game is accepting the risk that one may not win, in spite of one’s skill. Luck always plays a factor. Real life is like this. Some people have much better luck than others, and sometimes they receive rewards they do not deserve. In order to avoid totalitarianism, one should be willing to accept the risk. Social justice can never be realized, so as it becomes an accepted justification for governmental intervention, it justifies and necessitates more and more governmental intervention, descending into totalitarianism. If it attempts to achieve material equality, a government will have to tell its citizens who does what work, or who can have what. If it attempts to create equality of opportunity, the government will have to control more and more circumstances, in order to compensate for the factors outside of its control. Eventually there will be no room for free choices in the market. Procedural equality and material equality are mutually exclusive.


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