Justice Is a Social Construct

If you’ve spent more than five seconds on the internet, chances are good you have heard of the concept of a social construct. Most notably, social justice warriors tout the idea that race or gender are social constructs. This discredits the idea that social constructs actually exist because race and gender are both biologically determined and determinant. There are distinct attributes that separate the races, and there are specific sex organs that separate the genders. These are scientific facts and the debate of which are outside the scope of this article. However, what I would like to discuss is the fact that justice is a social construct.

A social construct is defined as a jointly constructed understanding of the world that forms the basis for shared assumptions about reality. What then is justice? A cursory dictionary search will produce several definitions, but the only descriptive and meaningful definition in this context is, the administering of deserved punishment or reward. There are several questions that we must now ask. What is deserved punishment? Who decides what is deserved? How should it be administered? Who is responsible for administering the justice? We will see in the answering of these questions we must come to a shared and chosen agreement between ourselves as to what is just; we must construct in a social setting what we believe justice to be.

What is deserved punishment?

I think we would agree that the punishment must fit the crime. Surely taking off someone’s hand for stealing a loaf of bread is a bit extreme, however often the practice may have taken place in more barbarous civilizations in the Middle East and Africa. Letting the crime go unpunished also seems a bit too lenient. There is also the possibility that the owner of the bread may take mercy on the thief if he or she is starving and may let him or her have the loaf as an act of benevolence. We see then that there are many conditions that go into determining a just punishment. We must consider the crime, the intent and motivations of the perpetrator, and the wishes of the aggrieved. Surely it would not be just to throw a man in prison for stealing a loaf of bread when the baker that baked it would rather the man eat the stolen bread than go to jail. Also, it would not be just to let a rapist go free simply because he justifies his rape on the grounds of a lack of sex. We must also consider if killing violent offenders is something we consider just. Is jail the correct option, or is indentured servitude a better solution? This leads us to our next question.

Who decides what is deserved?

As we discussed earlier, who is aggrieved by the crime must have a say in what is deserved, at least in so far as if punishment should be administered. A grieving mother may want to see the murderer of her children flayed openly in the public square, however, the rest of the members of society may find that punishment to be entirely too severe, or at the least something not worth displaying publicly. Who else should be involved? The elders of the society who have seen the outcomes of crimes and punishments administered in the past? Perhaps scholars who have researched the best applications of different punishments? What about a jury of your peers? These are questions that must be answered and agreed upon by every member of society, otherwise no system of justice will be recognized as just.

How should justice be administered and who administers it?

Think of your current legal system. In America we have police, attorneys, prosecutors, judges, juries, and a prison system. We have determined that police should apprehend offenders, prosecutors should bring charges against them, a judge ensures their trial is fair, an attorney defends them, and a jury judges them. Sentencing is also often carried out by the judge, and then the administration of that punishment is carried out by the prison system. Is this the best solution possible? How do we even decide what the best solution ought to be? This leads to our final, and yet unasked question.

What is the purpose of justice?

The concept of justice is often represented as a blindfolded woman with a scale in one hand and a sword in the other. The blindfold assures there is no bias in the evaluation of wrongdoing; only the facts are heard. The sword ensures that the society and the system are defended and the capacity to mete out punishment is adequate. Finally, the scale is there not to ensure the punishment fits the crime, but to attempt to restore the value that was destroyed by the initial crime. If you steal my car, I not only lose the value of my car, but also the convenience of being able to transport myself wherever whenever. This may include my job, so I may lose wages. It may include my girlfriend’s house, so I may lose pleasure. It may include the movies, so I may lose leisure. Returning my car to me does not rebalance the scale. I am owed the value of my lost wages, pleasure, and leisure, plus the depreciation on the car that occurred while it was not in my possession. Replacing my stolen car with a new one may rebalance the scale, depending on the value of my old car. However, if it does not, I am owed some form of additional compensation. Locking a man in prison will most likely not regain me my lost value from the crime, so the punishment may not be just.

So what is the purpose of justice? The purpose of justice is to restore the value that was lost during the original crime. We as individuals have to decide the value of things in our lives, and we as members of society must agree upon a system that is best suited to restore that value when it is taken from us by acts of aggression and violence. We must agree that all values are subjective, and that any system we devise will be inadequate in restoring that value, regardless of how detailed or intricate our system is. This is why we must strive to live in a society without crime in the first place. It is only through such a pursuit that we can flourish, and it is why I believe in anarchy so much. We must be free to determine our own systems and beliefs by which we choose to live our lives because otherwise we will never be able to construct a system of justice, let alone a just system for life.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.

The revolution will not be televised. We’ve heard this expression countless times throughout our lives, but have you ever stopped to consider what it means? The most obvious explanation is that the major news organizations have a vested interest in the status quo, and, having no incentive to broadcast the change in operations, hide the news of the revolution from the audience. This is a perfectly reasonable explanation, and given our current understanding of the bias of the major news media and their reasons for it, it is a likely one. However, I would like to pose a different explanation.

