There are some points I’d like to comments on because, according to me, they are not altogether correct.
First of all, we have to be careful not to employ a double standard. When God established the tithe system, would you say that God coveted or stole it by force of law? I don’t think so.
When God asked the harvesters not to take what had fallen on the ground and to leave it to the poor, do you think that He was misguided to allow these poor to get food “without having to earn it”? Do you think that it was theft?
Second, when you said that socialism and social justice promote class division, it is simply not true as class divisions existed well before the advent of socialism. For example, since you mentioned France (full disclosure: I am French), before the French revolution, there were already classes: the nobility, the clergy, and the Third Estate which comprised everybody else. And even in the Third Estate, there were also classes.
The nobility and the clergy didn’t pay taxes which were paid solely by the people in the Third Estate. Now, what is correct is when you said that there was hatred because many in the Third Estate didn’t like the fact that they had to pay heavy taxes to pay for the expenses and wars of the nobility (who didn’t work) and of the clergy (when the church was already super rich).
But what is interesting to notice is that it was the nobility and the clergy that were funneling the money from the pockets of the lower classes into theirs (well, some people would say that nothing has changed today except that, instead of the nobility and the clergy, now we have politicians, big business, and Wall Street).
This is why, back then, some intellectuals began to question the situation. For example, Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote Discourse on the Origin and Basis of Inequality Among Men and On the Social Contract; or, Principles of Political Rights addressing the questions of inequalities and what we call now democracy.
So, contrary to what you said, socialism and social justice don’t promote class division and hatred. They just acknowledge what has been there all along.
It is not that “social justice” is bad by definition. The problem is that people can put anything they want in that expression.
Concerning the minimum wage, the problem is not the $15. The problem is that, previously, the hospitality industry (and some other industries, or businesses) had been using a business model that was not sustainable and equitable.
If your business is about paying wages that don’t allow your workers to live correctly then there is a problem in your business model.
If your business is about funneling the money mainly to the CEO and shareholders at the detriment of the employees, the customers, and/or the community in which the business is establised then there is a problem in your business model.
As for France (again), the reasons why people are protesting are because:
- they know that, in a democracy, you have to be involved to keep it alive;
- they are fed up with governments that caters to the rich (for example, a tax that wealthy people had to pay has been suppressed) and big business (tax cuts) whereas the taxes on the employees and retirees, and the taxes on first necessity products keep increasing;
- they have the sentiment that they are not being heard, and they know that it is by being in the streets that things will change.
In France, and in the other countries in Europe, there is a rich tradition of social struggles/involvements that brought a lot of social benefits, like free (higher) education, universal health coverage, retirement, paid vacations, worker rights and protections, public services, etc.
Of course, not everything is perfect but when you compare with what we have in the US, it is like comparing the day to the night.
In the US, higher education is astronomically expensive (one of the most expensive in the world), healthcare is scandalously expensive and its access atrocious (the worst in the Western world according to the WHO), the retirement system is a joke, there is no real paid vacation system (the vacation time we have in the private system is not mandatory. It is based on the “good will” of the companies), worker rights are laughable, public services are under attack, the justice system is criminally incompetent. As for the political system, well, don’t get me started.
In other words, the social conditions in the US are the worst when compared with the other Western countries (and it is not just me saying this). But what gets me the most is to see that many Americans are oblivious to this and still think that America is the best country in the world and that the rest of the world envy them.
No… And yes.
No, because there is nothing wrong, by definition, with social justice (it is what we put in it).
But yes, because the social justice movements have the tendency to rely too much on human strength, good will, and understanding, even when they are started by a church or religious people.
For example, the problem with Rousseau (and many humanist theories like Marxism and socialism) is that he thought that Man was good at the core (and that he just needed a good education) whereas the Bible says the human heart is deceitful and desperately wicked.
Let’s consider the case of the creation of the church in Acts 2. There, we can see that they shared and put things in common. It was like communism. But the big difference was that the church community was led by the Holy Spirit whereas in communist countries, people are led by human beings (of course, even in the church the good things didn’t last as they went further and further from God).
So, all the good-willed people who promote social justice have to remember that, without the leadership of the Holy Spirit, it can, indeed, become “one of the most seductive and socially destructive sophistries of our time”, like you said.