Two Blogs. One Day. Sometimes I Can’t Help Myself.

Posted: March 9, 2010 in Justice

(Most days I struggle to come up with one entry, and this is already my second today even though it isn’t lunchtime yet. Oh well, this will make up for the day that’s sure to come soon when I have nothing worth sharing, even though that rarely stops me.)

The sticky little fact that no one technically asked for my opinion notwithstanding, here’s what I think:

The United States of America launched its little national experiment in language that connotes an interest in the communal well-being (e.g. We the People, all men are created equal, and whatnot). However, the chosen path to communal well-being was through the pursuit of self-interest.

Examples:
* In the economy, capitalism, free markets, invisible hands, et cetera, are based on this idea that everyone looking out for themselves will somehow produce what’s best for everyone.
* In politics, everyone (different levels of government, political parties, special interest groups, states, et cetera) looking out for what they want will produce what’s best for everyone.
* In the legal world, an adversarial system of justice whereby two sides fight for what’s best for them will produce truth and justice in the end.

The United States of America’s experiment has been famously successful in many, many ways, but truth be told, its foundation of self-interest has produced good things for lots and lots of people, but not everyone. The richest country in the history of the world still has many poor people. The history of politics has produced a system wherein politics is now considered a dirty word. And then, there is the law, my particular interest at this point in my life.

Our ethics class has produced a few discussions on the adversarial system, the role of lawyers, and the search for Truth (with a capital T). Given the backdrop of this blog so far, here is my contribution:

1) A system based on self-interest cannot and will not produce Truth and Justice for everyone;
2) The American effort to mitigate this fact has produced more and more rules so that people find the wordiness of contracts, statutes, bills, and legal opinions tragically funny (please come peruse a law library as proof positive);
3) The future is bright for legal librarians because the solution to every “justice dilemma” we discover produces ten more legal problems that require more rulemaking.

So, what am I saying?

Who knows. Maybe it’s this:

Outside of changing the very basis of our national (and world’s?) way of life (i.e. self-interest)—which isn’t going to happen, nor do I even propose it—do not expect an economic system, political system, or legal system based on self-interest to produce something that provides what is best for everyone.

Simply put, a system based on self-interest produces injustice. Always has. Always will.

Only those radical folks who choose to live their lives from a different base can begin to envision the possibility of a revolutionary concept such as Justice for All.

It is my personal belief that this is the vision proposed by Jesus a couple thousand years ago. And, to be overly judgmental in regard to this blog topic, I believe it is a rare American Christian (don’t look at me) that is more fundamentally Christian than American.

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Comments
  1. ndubsky says:

    I enjoyed reading your post. I disagree with the overall conclusion that self-interest is a “bad” thing, but agree with the axiomatic:

    “Outside of changing the very basis of our national (and world’s?) way of life (i.e. self-interest)—which isn’t going to happen, nor do I even propose”

    In fact, I agree with all (or most) of your premises; it is undeniable that human self-interest will not change, there will be more questions that spawn from prior disputes, no system will achieve Truth in any absolute form, some people will suffer.

    My response is, O.K. I agree. If one is homosexual there must be times where the intolerance becomes unbearable (depending on your age and location) to the point where you wish you were not who you are. Yet he or she cannot will it away; they suffer through others’ decisions, but what is the alternative? Should there be an alternative? I would think not. Your essence is not a choice.

    Likewise, on the aggregate free-markets have increased the overall well-being on a global scale since its inception (realization is a better word). Good intentions and socialized government in the pursuit of equality always meet the exact opposite; see public housing, the U.S. Postal Service, the mortgage crisis, the NHS in England, the stagnation of the Soviet Union over time, the necessity for China to open its boarders leading to incredible increases in GDP since its opening, public education…etc.

    Naturally, this causes disenfranchisement depending on where you are. Any amelioration of those impoverished is an entirely individual choice by those who have; they have to live with their moral compass.

    An adversarial legal system creates more specificity as competing interests are pit against each other. An inquisitorial legal system is the perfect climate for corruption; it assumes those responsible for seeking justice are selfless, which is comically idealistic.

    Lastly, equality in fact is neither the corollary of equality of opportunity nor the principle (although not adhered to for some time) which the Declaration refers to. The presupposition that there would be justice in real terms and in all potential avenues never existed. The government should enforce Substantive Due Process, but not serve as the citizens’ babysitter.

    If those folks who envision a world with Justice for all in every facet of life (i.e. the attempt for complete equality aside from race, religion, gender (I would add sexuality)) then their visions are regressive as opposed to revolutionary.

    Of course, I would rather live in a world where selflessness and injustice did not exist. Yet, the fact is I cannot; like I cannot wish to be another person tomorrow and wake up that way.

    Well, that is my bit. However, you made your point convincingly (not that you need my opinion). I enjoy discussing these concepts with someone from a different point of view. Moreover, hey, I am not saying that I am “right” and am open to persuasion.

    Nick

  2. alsturgeon says:

    Thanks, Nick! It was a pleasure reading your thoughts, and like you, I’m sure not claiming to be “right” in the first place and am equally “open to persuasion.” You present a strong case.

    I would qualify my ramblings to say that I don’t think self-interest is a “bad” thing per se–just that it won’t produce Truth and Justice for everyone. I think that idea is counterintuitive for a reason.

    And I don’t think there’s a better system. I do think there’s a better anti-system, sort of a religious libertarianism proposed by Jesus that is based on a love of everyone (and looks little to nothing like the modern version of Christianity). To me, it is an equalization of self-interest and others-interest, where one looks out not only for one’s own interests, but also for the interests of others.

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