Is justice punishing the guilty for criminal behavior? Yes, protecting our community is part of justice. Is justice making sure the poor, broken and vulnerable are cared for? Yes - this is the Divine imperative for all people. Does justice include opportunity to work and property rights? Affirmative - one of the cornerstones of human liberty is economic opportunity and protection of person and property.
Going deeper, justice also looks at the structures and systems humankind creates and evaluates whether they lead to flourishing or oppression. A sense of justice moved our nation in WWII and in the Civil Right Movement. Justice has also compelled our compassion as we have sent trillions in aid to a beleaguered world suffering from natural disasters and the consequences of war.
In our domestic debates about public budgets and pensions and in our foreign policy and demonstrations of military power, the principle of justice gets obscured by the realities of fiscal systems and the fog of war (not to mention the pragmatics of global economic interests).
The Right speaks of justice in terms of personal liberties and punishment of evil. This is not wrong, but it is inadequate. The Left defines justice more collectively, agitating for just prices and wages. This is often necessary, but begs the question of where the money comes from.
The way forward to a more just society is to unite of concept justice with the principles of love and service. Personal liberty is best ensured with freer markets and opportunities to risk and reap rewards. But "no man is an island" and no economic adventurer succeeds without help and systemic connections. All legitimate work is service in the deepest sense. From artisan-crafted wares to mass-produced goods, from excellent education to literary offerings, persons and companies are serving the needs of their publics.
Love and service are not mere emotions or sentimentality - they are foundational dispositions an decisive principles of action. Putting these concepts together with a full er understanding of justice yields new ways forward:
- We can protect workers from rapacity and balance a budget.
- We can grow our economy and be good stewards of the delicate and extraordinary ecosystem.
- We can work for freedom around though non-violent means when possible.
- We can protest private property from the petty fiefdoms of corrupt city and county officials while caring for the environment.
- We can have real academic freedom, debating all world-views and refusing to alienate those who are no politically correct.
- We can welcome people of all faiths or none to the public square, with the understanding that they must want the same rights for others that they desire for themselves.
Justice is a beautiful thing. It calls us to altruistic action and tames our baser instincts. Let's first demand it of ourselves, then link arms and secure it for others, one person and one neighborhood at a time,