Two Modern Understandings of Justice
One may reduce the many current ideas of justice to two basic reasonings. The first basic understanding may be termed recipient-focused, forward-thinking, or end-result justice. The end-result of a distribution determines whether it is or is not just. In order for a just distribution to happen, structural principles must be in place and must be enforced by the state. Two structural principles are egalitarianism and justified discrimination. In other words, everyone must be made equal even if it means using discriminatory means. Discrimination is justified if it is for everyone’s advantage. For example: if person A acquired $50,000 and person B only acquired $10,000, then a structured principle may require person A to pay $30,000 to the state, which will in turn give $10,000 to person B. The state discriminates against person A for the advantage of all. Since the state, person A, and person B all get $20,000, everything is just. Right?
The end-result theory of justice fails in four ways. First, it ignores context. Second, it makes a false assumption that success is the result of unjust means. Third, it is incompatible with freedom. Fourth, the means never attain the end. In order to attain the end, the state would have to control every individual human action. No state has the omniscience or omnipotence to know and control everything anyone does. Even if the state gathered extensive information on persons A and B, it would never be enough data. No centralized bureaucracy can gather enough past and present context to determine whether a redistribution is just.
The second basic idea is historical-thinking, or past-directed justice. The past-directed theory has some merit. It is compatible with the traditional Aristotelian view of commercial and distributive justice. The contribution of the past-directed theory to the study of justice is context. The present and past context of a distribution determines whether it is just. In the above example, person A acquired his wealth in a legal and above board manner. To add more context, person A also worked overtime, sacrificing time with his family. In contrast, person B works part-time, spending his earnings on lottery tickets, which just happened to include some winnings. Is it just to take hard-earned money from person A to give to person B and to pay the administrative costs of the state for said distribution? No. Person A’s past and present show that he earned his money in a just manner.
Justice and the 88th District Debate
A politician’s understanding of the concept of justice determines his or her policies. A politician with an Aristotelian or past-directed view of justice will likely write policies that will promote free exchange and equal opportunity in the market, promote impartial decisions in court procedings, and promote good discriminatory material principles in distributions. A politician with an end-result view of justice will likely write policies that will promote controlled exchange and equal outcomes in the market, promote decisions that will benefit social status in court procedings, and promote material principles that result in equal outcomes in distribution. These differences may be seen not only in presidential campaigns, but also in local and state elections. The recent debate between the candidates for the 88th House District in Kentucky highlighted these different views of justice and their effect on policymaking.
Vouchers for School Choice
A voucher system allows parents to shop for their childrens’ education. Education will suffer under a voucher system, according to Reggie Thomas. It takes money away from public schools. With less money, public schools will do worse educating children. Without a good public school education, children will have less of a chance to succeed in life, and less of a chance to increase Kentucky tax revenue. In other words, Thomas believes that a voucher system is not just, because it neither benefits society nor the state.
Robert Benvenuti believes that a voucher system would not only help children whose parents chose a private school, but also public school children. A voucher system would force public schools to compete with private schools. This competition would force public schools to do better education with less funding. Benvenuti believes a voucher system just, because it does benefit society and state.
Both policies on school funding are similar. They are both end-result plans. Each plan is viewed as just because it benefits society and the state. However, even with a voucher system, taxpayer income is redistributed to pay for someone else’s children. Is it not unfair for the state to force childless couples, or singles to pay for the education of someone else’s children? In addition, the state has a say in the usage of its revenue. Private schools that take vouchers will have to submit to the state’s requirements for education. Despite these flaws in the voucher system, it does have one aspect that does not follow the end-result ideal.
In a voucher system, education becomes a marketplace in which commercial justice may come into play. Laws against force, fraud, theft, and violation of contract would make school choice a fair market transaction. As is, unless parents have the money to send their children to private schools, they are forced into a public school. The state fraudulently tells parents that public education is free, whilst forcing the parents to buy all of the supplies and to do fundraising. As is, the system is not just. A voucher system is an improvement, but not an entirely just solution.
In Kentucky, the present year’s budget is balanced on an ephemeral future year’s tax revenue. Spending far exceeds tax revenue. Benvenuti desires to broaden and flatten the tax base. Instead of relying on just the rich, everybody would be paying a fair share. By flattening taxes, making everyone pay the same percentage, job creators will have more money for creating jobs. More jobs means more revenue. More revenue also comes from more people paying taxes. A flat tax, everyone paying the same percentage, fits the Aristotelian model of fairness in distribution, and the formal principle and material principles of justice.
In contrast, Thomas desires to broaden the tax base through higher progressive taxation. The rich and upper middle class would pay more in taxes. The poor and lower middle class would be protected from taxation. The result is an equalizing of incomes and benefits through the redistribution of wealth so that the majority benefit. Such egalitarianism and discrimination for the purpose of equalization fits the end-result ideal.
As mentioned in That Which is Right and Just and Fair 4, progressive taxation is unjust despite the now infamous claim that the rich do not pay their fair share. The fact of the matter is that everyone needs to pay a fair share, or same percentage. In order to be fair, taxation must not be a respecter of persons. Wealth is not a good material principle of justice. As is, progressive taxation discriminates against the wealthy in favor of the poor. Ironically, progressive taxation increases the number of poor people, requiring the rich to pay an ever increasing percentage of income. Everybody gets a piece of an ever diminishing pie under the present tax system.
Thomas believes that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is good. It has slowed the increase of the price of healthcare for everyone. In order for health insurance and health care to be available to everyone, Kentucky must “depend on federal compassion.”
As emphasized in That Which is Right and Just and Fair 4, government is unable to have compassion. It is an entity unable to love. Love and compassion are voluntary actions. Compulsory action is that which the government uses. In order for Obamacare to work, the state must force citizens to buy insurance. If they don’t, the state punishes them. That is not compassion, but compulsion.
Benvenuti would seek to free Kentucky from the compulsory bonds of Obamacare. In its place, Benvenuti would seek to open Kentucky’s insurance market allowing health insurance companies to compete, lowering the cost of health insurance for everyone. In other words, Benvenuti desires commercial justice in the health insurance arena.