Sunday 1st August 2021

Home » Featured Today » Currently Reading:

A Book Review . . . Justice And The Law Revisited

June 17, 2021 Featured Today No Comments

By JOHN LYON

Thomas Sowell, The Quest for Cosmic Justice. New York: The Free Press; 1999.

At the heart of the argument set forth in this significant and engaging book stands the author’s account of what may appear a disconcerting exchange between Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes and Judge Learned Hand. “Do justice, sir, do justice,” Hand enjoined his departing friend. “That is not my job,” Holmes replied. “It is my job to apply the law.”
The disjunction between “justice” and “the law” as set forth in the Holmes-Hand passage may initially shock our puritanical and literal sensibilities. Nevertheless, it lies at the basis of Sowell’s contention. Law, in our tradition, is process-oriented. It is an attempt to work within given human limitations, not to spew forth decrees against nature and the cosmos. It is enacted by the legislature, interpreted by the courts, and enforced by the executive. Law aims to be prudent, positive, definite, readily enforceable, of a piece with previous legislation, and open to as few idiosyncratic juridical opinions as possible.
Justice, on the other hand, like its vague in-law abstraction equality, may be a guiding star in the juridical heavens, but it tends to shine little direct light on the actual courtroom or legislative chamber.
Sowell argues that the conception — and implementation — of justice is inevitably social. And for eons our species has arranged and rearranged intra-species relations in pursuit of various conceptions of “fairness.”
Redistributist policies such as reducing disparity of income, and facilitating broader access to resources, may be dominant ideas today.
In addition to social justice, justice within society, however, we have now taken on nature and the cosmos, attempting to plot a narrative of a just, egalitarian universe, where, for instance, none are born physically defective, and where the Malthusian tension between resources and reproduction has been annulled.
As understood by the dominant positivistic, secular, scientific mindset, however, the universe cannot be accused of justice or injustice, equality or inequality. Such words represent contentless conceptions. They hold value only in a universe that has been created good by a beneficent God. In our conceptual universe, man makes himself, and not only makes law but also makes justice. Again and again he makes it, in mutually contradictory forms.
Having no God to appeal to or blame, we search for scapegoats, vicious or ignorant classes whose actions or even whose being can be categorized as roadblocks to progress, and must be eliminated.
The conceptual muddle in which such words as “equality” swim is strikingly described in the words of Charles Sanders Peirce which stand at the beginning of Sowell’s well-titled chapter on “The Mirage of Equality”:
“Many a man has cherished for years as his hobby,” Peirce wrote, “some vague shadow of an idea, too meaningless to be positively false.” The category of general ideas such as the two we are concerned with here (justice and equality) was described similarly by Alexis de Tocqueville 200 years ago, who spoke of them as being like a magician’s box, into which anything can be put and, given adequate verbal dexterity and rhetorical legerdemain, anything desired subsequently drawn out.
“Cosmic justice,” like its fellow abstraction of unstable meaning, “equality,” seems to be a universal acid, which dissolves any political container into which it is put. Sowell sees its pursuit as irreconcilable with personal freedom based on the rule of law (pp. 45-46). It is not that we should not inquire into and right patent wrongs. But in doing so, he argues that it is extraordinarily important for a society to closely, clearly, and as completely as possible, discern the costs of proposed amendments to or abolition of such reasonable, practical, legal adjustments as prevail politically, rather than “trying ad hoc to retrospectively adjust the cosmos to our tastes.”
This ought to be done with particular care when, in the name of some phantom order of things bred in the minds of the temporarily dispossessed or disadvantaged or their ideological mentors, we propose to revise a Constitution such as ours which, through its ordinary evolution, has brought blessings to many, not all of whom live in this country.
The self-anointed visionaries of political pie-in-the-sky will not scope out adequately, and certainly will not pay the costs of putting into practice their grand deliria. These will, Sowell argues, inevitably be passed on to supposedly vicious or ignorant third parties who are, in any imaginable accusation that fashion determines, responsible for injustices or inequalities.
The tendency of legislatures to meddle endlessly in the structure of society was once put indirectly but sharply by Mark Twain, who commented that the secret of success in government was to elect a legislature, and then see that it never meets. The unspoken premise here is that there is always something wrong within the polity (or the cosmos), and some politician will always arise to adjust things to accord with a vision which, though perhaps novel and untried, can be foisted off as a cure-all on those offended under the current political system. This establishes “cheap glory” for the politician and irresponsible entertainment for his constituents. Had the occasion arisen, Twain might well have said something similar about the judicial bench.
The poet wrote, “Ah! That a man’s reach exceed his grasp, Else what’s a heaven for?” The parodist replied, “Ah! That a man’s reach exceed his grasp, Else what’s a metaphor?” The ideological agitator might well propose as the last line here, “Else what’s a politician for?” (Metrical apologies!) In our time, when legal and judicial ukases are issued against the universe, politics does take on a metaphorical caste.
The tendency of abstract ideas to destabilize societies was extensively noted over two centuries ago when the armed prophets of the French Revolution broke upon world history. John Adams, for instance, wrote that the French Revolution was generating “false Notions of equality” which would undermine the stability of American society. When the word “equality” was used in American state constitutions or in the Declaration of Independence, Adams stated, the word meant that we were equal in the sight of God and in “Rights and Obligations, nothing more.” (See Gordon S. Wood’s excellent study of Adams and Jefferson, Friends Divided, 2017, p. 277.)
Sowell argues the same case, pointing out that devotion to such abstractions by the self-appointed, self-anointed visionaries destabilizes society. This is due initially and in part to the need to find and demonize scapegoat classes which can be blamed for whatever is wrong with current political arrangements or the currently perceived structure of the cosmos. Ultimately the scapegoat becomes any who uphold the basic decency of one’s country.

