Tag: justice


Eating Your Own Dogfood

The “Founding Fathers” never imagined a person would enter politics and stay there for the rest of their lives. Nor did they ever imagine that anyone would make a career out of politics, or use politics as their primary profession throughout their lives. Turning to the “third world,” we often hear the cry of inequality. The rulers live in palaces, while the man in the street lives in rags (literally). While the average person in South Africa under Mandela made, perhaps, a dollar or two a day, Nelson’s wife had hundreds of pairs of shoes.

How are they related? These are just two instances of the people who make the rules refusing to live by them.

Supporters of “climate change action,” don’t live the way they expect the rest of us to live; they have huge carbon footprints. Congress passes a health care law they expect everyone else to live under, but they refuse to live under it themselves. Law enforcement officers press for tighter gun control, but they don’t go unarmed. Politicians and movie stars want to ban guns from private hands, assuming the hands of their bodyguards aren’t “private,” of course. The politicians who scream the loudest about “income inequality,” are the same ones who take six or seven million dollar vacations a year, eat only the finest foods, host personal parties with headline stars on the public dime, and play golf constantly.


In every corner of our culture, the old saying, “the cobbler’s kids have the worst shoes” has been turned upside down — today the cobbler’s kids are the ones with the designer shoes the cobbler would say are too good for the general public.

Why does all this matter?

Because those with the widest and deepest influence should always eat their own dogfood — especially in the realm of politics. The more impact your decisions have on a larger number of lives, the more important it is for you to live by and under those very same decisions. When the person who makes the rule knows they won’t have to live by it, they’re glad to bend things to favor themselves or their friends. If you know you can afford a million dollar electricity bill, it’s easy enough to support policies that will double the cost of electricity to make a couple of your buddies as rich as you are (or richer!). They’ll pay you back in the end, right? So what if a couple of hundred families who are on the brink of financial ruin go under — it’s not impacting your life directly, so you don’t even see it.

If the only impact a rule will have on you is whether your checkbook is fatter or slimmer, you’re always going to choose the fatter checkbook.

If we want to get out of our current slide towards totalitarianism, we need to stop looking for honest leaders — because no-one is completely honest. We need to stop looking for the perfect society — because no society is perfect. We need to stop looking for perfect equality — because equality will never be truly equal.

Instead, we need to start here: make our leaders obey the laws they pass, and live within the systems they impose on the rest of us.

We need to begin by eating our own dogfood, and making our leaders eat the dogfood they feed us.


“Saftey Nets”

I believe we should all do what we can to relieve poverty, but I also think private action simply isn’t enough. Since the private sector can’t do it all, it takes someone bigger, the government, to deal with the major problems with poverty in our world.

This is a common response to the problem of poverty, specifically provided as a reason why we should support big government programs like welfare and food stamps. This argument begins, of course, with the idea that the government is “bigger” than the private sector, or somehow “more powerful than the private sector,” which is a backwards idea. But there’s another problem here, an unspoken one.

This morning, a new report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) shows the staggering reality of the growing welfare state—echoing Heritage’s own research that reveals welfare spending is approaching the $1 trillion mark. –Heritage

There are around 100 million people on means tested aid to “the poor,” in the United States. If we’re spending $1,000,000,000,000 a year on welfare, all we need to do to figure out how much we’re spending per recipient is remove 8 0’s from the amount we spend to arrive at $10,000 for every man, woman, and child on means tested government aid. A family of three, then, should be receiving about $30,000 per year in direct aid from the government, given current spending levels.

And yet, we still have people in poverty. In fact, the percentage of people in poverty in the United States hasn’t materially changed since the beginning of the “war on poverty,” which began in 1964. We’ve had 47 years of big welfare state policies, and it hasn’t worked.


The answer to this question lies in our worldview, rather than economics.

The problem isn’t that the government can’t muster enough money to resolve the problem, but rather than you can’t force or pay people to care about other people. And direct payments from the government, of course, don’t really pay people to care about others. Instead, they pay people to make certain everyone gets their “fair share” of the payments doled out by the government, hardly a caring or loving goal.

