The world is experiencing increased moral decadency. Unless morality issues are enhanced, the world moral sanity is at stake. In this regard, Michael Sandel (Born 1953) offered to shed more light on justice and the numerous analogies that thwart genuine implementation of justice.
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While justice is a fundamental human right, violation of it has become the norm rather than the exception. To avert escalation of injustices radical constitutional amendment remains a necessity. While justice is unequivocal in theory, political players construe it to favor a social class. This essay will therefore, exude the four principles of justice that Sandel defend in the light of liberalism.
Justice at a glance
To many scholars justice is a concept of moral correctness that founded on ethics, rationality, law, religious inclination and religion ethos. Thus, justice strives to inject fairness, to the society by prescribing appropriate punishment to those who violate the norms. Rawls contends that justice is the prime virtue of social institution that springs all moral values (20).
Intrusion of injustices in the modern world segregate justice as divine instituted, influenced by fate and not humanly managed. The predominance of laissez faire market marginalizes fairness and justice is manipulated by money, political will and biased judicial system.
Principles of justice
Freedom of expression
Michael Sandel in an attempt to explain vividly the principle of justice came up with four ideas that are core to understanding fairness. The first principle entails freedom of choice. While the freedom of choice is analogous to human rights, the principle is often violated especially in political scenes.
Sandel contents that each person has intrinsic freedom that should be preserved by other. At the same time, a persons’ freedom should neither infringe another person’s freedom. Each individual is therefore, entitled to air his/her opinion freely, by extension, this entails participating in the political arena and on public gallery. Political liberty that Sandel demonstrates entails rights to vote and vie for political offices in offer.
The liberty to own property is also engraved in Sandel principle of justice. Here, Sandel presumes the existence of Laissez faire economic order, where market forces operate freely under the natural law of demand and supply. However, a deeper exposition of the principle reveals that the liberty to own property is not basic as opposed to the liberty of expression.
Thus in this principle, Sandel presents his argument that each individual is unencumbered. Although humans are unencumbered, some responsibilities are inherited and by extension inseparable to humanity. Hence, only a looser version of unawareness is possible.
Rawls presented a contrary position stating that the ignorance veil is restrictive enough and such that decision are made without baring in mind who will be affected by them. However, under normal circumstance, individuals are connected to the world and decision makers know with certainty their subjects.
Sandel illustrates that human ability to discern their environment not only makes them reflexive in nature but also self-interpreting creatures. Hence, the analogy of liberal justice is inherent and overly universal (50). The universality of the liberal justice ushered in the fallacy of utilitarianism that postulates that many persons are blended into one. While the utilitarianism theory has gained popularity, the individuality of humans is trodden and forgotten (Sandel, 50).
A liberal society does not dictate the action of individuals but rather allows them to exercise their free will. A section of political philosophers argues that liberal ideal of protecting individual may alter the role of the government. In this regard, absolute liberty is the one that an individual or group of people does not interfere with private activity. Political liberty is the ability of an individual to operate freely without obstruction by others (Taylor, 183).
While and individual ability to carry out an activity is infringed by others, his/her liberty is unduly coerced and is entitled to legal redress. Coercion is any deliberate prevention by a person or a company to act while political liberty is inhibited when one is prevented from attaining his/her goals (Taylor, 186).
Another school of thought contends that liberty is devoid of coercion. To Sandel, no individual should affect another person’s operation without proper justification. Thus, negative liberty means opportunity-concept. Hence, an individual freedom is what one can do, alternatives available, regardless of whether those choices are harnessed (Taylor, 176).
Proponents of positive liberty construe that a person is free if he /she is autonomous. Thus, a positive liberty is characterized by activity and hence an exercise-concept. Here, an individual evaluates his/her state of mind and what he or she wishes to pursue without compulsion.
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Such a person follows his ideal without being influenced by the forces of nature, custom, and the norms. The ability of an individual to pursue ones freedom is run together with the notion of positive freedom. In addition, a person is able to act freely and perform according to his/her ability when undue influence is eliminated.
Social Economic Inequalities
The modern world is experiencing a skewed allocation of resources. The rich are becoming richer while the poor becomes even poorer. In this state, the vicious circles of poverty remain unbroken, and the inequality function widens. In extreme scenarios, about eight percent of a country’s wealthy is controlled by 15 percent of the population (Wolf, 163).
Justice in social economic requires resources to be arranged in a way that the greatest benefit the goes to the least-advantaged member of the society. While this principle strives to allocate resources in the fairest way possible, the gap between the rich and the poor is widening every day.
Hence, social economic justice is only available in theory and rarely a reality in practice. Sandel argues that biased allocation of resources is characterized by double life in the countryside and in urban place (172). Urban and city experience affluence while abject poverty, poor living standards, disease, and low savings mark the countryside.
Inequality in distribution of opportunity has aggravated the social economic injustice. The poor people are marginalized and are barred from accessing better opportunity due to the limitation of means. Although, most countries operate capitalist market where perfect information exists, the poor remain disadvantaged.
Nonetheless, Sandel reiterates that justice is wider than merely the right way to distribute resource, but it also entails the right way to value things (261). To him, total equity is non-existent since, different classes of people have different need and allocation of resources should follow suit.
