Having revealed the skeletal structure of the 3 Great Untruths embraced by our social institutions, Lukianoff and Haidt next flesh out how the Untruths infect our culture and hurt so many. Chapters 6-11 of The Coddling of the American Mind (2018) sets forth 6 “explanatory threads” that probe into the current malfunctioning discontent in America:
- The Polarization Cycle
- Anxiety and Depression
- Paranoid Parenting
- The Decline of Play
- The Bureaucracy of Safetyism
- The Quest for Justice.
That last one, justice, is of particular relevance to what we do here (explore the intellectual and moral philosophy of private wealth acquisition, preservation and transfer). The authors open Chapter 11 with a nice quote about justice:
“Justice is the first virtue of social institutions, as truth is of systems of thought”.
John Rawls, A Theory of Justice (1971)
Rawls was wrong about economic justice overall (as I explained here on 10/31/17) but that quote reminds me of something that most important abstract notions (like justice, truth, happiness, wealth, knowledge and power) all have in common. They are not fixed – they vary over time, place and circumstance. Now I don’t mean the “everything’s relative” incoherent nonsense of progressive thought; rather, important abstract concepts can only be understood in the context of our personal values/morals – which are much more fixed and stable. They are only modified to address radically changed circumstances.
For example, I read a December 2007 article in Philosophy Now about Captain America and the ethics of whether it would be morally right to bio-engineer super-soldiers. The answer – only if we were faced with a supremely grave existential threat (like a world war with an evil dictator seeking to dominate humanity). Justice, which the authors break down into distributive justice and procedural justice, requires equal opportunity – NOT equal outcomes; unless the world turns upside down.
As we enter the New Year, justice, in our current geopolitical economic environment, precludes the mass confiscation and redistribution of wealth….for now. Let’s set our goals and priorities for 2019 with the comfort of knowing that the State (or the Collective, whatever you call it) cannot forcibly impose its values onto our family based on some egghead’s idea of justice. Happy New Year from The Estate Planning War Chest.