When all is said and done all the slogans we see on signs or hear in chants ultimately go to how to achieve social justice in America. The word “equal” and “equality” are thrown around, but they do not quite fit so we shall just say that social justice is really open opportunity for all who live here. Thomas Jefferson said that “justice is the fundamental law of society” but perhaps the fundamental goal of society is open opportunity. How do we get there if this is an acceptable goal to most Americans of goodwill?
President Lyndon Johnson enunciated two opposite ways to achieve social justice and he selected one and acted upon it. He said that we could help Americans develop “to the best of their talents” or we could “address unequal history” before addressing unequal opportunity. The first solution starts with the individual and works its way up and the second starts with the group and works its way down. President Johnson chose the second solution and embarked on an ambitious War on Poverty as an attempt to right history and, along with Congress, spent many trillions from the top down in an attempt to create racial parity and open the doors to equal opportunity for black Americans. Part of the plan, intended to alleviate inner city poverty, had the unintended consequence of re-structuring the black family and the consequences of this re-structuring have been devastating for many individuals and actually closed doors of opportunity once open. This is not a criticism of the President and Congress it is simply the recognition that more calls for top-down social justice solutions are going to have the same result. There is no amount of increased taxes, reparations, confiscations, punishments, shaming, bureaucracies, programs, or changes to the nature of our governing structure that is going to have any impact whatsoever on opening opportunities for all in our nation.
President Lyndon B. Johnson (center) meets with (from left to right) Martin Luther King, Jr., Whitney Young, James Farmer in the Oval Office of the White House, January 18, 1964. Photo by Yoichi Okamoto. Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum / NARA. Image Credit: USA.gov
What can we do?
Miss Constitution thinks we merely need to take a look at the lives of those whose example is a guide for us, and she also thinks we merely need to look at the United States Constitution itself. What John Lewis, Lyndon Johnson, Ulysses S. Grant, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., and many others have in common, whether born rich or poor or in between, is a set of parents who took responsibility for their children. John Lewis came from a large sharecropping family in Alabama; Lyndon Johnson came from a modest and mostly unsuccessful farm operation in Texas; Abraham Lincoln came from a poor small-farm outpost in Kentucky; Martin Luther King, Jr., came from a middle class pastoral family in Georgia; and Ulysses S. Grant came from an emotionally remote Ohio family in the tanning business. What they had in common was a family structure that imparted certain values, imposed certain and sure disciplines, and allowed each of these individuals to find the sweet-spot in their lives regardless of the ups and downs of getting there. That Liberty of the person, with what the Constitution assumes is the organic building block of our society, the family unit, along with an authentic education in “character and general knowledge” as John Locke put it, is the basis for finding the right opportunity at the right time for the right person. Artificial roadblocks have largely been removed in our society although many refuse to acknowledge this fact. There is also an obsession or a zeal bordering on obsession to hurry along the process and skip important steps in each person’s development so that a desired numerical outcome may be reached. A souffle rising cannot be hurried. It took Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas a long time to overcome his anger and resentment at what he thought was an unjust society, but with the patient help from his grandfather and a re-calibration of his heart, Justice Thomas reached what many consider to be the ultimate honor in our country.
What Miss Constitution is saying is that the best way to social justice is the bottom-up path supported by the United States Constitution and its emphasis on Liberty and individual rights against government along with the concomitant duties our society demands of our citizens. The stable social order this creates is what attracts all kinds of interesting and innovative opportunities that are half the equation of social justice. Opportunity in America is often with the economic engine of our society and that is the private sector. Without a stable social order, no individual or individuals are going to create businesses, improve and expand existing businesses, or want the risk and the responsibility of giving meaningful opportunities to worthy individuals of whatever race or ethnicity. Our system as it exists is the greatest engine for social justice ever created. That is because the Founders understood what incentives create positive social results and what incentives create negative social results. Our governmental structures are intended to incentivize the positive and leave room for the patience required for individuals to mature and blossom into the best they can be. This system also attracts the best and brightest from distant parts of the world who use the Liberty we provide to create wondrous results for us all.
Miss Constitution noticed that a small manufacturer of medical glass vials just invented a way to line plastic vials with glass so as to have the same purity for vaccines without the cost and time consumption to make glass. The Covid-19 vaccine just got light-years closer to mass production. Why would we want to destroy this system? Why would we want to burn, destroy, loot, deface, curse, murder, and disincentivize this marvelous person? Social justice is here now, in America, for those who have prepared themselves for the great adventure they were meant to do. This is thanks to God, to our Constitution, and to the family who loved us enough to pound rightful values into our stubborn natures.