Necessary Power

A final factor to be concerned with in the revision of the constitutional order we enjoy, and moving to an imagined more just, equitable order, is, as Sowell points out, the cost of providing the federal government with adequate power to right every earthly wrong and some cosmic ones. Such power will be necessary to annul established policies and procedures and dispossess those who currently benefit from them.
For the enlightened visionaries who demand such changes will certainly not themselves pay the costs of transition and implementation to the new order. Those costs will be transferred to “privileged” third parties: the rich, the middle classes, whites, males, heterosexuals, Christians, non-trannies, and other such obviously vicious or ignorant sorts.
This very dynamic, however, should make clear that the new self-sanctioned revolutionary political visionaries are not genuinely against privilege and discrimination. Nominally, they simply want some for their clients; incidentally, of course, for themselves.
Under cover of great supposed virtues, powerful and actual vices may well lurk, and we should constantly be aware of and make appropriate mental and political allowance for such facades. One of the points Sowell makes is that the desires of a segment of the population to right their perceived wrongs, when fanned into flames by ideological agitators, are at times capable of ruining the entire economy for the sake of the claims of a subsidiary class or cause. The superficial name for this is social justice; its ordinary name might better be envy: If I cannot have it, you certainly shall not have it.

The Genie’s Promise

Relevant to this I once asked a relative who had toiled long in the U.S. Foreign Service what the people of a Communist nation he had worked in were like. He thought for a moment, and then proposed that perhaps he could best describe them in a story they told about themselves. A peasant tilling his field has his plow tripped by what he presumes is a rock. When he goes to see it, however, the object turns out to be a large jar, which he opens. Out springs a genie who, delighted at his release after several centuries of imprisonment, promises the peasant whatever he wants.
This promise has one contingency, however: Whatever he wants, his neighbors will get double! Without altogether too much hesitation, the peasant specifies that, then, he wants to be blind in one eye.
We may of course hope that such characterizations are merely caricatures.

Share Button

2019 The Wanderer Printing Co.

Twitter Feed

Pro-Life Group Calls for Removing Fauci After He's Caught Funding Aborted Baby Parts - https://t.co/kqxQXGgoG8

LifeNews.com - The Pro-Life News Source

.

LifeNews.com

Kamala Harris Skips Border Crisis But Picks Up A Rosary - https://t.co/U1Mv6WdjUD

Load More...

Transgender student wins as U.S. Supreme Court rebuffs bathroom appeal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday handed a victory to a transgender former public high school student who waged a six-year legal battle against a Virginia county school board that had barred him from using the bathroom corresponding…Continue Reading

New York priest accused by security guard of assault confirms charges have now been dropped

NEW YORK, June 17, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — A New York priest has made his first public statement regarding the dismissal of charges against him.  Today Father George W. Rutler reached out to LifeSiteNews and other media today with the following…Continue Reading

21,000 sign petition protesting US Catholic bishops vote on Biden, abortion

More than 21,000 people have signed a letter calling for U.S. Catholic bishops to cancel a planned vote on whether President Biden should receive communion.  Biden, a Catholic, supports abortion rights and has long come under attack from some Catholics over that…Continue Reading

Bishop Gorman seeks candidates to fill two full time AP level teaching positions for the 2021-2022 school year in the subject areas of Calculus/Statistics and Physics

Bishop Thomas K. Gorman Regional Catholic School is a college preparatory school located in Tyler, Texas. It is an educational ministry of the Catholic Diocese of Tyler led by Bishop Joseph Strickland. The sixth through twelfth grade school provides a…Continue Reading

Vatican observes ‘Earth Hour’

On Saturday, along with the Vatican, symbolic monuments of cities all across the globe turn off their lights, to demonstrate the serious global climate crisis. By Vatican News staff writer Vatican City State took part in the traditional international initiative Earth…Continue Reading

House passes bill setting up path to citizenship for millions of Dreamers

Lawmakers in the House of Representatives on Thursday passed an immigration bill that would create a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as children.