Politics and justice cadre are inseparable. The politics define mechanism, quantity, and mode of distribution of resources amongst its populace. In this regard, Sandel echoes that the political understanding of justice should also encompass the social welfare and physical goods (162).
For instance, racial segregation is deep rooted in America as well as in other parts of the world; unless this injustice is addressed, the merit of fairness would remain wanting. A biased computation of national resources includes externalities such as air pollution, alcohol and cigarette advertising, prison facilities among others, all of which weathers out the net social welfare.
The whole justice portfolio entails meeting the current societal needs and laying the foundation for future needs. While the entertainment industry is thriving, other exposure of romantic and violent movies affects tender minds that become prone to the vices watched. In an attempt to strike the balance, the government needs to enhance some checks and balance to avoid moral decay. The government has a role to play in providing both the physical goods and social goods as a means of enhancing equity in resource allocation.
On his part, Rawls’ departs from Sandel’s argument by classifying goods into primary goods – things that a rational man needs and the second category secondary good-whatever else he wants (92). The primary goods addresses the basic human needs and biased distribution should be done to uplift the welfare of less advantaged people. Rawls emphasizes on the adoption of egalitarian, where resource allocation should promote equity while protecting the welfare of the have-nots.
He critics others resource allocation since, equity is attained by worsening the position of the poor. However, Rawls notion condemns the poor family for their poverty while he fails to acknowledge individual brilliance to overcome the poverty shadow. To him, vicious circles of poverty can only be broken through external injection rather than internally devised empowerment. Conversely, Sandel argues some individuals are born with moral standing, and they effectively stand their moral beliefs to others.
Rawls argument deviates from strict equitable allocation of resources by embracing rationale of rewarding specific qualities. For instance, fair equality of opportunity requires public resources to be allocated reasonably on the merit, rather than randomly. When resources are allocated on merit, opportunities are generated, and new skills are introduced into the system.
Conversely, the freedom expression principle requires more equality checks compared to allocation principle since the former affects the latter adversely. For instance, failure to cement the social balance, and limitation of freedom undermines any political wellbeing instituted (Rawls, 94).
Robert Wolf, a renowned political philosopher criticized Rawls perception of justice by condemning liberalism while advocating for anarchism. Despite the stern differences in their beliefs, the three philosophers reiterate the need to enhance justice, for them the end justifies the means. In direct contrast to Rawls assertion, Wolf contends that capitalist social relations and status quo are the basis for exploitation and injustice.
To Wolf, both market economy and capitalism should not prelude liberal democracy but should rather follow liberal democracy. His argument reveals that the capital economy is driven by individual anatomy and that each player is driven by greed. Thus, existence of greedy as an incentive to amass wealth violates the sheer principle of justice Rawls protects.
On the market economy, Wolf criticizes the dominance of foreign player in the local market, since they limit expansion of local firms. Even though, foreign firms do not affect the developed economies, infant and middle-sized firms in developing countries are stagnating. Even worse, individuals in developing countries are forced to use substandard products dumb in the market.
Essentially, the multinational companies do not obstruct local firms’ production, but by extension, their lower market prices reduces profit margin for the local firms. Sandel adds that market economy should enhance national utility and consent, (264). National utility and consent is a principle and enhances national welfare, instill values and upholds norms that define a country.
Inequality, solidarity, and civic virtues
Each sovereign states quests to uphold equity, solidarity, and civic virtues as means to promote national cohesion. The three values by far define a country’s political manifesto on social welfare. Even as the country strives to promote the three, economical inequality alters the entire equation. Even countries with strong economies such as the U.S are struggling to reducing inequality. Sandel reveals that the current level of inequality has been on the rise since 1930 (267).
The trickledown effect of wide rift between the rich and the poor is week national solidarity and weak national virtues. Individuals are driven by self-interests, and only a few are interested in pursuing national good. The national unity will remain elusive unless the government alleviates inequalities: economical, social, religious, gender, and racial discriminations. While discrimination on whatever form exists, the country’s social good will remain in jeopardy.
The world is experiencing a high level of injustices, and the cry for justice is heard in corridors of justice. In an attempt to address this scourge, Sandel focuses on four aspects of justice: maximizing utility, respecting freedom of choice, cultivating virtues and reason. To Sandel, justice is the enhancement of social fairness and equity in allocation, distribution, of resources.
However, no single principle fully suffices the need for justice. Different philosophers such as Rawls and Wolf’s have designed approaches in an attempt to address the topic but a unifying factor remains elusive. However, social economic injustice is the bedrock of the injustice, if this problem is dealt with, the level of injustices will be reduced drastically.
Rawls, John. Justice as Fairness: a Restatement. New Jersey: Harvard University Press, 2001. Print
Sandel, Michael J. Liberalism and the Limits of Justice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 1998. Print
Taylor, Charles. What’s Wrong with Negative Liberty,’ in The Idea of Freedom, A. Ryan (ed.), Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979. Print
Wolf, Robert P. In Defense of Anarchism. California: University of California, 1998. Print