The revolution will not be televised because television as we know it will cease to exist by the time the revolution happens. We can see it happening more and more every day. Millions of people get their news and commentary from the internet. They increasingly look there for entertainment as well. YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming sources all provide far superior outlets for news and entertainment, and there are countless blogs and websites that are putting print media into the dust bin of history. This, however, is not the only reason the revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be televised because the revolution itself is not a singular event. We might like to think that the global financial markets will melt down one day, and from the ashes of ruin, a phoenix of free market capitalism and sound money shall rise, however, this is very unlikely. Yes, the global financial markets are built upon a Ponzi scheme of fiat money and trillions, if not quadrillions, of dollars of debt, but that does not mean the world will end when that system collapses. It also does not mean that the collapsing of that system will be the revolution.

The revolution is already happening. It has been happening. The revolution is not one singular event. It is the creation, evolution, and adoption of new systems that improve our quality of life. The revolution in human communication occurred when the telephone was invented, it evolved into cell phones, and everyone now uses them. The same happened with education. Once the internet was invented, improved upon, and accepted into mass usage, you can learn anything you want online, whether formal or informal via a YouTube video. Transportation is another revolution that has occurred over the last century. We went from horses, to trains, to cars, to airplanes, to everyone having their own car and driving wherever they want.

The last great revolution that will occur is in money. I know that the government runs and controls many things via the threat of a gun, but it is monopoly control over the money supply that affords them the power to rule over us. If we can do with money what we have already done with communication, education, and transportation – that is to say, create something better than the fiat we use, let it evolve into something that works for almost everyone, and get it adopted by the mass population – we will liberate ourselves from the shackles of tyranny seemingly overnight.

Many will argue that our beacon of hope is crypto currencies, and while I like the technology quite a bit and believe it has tremendous potential for contributing to human flourishing, I can’t get my head around the idea of a series of digits on a screen having intrinsic value. They are a great medium of exchange, or currency, but they are not money. Going into further detail on the discussion of crypto currencies is beyond the scope of this article, however, know that they are an alternate and competing system with our current fiat based currency system and they offer some hope for the revolution continuing according to the needs of human flourishing.

Just like the formerly skinny person that wakes up fat one day and wonders, “How did this happen?” so too shall be our revolution in human flourishing.  The observed situation did not occur overnight with the now fat person, rather it was a series of little decisions over the course of many years. Our revolution will happen much in the same way. We will make one individual decision today, and then another tomorrow, and one the next day, and before you know it, we will all wake up one day and realize, we live in a pretty great world.

The Two People in Your Life

There are two versions of you that exist. There is the person you are right now, and there is the person you will eventually become; current you, and future you. At the end of reading this article you will be future you from the perspective of current you, and you will be a different person. Time and experience make the future version of ourselves different from who we are right now in this moment. Even if we do nothing but stare blankly at a wall for four hours, the person we are at the end of that four hours has changed, even if seemingly imperceptibly. You will at the least be four hours older, and perhaps at the most, someone who has achieved a profound understanding of themselves. You could have been meditating about your life during that staring, only you know for certain. The point is, we are always changing, and the only control we have is over the direction of that change is the choices we make.

You can do nothing to change who you are right now, but the choices current you makes will determine who future you is. That sounds clunky, so let me rephrase. There are two people in your life, the person you are, and the person you will eventually become. You have the power to determine who you will eventually become, and you can ensure that version of yourself becomes who you want to be by the choices you make in the present. It can be empowering and scary to realize the kind of power you have over the direction of your life and the future you will have. You have the capacity to become what you have always wanted to be, to be the kind of person that will make you happy. Eventually, current you will be future you, and when that day comes, will you be happy?

We must side track for a moment to define happiness. Happiness is a state of being. It is a kind of joyous satisfaction with your life that comes as a result of living the virtues that make you a good person. It is not the immediate satisfaction of your most base desires in the moment that defines hedonism. Happiness does not come from consuming the bowl of ice cream; it comes from knowing that you have the power to choose if you want to eat the ice cream, and if you do, it will not ruin your health. Happiness is self-empowerment and self-control. Happiness is not spending time with people in your life; happiness is knowing the people you spend time with in your life are there because they practice the same virtues as you. Happiness is knowing that you will become the person you want to be because you are already making choices that make you more like that version of yourself every day. But, how do we achieve happiness?

The first thing we must realize is that happiness is not an achievement, and it is not a destination. It is a state of being, which means it can only be experienced. So, how do we experience happiness? We must make choices every day that make us virtuous and good people. I say virtuous and good because I believe virtue is living in accordance with your values. If you value honesty and want to be virtuous, you must be honest and truthful with yourself and the people in your life. You could value hurting other people, and thus would be virtuous by hurting other people. But that wouldn’t make you a good person. In order to be good, you must virtuous in living the values that make one a good person. Those values may be self-evident to most people, but this is short list of some of them: honesty, integrity, trust, compassion, empathy, sympathy, kindness, generosity, courage, and magnanimity. That is by no means an exhaustive list, and to provide a complete list may take a lifetime of work. Another reality is that being virtuous and good also takes a lifetime of work.