The Misleading AP Attack on the Catholic Church for Accepting COVID Relief

In early 2020, a pandemic came to America. We started staying home, then we were ordered to stay home. The market tanked. The economy tanked. Unemployment soared. You remember all this, because you lived it. We all did. Congress created a…Continue Reading

Catholic bishop released five days after kidnapping in Nigeria

CNA Staff, Jan 1, 2021 / 10:42 pm MT (CNA).- A Catholic bishop in Nigeria, who was kidnapped on Sunday, has been released unharmed, according to the Archdiocese of Owerri. The diocese, which is in southeastern Nigeria, announced in a social…Continue Reading

More GOP senators vow to challenge Biden’s win

WASHINGTON – A last-ditch effort by President Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the election thrust Washington into chaos Saturday as a growing coalition of Republican senators announced plans to rebel against Senate leaders by seeking to block formal…Continue Reading

Underground Catholic bishop dies in China

CNA Staff, Dec 31, 2020 / 03:25 pm MT (CNA).- According to the Catholic outlet AsiaNews, headquartered in Rome, Bishop Andrea Han Jingtao, 99, a leader in the underground Catholic Church in China, died Dec. 30. Han Jingtao was the…Continue Reading

‘All-star,’ ‘brilliant jurist’: Pro-life leaders thrilled Trump nominated Barrett to Supreme Court

September 26, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett is “an absolute all-star” and “a judicial role model for the next generation,” pro-life leaders said today.  If confirmed, Barrett will replace pro-abortion Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died just…Continue Reading

Farewell, Uncle Di: Father Paul Mankowski, RIP

My editorial career has brought me into close contact with quite a few impressive thinkers. I have worked with famous authors, with noted theologians and philosophers, with canny political strategists, with at least a half-dozen Nobel Prize winners. Among them…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for 150 years in our weekly print edition.


  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to su
bscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
 
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 150 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.
 
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

Catechism

Adopt A Center

Today . . .

Bishop Paprocki: “The problem has not been solved, but tensions have been heightened.”

“It is a mistaken notion that those who attend [the Traditional Latin Mass] are merely nostalgic; that has not been my experience at all…” says the Bishop of the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois. “Anyone who thinks that when the older generation dies off that the Latin Mass will fade away is not being realistic.”

Cardinal Raymond Burke . . . Statement on the Motu Proprio «Traditionis Custodes»

Many faithful – laity, ordained and consecrated – have expressed to me the profound distress which the Motu Proprio «Traditionis Custodes» has brought them. Those who are attached to the Usus Antiquior (More Ancient Usage) [UA], what Pope Benedict XVI called the Extraordinary Form, of the Roman Rite are deeply disheartened by the severity of the discipline which the Motu Proprio imposes and offended by the language it employs to describe them, their attitudes and their conduct.…Continue Reading

Catholic Bishop Denies Democrat Politician Communion Because He Supports Killing Babies in Abortions

A pro-abortion New Mexico lawmaker reportedly was denied communion over the weekend by Catholic Bishop Peter Baldacchino of Las Cruces. The Daily Caller reports New Mexico state Sen. Joe Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, said Saturday that the bishop refused to allow him to participate in the sacrament because of his “political office.” “I was denied communion last night by the Catholic bishop here in Las Cruces and based on my political office,” Cervantes wrote on Twitter. “My new parish priest has indicated he will do the…Continue Reading

Archbishop Cordileone: Traditional Latin Mass will continue in San Francisco

San Francisco, Calif., Jul 16, 2021 / 13:03 pm As diocesan bishops consider how to implement Pope Francis’ motu proprio on the use of the Traditional Latin Mass, the Archbishop of San Franciso has said it will continue to be available in his local Church. Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco told CNA July 16 that “The Mass is a miracle in any form: Christ comes to us in the flesh under the appearance of…Continue Reading