You simply can’t mix “social justice,” as a matter of law, with “justice,” as a matter of law. You can’t treat people equally before the law with your left hand, and treat them unequally before the law with your right, and expect it all to just “work out.” Those you are batting down with your right hand in the name of equal treatment will see those you are building up with your left hand in the name of equal outcomes, and try to move from one form of treatment to another. Those who administer the programs based on “equal outcomes,” will see those who are being batted down in the name of equal treatment as possible clients (after all, who doesn’t want to expand their power and domain?), and help them to move from one column to the other.

This is what happens when you try to take the law, an instrument of justice, and make it into an instrument of mercy.

It’s not that the private sector isn’t big enough, nor that the government is too big, it’s simply that there some things you can’t do with law without destroying the concept of law itself.

It just won’t work, no matter how much money, time, or compassion you throw at it.


A Nation of Lawyers

Last Friday, the Los Angeles Police Department announced that it would no longer enforce a state law that requires police to impound the vehicles of unlicensed drivers for 30 days. Why? Because the majority of unlicensed drivers in that city are illegal aliens, and the policy purportedly inhibits their ability to get to their jobs. It also imposes an undue burden on them when they attempt to retrieve their vehicles — because they must pay a fine to do so. “It’s about fairness. It’s about equal application of the law,” contends Police Chief Charlie Beck… -PJM

This is, of course, billed as “social justice.” So what we have is yet another illustration of how “social justice,” really just means the opposite of justice, or equality before the law.

The result is everyone is a lawyer —spending time and effort trying to figure out how the law applies to them, and arguing that their particular circumstances mean they are one of the oppressed to whom the law doesn’t apply (because the oppressed can do anything they want), rather than one of the oppressors to whom the law doesn’t apply (because those who are oppressors have no rights, property or otherwise).

In a nation of lawyers, the only thing that matters is how well you present your case. In a nation of lawyers, the only thing that matters is what things look like. Perfectly fitting in our photoshop obsessed culture.


An Eye for an Eye

But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe. Exodus 21:23-25

Doesn’t this statement point to a God who is retributive, angry, and even, perhaps, by modern terms, mean? The most common Christian response to this quote is that God, in the New Testament, offers grace rather than retribution, so things have changed since the Old Testament. While I would agree the Laws of the Old Testament have been fulfilled, and hence they don’t apply to the life of a Christian, this explanation still leaves us with a problem. For if God never changes, then the God of the Old Testament is still the God of the New Testament, and He hasn’t changed. The personality trait expressed here is still true of God, no matter whether or not the law expressed still applies.

There is another approach to this difficult problem, one that doesn’t destroy the old to build the new, but rather provides a continuity between them. We need to being here: Our human view of justice is twisted and warped, and this twisted view twists our view of the concept of “an eye for an eye.” For our human view, justice is about either reformation, retribution, or punishment.

As a matter of reformation, we place criminals in halfway houses, and spend money on education in jail, and put people into counseling programs. As a matter of punishment and deterrence, the police confiscate the property of those who commit crimes, using the money to pay for salaries and nice new equipment. Torture is often seen as an extension of punishment, an extension that should be outlawed in a civil society. But what can we call throwing someone in jail for twenty years, other than torture? Our own definitions lead us to an impasse of logic, in the end.

In other words, justice is either fixing a person, punishing them, or taking vengeance on them. We can’t see how an eye for an eye would relate to reformation—you don’t reform people by taking their eyes out. And we can’t see how an eye for an eye can be punishment, because it just feels too strict for punishment. So an eye for an eye must be vengeance.

But when we look at the remainder of the Old Testament, we notice something missing from all the punishments listed: Incarceration. Nowhere in God’s Word is the concept of putting someone in jail for a crime discussed as a punishment. In other words, the concept of punishing someone for committing a crime is missing entirely from God’s Laws to Israel. If we look deeper, we find any concept of vengeance is also missing from God’s Laws for Israel. Each time a specific crime is mentioned, the Law states the person who committed the crime must pay back what they have taken, or pay in kind for a life they have ended.

