Sunday Service: Justice

St. Francis of Assisi (circa 1182-1220)

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Before I get started on my Sunday Service topic, I want to share something with you. A friend of mine wrote a meditation, of sorts, on joy and St. Francis of Assisi. I found it very moving and want to share it with you. It is Lord, Make Me Instrument of Thine Peace. I think it’s appropriate for the rest of the post, anyway, considering what St. Francis had to say about wealth and economic justice in his time.

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Today I participated in a discussion about justice, particularly economic justice. I want to share some of my thoughts on economic justice with you.

  1. We live in a capitalist, democratic society.
  2. Wealth that is justly acquired (no ethical, moral, or legal principles were broken in its amassing) is the property of the person who acquired it.
  3. Some people are unable to amass the same amount of wealth as others.
  4. Society has a duty to help those who cannot help themselves. Everyone has basic human rights to food, water and shelter. In modern society, everyone also has a right to education and healthcare. Society must provide these basic rights to those who cannot obtain them on their own.
  5. Individuals and groups of individuals acting independently (charities) are incapable of meeting the needs of everyone.
  6. Government, acting according to numbers 1 and 2, has a duty to provide for the basic needs of those who cannot provide for themselves.
  7. This takes the form of taxes and these taxes pay for food stamps, welfare, healthcare, education, and more. These services are often provided to society as a whole, especially the last two, education and healthcare.
  8. Equality of opportunity is not the same as equality of outcome. Every child deserves the same chance as every other child, but adults are not guaranteed to have the same goods as every other adult.

What are your thoughts on justice? On economic justice? Please share, if you are comfortable, in the comments.

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3 Comments

  1. What a wonderful post today. I enjoyed it very much. Thanks for sharing.

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  2. Elie

     /  January 25, 2012

    I think there will always be a disagreement about what is economic justice and the rules we live under vary from country to country. In the US, the Constitution is very specific about what the rules are, what the extent of government is and what taxes are for. It is a very short document that you can read in under an hour and very easy to understand. You say that a persons ‘justly acquired’ wealth is theirs – but if the government exacts tax codes and regulations that take more from one than another, or dont take any taxes from some, then how is that economically just? And if ‘health care’ is not an abstract but the result of the time consuming and expnsive education that had produced doctors, nurses, EMTs, technicians, what gives anyone else the right to their services for whatever they or the government wants to pay? How is that all that different from slavery? If we live in a capitalist society that means the provider and the customer come to an agreement about payment without the government interference.
    And we are a republic not a democracy.

    Reply
    • Elie,
      “how is that economically just?” I would like to make the comment that the marginal utility of one more dollar is a lot higher for someone with a smaller income. So a person with a $1,000,000 income, an extra $1000 dollars just means they might be able to rent a slightly more comfortable private jet for a trip. But a person on minimum wage 7.25/hr or maybe $14,500 a year, a $1000 dollars might be something like a water heater so they don’t have to heat water on a stove for a warm bath. Transferring money from rich people to poor people can often be just.

      “How is that all that different from slavery?” Well, if the government was conscripting doctors and nurses, and forcing them to work, that would be slavery, but what is actually being proposed is to pay the doctors and nurses to work. Since they have the choice to work for pay or not, it is not slavery.

      Reply

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