From Fr. Z’s Blog . . . Motu Proprio Day . . . Much more to Follow

Rome, 16 July 2021 Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, Just as my Predecessor Benedict XVI did with Summorum Pontificum, I wish to accompany the Motu proprio Traditionis custodes with a letter explaining the motives that prompted my decision. I turn to you with trust and parresia, in the name of that shared “solicitude for the whole Church, that contributes supremely to the good of the Universal Church” as Vatican Council II reminds us.[1]

The Importance Of Humor In A Time Like This

By DONALD DeMARCO “Do not abandon yourselves to despair,” said Pope St. John Paul II. “We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.” Such a joyful declaration should give all of us renewed hope. And our hallelujah song should be a happy heart that is filled with merriment.In his Summa Theologiae, St. Thomas…Continue Reading

Why The Left Can’t Let Go Of January 6

By PATRICK J. BUCHANAN To understand what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s select committee investigation of the Capitol Hill events of January 6 is all about, a good place to begin is with the sentencing hearing the past week of Paul Hodgkins.A crane operator from Tampa, Florida, Hodgkins, 38, pleaded guilty to a single count of…Continue Reading

Root Causes Underlie Cuban Crisis

By JOHN J. METZLER NEW YORK — Cuba’s ongoing political and social upheaval has shocked many observers as a sudden and intense summer storm. Across the island in small towns and provincial centers protests erupted like a squall line until reaching the capital, Havana. Tropical storm “Liberdad” was lashing the island of Cuba while its…Continue Reading

For Strident Times . . . How The Liturgy Is Healing Medicine

By MSGR. CHARLES POPE (Editor’s Note: Msgr. Charles Pope posted this commentary on July 13 and it is reprinted here with permission.) + + One of the most concise and cogent descriptions of these often strident times came from Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger in 1986. It is contained in, of all places, his treatise on the…Continue Reading

Alliance Defending Freedom… Calls For End To Religious Persecution In Nigeria

WASHINGTON, D.C. — ADF International on July 14 hosted a dinner event on the grave challenges facing Nigeria regarding the protection of religious freedom. Governmental and civil society advocates for the persecuted in Nigeria shared firsthand expertise and proposed actions to address the violence and discrimination perpetrated by groups such as Boko Haram and the…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Catholic Replies

Editor’s Note: Due to the pandemic, we were unable to hold weekly classes for 22 tenth-grade Confirmation students, so we prepared a series of 14 lessons on the material, along with some questions to answer. If these lessons are of value to you, put them to whatever use you can. We will continue to welcome your questions for the column…Continue Reading

Traditionis Custodes: Opportunity For Mercy

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK As one of the two parishes in the Archdiocese of Washington that offer the Traditional Latin Mass daily, my majority-traditional church family is now in a quite vulnerable condition after the publication of the motu proprio Traditionis custodes (TC).Following the 2007 publication of Summorum Pontificum I was sent in 2010 as pastor to St. Francis…Continue Reading

Cardinal Zen Decries Pope’s Motu Proprio

Joseph Cardinal Zen, in a statement translated by Diane Montagna, denounced Traditionis Custodes, Pope Francis’ motu proprio on the liturgy.His statement was entitled, “Why Do They See a Problem Where There Is None and Close Their Eyes to the Problem for Which They, Too, Are Responsible?”Cardinal Zen recalled how he warned about a document against the Traditional Mass in his…Continue Reading

Live As Christians, Not Pagans

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Eighteenth Sunday In Ordinary Time (YR B) Readings: Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15Eph. 4:17, 20-24John 6:24-35 In the second reading today St. Paul tells the Ephesians that they are no longer to live as the Gentiles do. Considering that the people to whom he was writing were Gentile converts, it makes sense that he would need to instruct…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Editor’s Note: Due to the pandemic, we were unable to hold weekly classes for 22 tenth-grade Confirmation students, so we prepared a series of 14 lessons on the material, along with some questions to answer. If these lessons are of value to you, put them to whatever use you can. We will continue to welcome your questions for the column…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Callistus

By DEB PIROCH Memory can be fleeting — ashes to ashes and dust to dust. But to God, no one is forgotten, every soul remains forever mirrored in His mind’s eye. And the redeemed all belong to the Communion of Saints. Even more amazing is when someone is known long after one’s death, despite the fickleness of history.Such is the…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Teresa Of Calcutta

By DEB PIROCH Long before Princess Diana hugged AIDS victims, a diminutive nun no one had heard of from Macedonia rescued her first dying man from the gutter. Carrying him back with her, she washed his wounds and removed maggots, covered him in clean sheets and gave him water. And he said, “I have lived like an animal, but I…Continue Reading

Advertisement(2)