The truth is, none of us will ever be perfectly truthful, perfectly honest, perfectly empathetic, and that is OK. We are human. It is more important that we try and are dedicated in our effort to achieve virtue than it is to actually achieve the ideal. Being virtuous is a skill, and like any other skill, it must be practiced if we are ever going to be good at it. You do not have to be excessively rigorous, but it is important to have a working understanding of your virtues. Otherwise, you will not know what choices to make. If you want to be an honest person, this means you must always tell the truth, no matter how embarrassing. Sharing embarrassing truths can be hard, but there are two ways to make it easier. One, you start with easy, little truths. Perhaps you tell your friend you secretly have a crush on the awkward person that used to work in the mail room, or despite how obnoxious your boss is, you respect and appreciate them for what they are trying to accomplish in the workplace. Two, you have people in your life with which you can share your truths openly and honestly without fear of judgement or reproach because they accept and appreciate you for the person you try every day to become.

This is another truth; achieving virtue is a life-long pursuit, and you must make choices every day that direct you towards being virtuous. You must practice every day, every time you have to make a choice. No matter how small the choice is today, it will impact future you. You may think, “Ah, it’s just one cookie, what could it hurt?” but it is not just one cookie. It is a value judgement about whether or not immediate gratification is more important than long-term success. If you are trying to lose weight, saying no to the cookie today will make it easier to say no to the cookie tomorrow, and after saying no to the cookie a few days in a row, you will feel so empowered that no cookie will hold sway over you ever again. Understanding the kind of power future you has the potential to wield must be an ever present idea in your mind because it will have a profound impact on the power current you is able to exercise.

Future you will eventually be current you, and if you want future you to be happy, successful, and the culmination of your life’s biggest dreams, then it requires consistent, diligent work from current you. It is not about some singular herculean effort, rather it is about a lot of little efforts every single day. One snowflake is not capable of covering the mountain, but when enough of them accumulate over time, and their fall is consistent enough, you can build a ski resort and make a lot of money. The snowflakes are your choices, and the ski resort is your happiness. Isn’t it time you started accumulating?

The Irony of Collective Individualism

Individualism triumphs the idea that humans should be evaluated on individual merits, not on the merits of the group to which they may belong. For example, a black man should be evaluated on his individual capacity to perform a job, not on the actions of the black people that destroyed Charlotte recently. This is a perfectly reasonable and good position to have. It is illogical to assume that every member of any group thinks the same way and has the exact same capacities, especially when that group affiliation is not freely chosen. The irony is that this line of thinking, that individualism is the ideal, requires a large collective of people, a vast majority, to value it in order for individualism to matter.

This can be plainly seen by the hatred toward white people and cops coming from the rioters in Charlotte and any other place Black Lives Matters shows up. The hatred, also known as racism, directed at whites by the black rioters is collectivism pure and simple, and no matter how much the white guy getting curb stomped in the parking garage values individualism, every black person there is beating his ass because he is white. The guy getting his skull crushed didn’t choose to be white, yet the color of his skin is the only thing the collectivist, racist, blacks care about in that moment.

The case for the cops is similar, but you still have the choice to be a police officer. There was only one police officer that pulled the trigger that killed Scott, yet all cops are being blamed, attacked, and hated for it. The vast majority of cops are good people, including the one that pulled the trigger in the incident as it was justified. Despite this, because there are a few bad apples, all cops are being demonized. This is also collectivism, and as a society that values individualism, we should not tolerate it. We have systems in place to evaluate when an individual acts inappropriately; we must have the courage to stand up for what is right and get rid of the bad apples.

When we evaluate every Muslim or refugee by the same standards of collectivism, believing they are all bad because they are Muslim or because they come from the Middle East, we are not living by our standards of individualism. Should we ban all Muslims from entering the country because some of the ones that come in may murder some people? Until we can find an adequate way to evaluate them as individuals, yes. Letting them all in because a majority of them are good is just as much collectivism as is not letting any of them in because a minority of them are bad. The difference is, you can only guarantee the safety of the domestic population by excluding everyone until you have an adequate screening process. Islam as a political ideal is a subject for another time, but it is a collectivist system worse than communism.

Given all of the different factions in our world attempting to establish dominance for their specific group, how are we as individualists expected to maintain our culture of individualism? This is where the irony comes in; we must form a collective movement. A collective movement of individualists is the only way we can advocate for our values and virtues. We must collectively work together to make sure each individual is evaluated as an individual, not as part of a group. This is not to be mistaken for the reality that a person’s voluntary affiliation with a group does speak to their character, however, it is not the only component, nor is it a disqualifying characteristic. We should not prevent a terrorist from entering our country because he is a Muslim; we should ban him because he wants to initiate force against the citizens of this country.

The idea of collective identity or collective organization can be a foreign one, especially to me as someone who takes great pride in my individualism. However, I know that if I want to continue to live in a world that values individuals, I must find likeminded individuals, and we must work together as a collective to ensure our ideals are achieved. Those of us that value individualism must work together not just for our own survival, but for the survival of our culture and because it is the right thing to do. I hope, like me, you are apprehensive about the idea, but I hope like me, you are willing to give it a shot. This fight is far too important.