This leads to another, fourth, view of justice that we’ve lost in our human thinking on justice: restitution. Throughout the Old Testament, God commands restitution for crimes committed. The thief is commanded to restore what he has stolen. In the same way, if you take a life, a life must be paid in return. It’s not to act as a deterrence directly, but rather to ensure wrongdoing is restored as much as possible. And this is all the Scripture from Exodus states: That if you take something, you should restore it. If you take an eye, you must pay with an eye, as far as possible. If you take a tooth, you must pay with a tooth, as much as possible.

Restoring the concept of restitution to our thinking on justice would go far in helping us understand God’s Laws, and towards righting many of the wrong in our own world.


A Challenging Thought on Justice

We have a strong sense of what justice means. A traditional view of justice states that you are held responsible for your actions, and yours alone, that you are not held responsible for the actions of a group. The “modern” view of justice (social justice) is that everyone receives the same output, regardless of their input. God’s view of justice clearly runs towards the first, rather than the second definition, in the sense that we are given what we deserve, unless God’s mercy intercedes. But the individualistic part of this picture is still quite challenging, in view of various illustrations we have of God’s justice in the Scriptures themselves.

Here, for instance, Dr. Dean is talking about the incidents of Joshua chapter 7 and 8, in which Israel decides to take the city of Ai. What no-one knows, other than God, is that Achan had taken something from Jericho, contrary to God’s express commandment. Joshua doesn’t know anything about this sin, nor does anyone else in Israel, apparently. And yet this single sin is attributed to the entire Nation of Israel, and his entire family is eventually destroyed for his actions.

There is a sense in which our actions, as representatives of our countries, communities, churches, and families, is reflected in blessings on all those things we represent.


Christian Self Defense (Part 3)

In the second post in this series, we began examining the first argument against a Christian defending themselves: you shouldn’t take justice into your own hands. According to this view, the power of executing justice is given to the government, and not individuals.

The first argument against this view was that the government, itself, does not see self defense as a matter of justice. Justice happens after the event, and is controlled by the government. Self defense occurs during the event, and may be justified or unjustified, depending on the government’s view of what happened.

There is a second argument against this view, as well: justice is not exclusively the domain of the government.

In other words, while the government may be required to execute justice, this doesn’t preclude individuals from executing justice, as well.

To see the extreme end of the argument that only the government should execute justice, let’s consider the following situation: You go into a store and purchase a salad to eat. When you open it, you find there is a fly in the salad. First, is this a breach of justice? Obviously the answer is yes. You’ve been sold a good which cannot be used for it’s intended purpose (or, perhaps, that you would not use for intended purpose—the salad may be technically edible, but you wouldn’t eat it). It is an injustice to sell something not usable.

When you discover this injustice, do you run to the local police department, do you purchase another salad, or do you return to the store, and attempt to resolve the injustice with the seller directly? Generally, you return to the store and attempt to resolve the injustice with the seller directly. Why? Because you understand that in all things financial, you have the responsibility to resolve some injustices yourself—that the power to execute justice, in some situations, is within your hands, rather than given over to the government. This is backed up by various Scriptures, as well; for instance, in Deuteronomy 24:17, we find:

You shall not pervert the justice due to the sojourner or to the fatherless, or take a widow’s garment in pledge, but you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this.

This commandment is to the people of Israel, not to the government, as we can see from the reference to the people being slaves in Egypt, and the taking of widow’s garment in pledge. Hence, while the government can execute justice, individuals can also execute justice.

To summarize, then, self-defense is not an act of justice, or an act of taking justice into your own hands, based on the actions and statements of the State. Further, the command to execute justice is shared between the State and individuals. While we might argue over where the line between the two is drawn, clearly there is no Biblical mandate that justice is solely the responsibility of the State, nor that self-defense is specifically something reserved to the State to execute.

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