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002: Law, Legislation and Liberty, Volume 2: The Mirage of Social Justice Paperback – October 15, 1978
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From the Back Cover
Dr. Hayek is world-famous for his valuable contributions to the field of economics as well as the the disciplines of philosophy and politics. This volume represents the second of Hayek's comprehensive three-part study of the relations between law and liberty. Here Hayek expounds his conviction that the continued unexamined pursuit of 'social justice' will contribute to the erosion of personal liberties and encourage the advent of totalitarianism.
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Perhaps surprisingly (to some of Hayek's supporters, at least), he says of John Rawls' A Theory of Justice that "the differences between us seemed more verbal than substantial," and that "we agree on what is to me the essential point. Indeed.. it appears to me that Rawls has been widely misunderstood on this central issue." (Pg. xiii)
He says that in a spontaneous order there can be "no rules which determine what anyone's position ought to be." For Hayek, "the particulars of a spontaneous order cannot be just or unjust." The concepts of "social" or "distributive" justice are "meaningless within a spontaneous order," and have meaning only within an organization. (Pg. 33)
He says that historically, it was the pursuit of justice that created the system of generic rules which in turn became the foundation and preserver of the developing spontaneous order. (Pg. 54) But he adds, "It has of course to be admitted that the manner in which the benefits and burdens are apportioned by the market mechanism would in many instances have to be regarded as very unjust IF it were the result of a deliberate allocation to particular people." (Pg. 64) It is also not to be denied that "not only the results but also the initial chances of different individuals are often very different." (Pg. 84)
Still, he suggests that the notion of "social justice" will ultimately be recognized as a "will-o'-the-wisp which has lured men to abandon many of the values which in the past have inspired the development of civilizations..." (Pg. 67) Equality of material position could only be achieved by a government with totalitarian powers. (Pg. 83)
He advises that our aim should be to have to be an order which will "increase everybody's chances as much as possible---not at every moment, but only 'on the whole' and in the long run." (Pg. 114-115) Nevertheless, he concedes that "In this sense freedom is inseparable from rewards which often have no connection with merit and are therefore felt to be unjust." (Pg. 120) He also admits that there may be a case in justice for correcting positions which have been "determined by earlier unjust acts or institutions." He cautions, however, that "unless such injustice is clear and recent, it will generally be impracticable to correct it." (Pg. 131)
This book will be of great interest to students of Hayek's later, non-economic works.
In this second volume of Law, Liberty, and Legislation Hayek examines the mirage of social justice. How did socialist egalitarian convictions gain popularity in the modern world? Can socialism live up to its romanticized ideals? The idea of social justice espoused by the modern left is, as Hayek put it, a Mirage. The concept of social justice has no meaning in a free and prosperous society, and no society can be free and prosperous if it is planned on the basis of some notion of social justice.
The Law Liberty and Legislation trilogy was intended to complete the case that Hayek made for classical liberalism in The Constitution of Liberty. This trilogy combines with the Constitution of Liberty to make a powerful case for strictly limited government and free enterprise. You should read The Constitution of Liberty before starting this trilogy, but be sure to read both. Hayek's analysis of spontaneous order and government planning is highly relevant. The collapse of the USSR might have made it seem that proponents of free social order had won. But it is all too obvious that the drive for "social justice" is gaining ground. Read Hayek along with Nozick and Buchanan. These ideas are vitally important.